One-Hour Grammar Usage Review*
Grammar is the language that describes language. It enables us to establish an order in our language so that we may communicate clearly and accurately with correct, standard usage. Usage is generally what gives people trouble, not grammar. But to correct usage, we must speak the same language, hence, grammar.
The Language of Language
The four basic divisions in grammar are these: parts of speech, parts of a sentence, phrases and clauses.
Parts of Speech
1. NOUN—names a person, place or thing. May be concrete or abstract, common or proper, and collective.
2. PRONOUN—used in place of nouns or other pronouns.
Personal—I, me, you, he, him, she, her, it, we, us, they, them. Used in place of names.
Possessive—my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs. Used to show possession or ownership.
Reflexive and Intensive—myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, yourself, yourselves, themselves. Used in connection with another noun or pronoun.
Relative—who, whom, which, that, whose. These introduce dependent clauses, and therefore, are hooked up with a verb.
Interrogative—who, whom, which, what, whose. Used to ask a question.
Demonstrative—this, these, that, those. Used to point out a thing or person.
Indefinite—for example: many, some, few. Most express the idea of quantity. (Also see 3 on p. 2)
3. ADJECTIVE—modifies (describes) a noun or pronoun by telling which one, what kind or how many. Many words may be used as adjectives or pronouns; you must determine which by examining the function of the word.
4. VERB—expresses action or otherwise helps to make a statement. There are four kinds:
Transitive—needs an object. "The student lost her assignment." You can't just leave the verb hanging--it needs a follow-up.
Intransitive—verb is able to stand alone. "The teacher shrugged."
Linking verbs—has more to do with a state of being than with any action. Links the subject to the subject complement. For example: She is sleepy. The cookie tastes good. If you can substitute the word "seems," you've got a linking verb. Common linking verbs include:
Forms of TO BE: is, am, are, was, were, has, have, had, do, does, did, shall, will, should, would, may, might, must, can, could, and combinations.
Verb phrases—linking or helping verbs which help the main verb and combine into a phrase.
5. ADVERB—modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Tells how, when, where or to what extent. Frequently ends in "ly."
6. PREPOSITION—shows the relation of one noun to another. Always appears in a phrase which ends in a noun or pronoun. This noun or pronoun is called the object of the preposition. NOTE: None of the words in a prepositional phrase are ever the subject of the sentence.
Common prepositions cont:
7. CONJUNCTIONS—join words or groups of words. There are three kinds of conjunctions:
Coordinating--and, but, or, for, nor, yet
Correlating—either. . . or, neither. . . nor, both. . . and, not only. . . but also, whether. . . or. Use these only in conjunction with one another. . . use the first word only if you use the second.
Subordinating—used to begin dependent clauses.
|as much as||because||before||how|
|in order that||inasmuch as||provided||since|
8. INTERJECTIONS -- express emotion or surprise and has no grammatical relation to other words in the sentence. These are typically followed by exclamation points.
Parts of the Sentence
Each sentence must have a subject and a verb. Effective writers make exceptions of this rule, but to be effective, the writer must know that the exception is just that--an exception--not an excuse for sloppy writing.
Other components of sentences are complements, including direct objects, indirect objects, objective complements, and subject complements. Examples of each are given below in various sentence patterns. Please note that the parts of speech are not included in sentence patterns.
Using a variety of sentence patterns enlivens your writing, giving it variety and allowing you to emphasize points you especially want to make clear.
|S = subject||DO = direct object|
|V = verb||IO = indirect object|
|LV = linking verb||SC = subject complement|
|OC = objective complement|
Students agonize. (S-V) (intransitive verb)
They write papers. (S-V-DO) (transitive verb)
They give teachers their papers. (S-V-IO-DO)
This makes teachers cranky. (S-V-DO-OC)
The teachers are so busy. (S-LV-SC) (pred. adj.)
They are writers, too. (S-LV-SC) (pred. nom.)
Phrases are groups of words that do not make complete sentences; they lack either a subject or a verb. Phrases help writers vary their style by making it possible to combine like ideas into one sentence. There are five kinds of phrases:
Prepositional--begins with a preposition and ends with a noun. May be used as adjectives, adverbs or, occasionally, as nouns. However, they are never the subject of the sentence. This is a common basis for error.
Appositive--explains or identifies another noun or pronoun, e.g., "I still have a crush on my new car, a bright red Honda Prelude." "A bright red Honda Prelude" explains "car."
The following three phrases are called verbals.
Participial -- phrase containing a participle (a verb form ending in -ed or -ing which is used as an adjective) and any complements or modifiers it may have. For example, "Angelina Ortega, majoring in women's studies, has already won several scholarships and awards."
a. the participial phrase, "majoring in women's studies," acts as an adjective to describe Angelina Ortega.
b. “majoring" is a verb form, but an -ing word is NEVER a verb unless it has a helping verb.
c. the phrase allows the combination of two otherwise dreary sentences.
d. the participle (verb form) generally begins the phrase.
Gerund -- phrase containing a gerund (a verb form ending in -ing and used as a noun) and any modifiers or complements it may have. For example, "Walking to my car is my favorite exercise." In this sentence, "walking" is the subject--acting as a noun. "My next favorite activities are turning on the ignition and flexing my ankle on the gas pedal." "Turning" and "flexing" act as subject complements, another place for a noun. Another place for a noun is at the end of a prepositional phrase; this sentence ends with a gerund phrase. Onika Taylor may win the basketball game by breaking the tie." "By" is the preposition, and "breaking the tie" is the gerund phrase acting as a noun.
Infinitive -- phrase containing the infinitive form of a verb (to + a verb) and its modifiers and complements. It may be used as a noun, an adverb or an adjective. For example, "There must be a way to solve this problem." "To solve" modifies "way," a noun, and so this is a noun infinitive clause.
A phrase is an incomplete sentence, but it may be used to combine thoughts on the same subject.
Clauses are complete sentences, that is, they have a noun and a verb. They may be joined together, again, to add variety to your expression as a writer. There are two kinds of clauses:
Independent Clauses -- may stand alone as a sentence or support additional dependent clauses or independent clauses. For example, "It was ten minutes before commencement, and no one yet knew where the president had gone." "It was" and "no one knew" both make up complete sentences; it is appropriate to join them together for variety in expression.
Dependent Clauses -- may not stand alone, although they have both a subject and a verb. "Since I was all alone in Seattle. . ." must be followed by an independent clause. Dependent clauses frequently begin with relative pronouns; other times, they begin with subordinating conjunctions. A dependent clause may act as an adverb or a noun.
Some clauses are elliptical, or incomplete. For example, "I am stronger than you (are)." The verb is understood to follow.
Sentences may be classified according to structure.
Simple -- one independent clause
Compound -- two or more independent clauses, but no dependent clauses
Complex -- one independent clause with one or more dependent clauses
Compound-complex -- one or more independent clauses with one or more dependent clauses.
This is the simplest and most pleasing way to vary your writing style; use a variety of sentence structures. These four sections comprise the whole of grammar. The rest is usage. The instructions and warning along the way have been usage instructions. This handout has been set up as a handy reference. Please feel free to use it as such.