Introduction to Grammar

by JeffreyJabs

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I have seen lots of great ideas go to waste just because the author could not communicate their brilliant ideas properly, so if you really want people to like your writing, you should learn the rules of grammar before you start writing. You do not need to memorize this guide to grammar all at once, but it could become a useful reference page. By the way, "e.g." means "for example."

Basic Types of Sentences

The simplest sentences are made only out of parts called clauses. A clause has a subject (a noun) and a verb. A simple sentence is just an independent clause.

e.g. Jeff threw. 

Yes, that is technically a complete, grammatically correct thought, even though I could have been much more descriptive. An independent clause is any combination of a subject and a verb that can stand on its own as a complete thought.

If you combine an independent clause with another independent clause, then you have a compound sentence. 

(1) Jeff threw the ball, and Joe caught it.

(2) Jeff threw the ball; Joe caught it.

To combine two related independent clauses, you must connect them with a comma followed by one of the following words:

For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So

You can also connect them with a semicolon with no conjunction as seen in sentence two above. 

 If you combine an independent clause with a subordinate clause, then you have a complex sentence. 

(3) When Jeff threw the ball, Joe caught it.

(4) Joe caught the ball after Jeff threw it. 

Sometimes when you add a word to a clause it doesn't make sense anymore. For example, the clause "When Jeff threw the ball" does have a subject and a verb but cannot stand on its own. The word "When," which writers call a subordinating conjunction, turns the clause "When Jeff threw the ball," into a subordinate clause.  Just search up a list of subordinating conjunctions to find the most common ones. 

A subordinate clause must be attached to an independent clause without a subordinating conjunction. If the subordinate clause comes before the independent clause, you should put a comma between the two clauses. If the subordinate clause comes after the independent clause, you should not put a comma between the two clauses. 

You can also create a compound-complex sentence as long as you follow the rules for both complex and compound sentences.

e.g. When Jeff threw the ball, Joe caught it, for Joe played professional baseball. 

Of course, these are just the most basic types of sentences, and you can add much more complexity. After you've mastered clauses, feel free to search up the types of phrases that you can tag on to your sentences. The most common types of phrases are participial, gerund, noun, and prepositional phrases. 

If you do not follow the rules above, you may end up with horrible errors such as fragments and run-ons.

Here are some other common grammatical errors:

Capitalization

Capitalize the first letter of the first word in any sentence.

Capitalize the word "I." 

Capitalize proper nouns such as specific names, places, languages, titles, and ethnicities. 

Punctuation

Use commas to list items. e.g. I ate walnuts, cherries, apples, and grapes. 

Avoid placing commas in unnecessary places. Commas are used to separate clauses as explained earlier, to set aside phrases, and to list items. Most other uses do not make sense. e.g. I ate, green peas. 

Place a comma at the end of every sentence. Place a question mark at the end of a question. At the end of a dramatic sentence, you may place an exclamation mark. 

When writing a quote for dialogue, always put any commas or periods inside the quotation marks and use double quotation marks. e.g. "I ate dinner," Sam said. 

Subjective/Objective Case

Some pronouns have both a subjective form and an objective form. A subjective pronoun performs the action whereas the objective pronoun receives the action. 

Subjective pronouns: I, he, she, we, they.

Objective pronouns: me, him, her, us, them.

Obviously Incorrect Sentence: Me ate puddding.

Not-so-obviously Incorrect Sentence: James and me ate pudding.

Another incorrect sentence: James gave the pudding to my mom and I

-The word "I" should be replaced with the word "me."

Subject-Verb Agreement

For every noun, you must have the right form of verb. For example, the sentence "He eat ham and eggs" is incorrect because the subject "He" does not match with the verb "eat."

The rule: for any singular subject written in third person, the following verb should have an "s" attached at the end.

For any plural subject written in third person, the following verb should not have an "s" attached at the end. For any subject written in first or second person, the following verb should not have an "s" attached at the end. e.g. I eat, you eat, he eats, she eats, we eat, they eat. 

Compound Verbs/Compound Subjects

You may allow a subject to perform two actions. e.g. I ate and drank. 

You may allow more than one subject to perform a verb. e.g. Sam and I ate. 

Compound subjects add complexity. You must make sure that both nouns are subjective (look at the section Subjective/Objective Case). The compound subject must still agree with the verb. Remember the rules from the Subject-Verb Agreement section. When the compound subject has the word "and," then it is always plural and the following verb does not have an "s" at the end. 

When the compound subject has the word "or" or "nor," then the verb agrees with the closest subjective noun. 

Possessives

When a singular noun possesses something, you add an apostrophe followed by an "s" to indicate ownership. e.g. The dog's house.

When a plural noun possesses something, you add only an apostrophe at the end to indicate ownership. e.g. The dogs' houses.

When a plural noun does not have an "s" at the end, then you add an apostrophe followed by an s to indicate ownership. e.g. The children's playground.

Remember not to mix up possessives with contractions. Contractions are combinations of words like "you're" and "they're" for "you are" and "they are" respectively. Possessives like "your" and "their" indicate ownership. 

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

An antecedent is a word that a pronoun refers to. The antecedent and the pronoun must both be either singular or plural, and the pronoun should be written in the same perspective. 

Correct: Jeff ate breakfast. He loved mornings. 

Incorrect: Jeff ate breakfast. They loved mornings. 

Stick to the same tense and point of view

Most writers write in past tense or present tense. You might find present tense easier to use. 

Most writers write in first person or third person point of view, but on this site especially you may use second person point of view. Read this article for more information: http://chooseyourstory.com/help/articles/article.aspx?ArticleId=3890

Whatever tense or point of view you choose, stay consistent. Don't write "I wake up one morning and ate breakfast." 

One of the best ways to really understand the English language is to read books. Reading up on grammar helps, but you will gain a knack for the structure of the English language if you consistently read great literature. Plus, reading is the best way to learn how to spell and expand your vocabulary. 

Keep an eye out for the errors mentioned here so that your writing is understandable and polished.