Basic Grammar and Sentence Structure Guide

 

Grammar

Parts of Speech:

* Interjection  * Verb  * Adverb  * Noun * Article
* Conjunction  * Adjective  * Preposition * Pronoun

 Sentences:

*  Subject  *  Predicate  * Phrases *  Clauses
* Kinds of Sentences  * Sentence Purposes
* Some Sentence Problems
* * Transitional Phrases

Important Concepts:

* Voice * Point of View * Tense * Number *  Parallel Structure
* That and Which * Who and Whom

Punctuation: * Comma * Hyphen * Dash * Colon * Semi-Colon
Style:

* Numbers   *Titles  *Names   * Quotes

Miscellaneous:

* Problem Words *Proofreading Symbols  *Page Format


Parts of Speech

Note: Familiarize yourself with this section during Weeks One and Two.

If you ever have trouble remembering the parts of speech, try using the name "Ivan A. Capp."
 

I Interjection
V Verb
A Adverb
N Noun
A Article
C Conjunction
A Adjective
P Pronoun
P Preposition

Interjection: A word that expresses strong feelings or statements: Wow! Hello! Oh Boy!

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Verb: A word that expresses action or state of being. A sentence may have a main verb and a helping verb:

The helping verbs in English are forms of have, do and be:

Other helping verbs called "modals" are can, could, may, might, must, ought, shall, should, will and would.

Remember not to shift tense in either time (past, present or future) or  number (singular or plural) when writing.

In addition, remember that gerunds and the infinitive form of the verb can be used as nouns.

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Adverb: A word that tells us more about a verb, an adjective or another adverb.

Remember, if you are modifying a verb, you need to use an adverb, not an adjective. Often--but not always--adverbs have an "ly" ending.

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Noun: A word that names a person, place, thing or idea. Nouns can include:
 

Nouns can also be divided into concrete and abstract nouns.

There are several other kinds of nouns that you should pay particular attention to in your writing because they may cause problems.

The first is the collective noun, which is generally considered singular, even though it is assumed to include many people. Some examples are: committee, class, company, government, group, organization and public. Pronouns that refer to these collective nouns should, thus, be singular.
 

You should also be aware of two kinds of words that may appear like verbs, but are actually nouns and can be used as the subject of a sentence. The gerund, or "-ing" form of a verb, serves as a noun:

In the infinitive form, the verb is used as a noun:

If you have a gerund or infinitive as a subject you must have a helping verb or you will have a sentence fragment.

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Article: A, An and The. Signals a noun is coming up.

Conjunction: A word that joins other words or parts of a sentence together.

Coordinating conjunctions connect grammatically equal elements. These conjunctions are used when writing compound sentences and include:

and but or nor for so yet

Correlative conjunctions are pairs of conjunctions that connect grammatically equal elements. These conjunctions include:

either/or neither/nor not only/but also whether/or both/and

Subordinating conjunctions introduce a subordinate clause. This means that a clause that begins with a subordinating conjunction cannot stand alone as an independent thought.
 

Common Subordinating Conjunctions

after
although
as
as if,
because
before
even though
if
in order that
in order to
rather than
since
so that
than
that
though
unless
until
when
where
whether
while

Conjunctive adverbs are adverbs used to indicate the relationship between independent clauses. The key word here is independent, which means you need to use a semi-colon if you want to use the clauses in the same sentence. If not, then you must write two separate sentences. Used incorrectly, conjunctive adverbs can lead to sentences with comma splices.
 

Conjunctive Adverbs

accordingly
also
anyway
besides
certainly
consequently
conversely
finally
furthermore
hence
however
incidentally
indeed
instead
 
likewise
meanwhile
moreover
nevertheless
next
nonetheless
otherwise
similarly
specifically
still
subsequently
then
therefore
thus

 

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Adjective: A word used to modify or describe a noun or pronoun. It usually answers one of these questions: Which one? What kind of? How many?

Adjectives can be expressed in three degrees:

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Preposition: A word that shows the relationship of a noun or pronoun to some other word in the sentence.

Common Prepositions

about
above
across
after
against
along
among
around
as
at
before
behind
below
beneath
beside
between
beyond
but
by
concerning
considering
despite
down
during
except
for
from
in
inside
into
like
near
next
of
off
on
onto
opposite
out
outside
over
past
plus
regarding
respecting
round
since
than
through
throughout
 
till
to
toward
under
underneath
unlike
until
unto
up
upon
with
within
without

One way to make your sentences more interesting is to add a prepositional phrase:

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Pronoun: A word that takes the place of a noun. When you  write in the first person you use the subject pronouns I and we. The second person point of view utilizes the subject pronoun you, while the third person utilizes the subject pronouns he, she and they.

Possessive pronouns indicate ownership. They include: my, mine, your, yours, her, hers, his, its, our, ours, their and theirs.

Objective pronouns are used for direct or indirect objects. Therefore, they can never be the subject of a sentence. The objective case pronouns are: me, you, us, him, her and them.

Let me stress again, never  begin a sentence with "me."
 

Indefinite Pronouns refer to nonspecific persons or things. They can be very tricky in writing, because they can always be singular, always plural, or either singular or plural depending on the sentence.
 

Correct Usage for Indefinite Pronouns

Usage Universal Some Any Negative
Always Singular everybody
everyone
everything
each
either
somebody
someone
something
somewhere

 
another
anybody
anyone
anything
anywhere
nobody
no one
nothing
neither
nowhere
Always Plural

***

both
few
many
several

***

***

Can be either plural
or singular, depending
on the nouns
to which they refer.
all some
enough
more
most
such
any none

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Parts of a Sentence

Note: Familiarize yourself with this section, beginning with Week Three.


The parts of speech are not the same thing as the parts of a sentence. The parts of a sentence refer to the ways these particular words are used in the body of a sentence. To have a complete sentence you only need two things: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what the sentence is about; the predicate is the grammatical name for the verb and its objects, complements and modifiers. Thus, the sentence, "I dance," is a complete sentence because it has both a subject and a predicate. However, language is much more complicated than that and sentences can be far more complex.

The following is a brief overview of various grammatical concepts. It by no way replaces a grammar book in terms of comprehensiveness.

Subject: The person, place, animal, thing or idea the sentence is about. The simple subject is always a noun or pronoun. The complete subject consists of the simple subject and all of its modifiers. A compound subject contains two or more simple subjects joined with a coordinating conjunction such as and or or. You can find the subject of the sentence in the independent clause. (See Kinds of Sentences.)

Predicate: The part of a sentence that says something about the subject. You must have a predicate to have a sentence. The key to a predicate is a verb, but the predicate can also include any objects, complements or modifiers.

The subject and predicate can come in several different patterns:
 

Subject complements modify the subject.

Object Complements modify the object.

Direct and Indirect Objects  are common uses for nouns and pronouns in sentences. A direct object receives the action of the verb directly:

An indirect object of the verb receives the action of the verb indirectly:

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Phrases are group of words that do not have a subject and verb. They act as a part of speech rather than a complete sentence. As such, they cannot stand alone but are necessary tools in writing. They include:

Appositives describe a noun or pronoun. In form they are nouns or noun equivalents:

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Clauses are groups of words that have a subject and a verb. An independent clause can stand by itself as a sentence:

A dependent or subordinate clause cannot stand by itself as a sentence.

Dependent  or subordinate clauses may act as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs:

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Kinds of Sentences

Sentences are made up of clauses, which come in two varieties: independent and subordinate (or dependent). An independent clause has a subject and predicate (a verb and all its complements and modifiers) and can stand alone. A subordinate clause is like a sentence, in that it has a subject and verb, but it cannot stand alone as a complete thought.

1. A simple sentence has one independent clause and no subordinate clause. All of the sentence patterns described in the previous section are simple sentences.

2. A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses with no subordinate clause. The independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction or with a semicolon. (See conjunctions.)

3. A complex sentence has one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses that cannot stand alone.

4. A compound-complex sentence contains at least two independent clauses and at least one subordinate clause.

 

Punctuating Sentences with Subordinate Clauses

1. If you begin a sentence with a subordinate clause, use a comma after the subordinate clause:
  • When they arrived, we cheered the tall ships.
2. In general, you do not need a comma before a subordinating conjunction that appears toward the end of the sentence, particularly if it begins a restrictive clause. If the restrictive clause were removed, the meaning of the sentence would differ greatly.
  • We cheered the tall ships when they arrived.
  • Not many people paid attention to the scandal because Bill Clinton had high ratings. (The later information is crucial to understanding the first part of the sentence.) 
  • Please make the copies of the final report today, because I am leaving for a business meeting tomorrow morning. (The second clause can be a separate sentence, so it is nonrestrictive.) 
3. If the subordinating conjunction is though or although, do use a comma before it:
  • We cheered the tall ships, although their sails were not up.
  • Bill Clinton had high ratings, though he was immersed in scandal.
4. Do not use a comma before as, while, or since if you mean "when."
  • We cheered the tall ships as they came into the harbor.
5. Do use a comma before as or since if you mean "why" and before while if you mean "whereas."
  • We cheered the tall ships, as they were a symbol of past greatness.

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Sentence Purposes

In terms of function, sentences can be classified four ways:

 

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Some Sentence Problems

The most common sentence structure problems are comma splices, fused sentences and fragments.

A comma splice is when the writer inserts a comma between two complete sentences. Usually a period would be more appropriate, although occasionally a semi-colon may be effective.

A fused sentence is when the writer combines two complete sentences without any punctuation. This could also be called a "run-on" sentence. Usually a period is needed, although occasionally a semi-colon may be effective.

A sentence fragment is missing either the subject or predicate. A common cause of  fragments is using a gerund or an infinitive as a subject.

Sometimes a sentence may be labeled as "awkward," because it does not fit either of these common problem areas.

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Transitional Phrases

     Transitional phrases are used to move from sentence to sentence in paragraphs and to move from paragraph to paragraph within a piece of written. Using the appropriate transitional phrase allows your writing to have coherence and logical development.
 

Common Transitional Phrases

To Show Addition
and, also, besides, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, next,
too, first, second
To Give Examples
for example, for instance, to illustrate, in fact, specifically
To Compare
also, in the same manner, similarly, likewise
To Contrast
but, however, on the other hand, in contrast, nevertheless, still,
even though, on the contrary, yet, although
To Summarize or Conclude
in other words, in short, in summary, in conclusion, to sum up, that is, therefore
To Show Time
after, as, before, next, during, later, finally, meanwhile, then,
while, immediately, at the same time
To Show Place or Direction
above, below, beyond, farther on, nearby, opposite, close, to the left/right
To Indicate Logical Relationship
if, so, therefore, consequently, thus, as a result, for this reason, since

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Tense

Tenses indicate the time of an action in relation to the time you are writing about the action. When picking the right form of the verb, it is important to be consistent in number--whether you are using the singular form--one person or thing--or plural-- more than one person or thing. One of the most important things to be aware of when looking at tense in writing is to maintain parallel structure, and not shift your tense. For example, you can't suddenly shift from past tense to present, nor can you shift from singular to plural.
 

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Point of View

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Important Concepts

Voice

The active voice is generally considered superior than the passive voice because it is more direct and concise. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence is doing the action; in the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is the recipient of the action. You can use three easy steps to determine if your sentence is in the active voice:

 

  • Find the subject of the sentence.
  • Find the verb.

  • Ask yourself if the subject can do the action stated by the verb.
    If the answer is yes, then the sentence is active.

Active Voice Example: The cat caught the mouse. (five words)

Passive Voice Example: The mouse was caught by the cat. (seven words)

Passive Voice Example: There was a cat that caught a mouse. (eight words)

Writing in the active voice has NOTHING to do with tense! You can write in the past, present or future tense and still be in the active voice. (Or in the passive voice, for that matter.)

A problem with the passive voice is because the subject is not the "actor" in the sentence, you can often leave out the "actor" and still be grammatically correct. We are conditioned to want the subject to be doing the action and also to want to know who or what is doing the action:

Passive Voice Example: The form should be filled out by the applicant.

Passive Voice Example: The form should be filled out. (Although in the passive voice, this is grammatically complete, even though you do not know who should be filling out the form.)

Active Voice Example: The applicant should fill out the form.

 

Why Care About the Active Voice?

  • The active voice always uses fewer words than the passive voice. Thus, it is more concise!
  • People talk in the active voice when they communicate face to face. Thus, the active voice is more natural.

  • The active voice never leaves the "doer" out of the sentence.
     

  • The active voice is what we logically expect when we communicate; we want the subject to come before the verb!
     

  • It is more direct and to the point. It does not "back into" your thoughts.
     

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Parallel Structure

Click Here for a Power Point Lesson on Parallel Structure

Parallel structure means that every part of your writing is the same grammatically . In sentences you need to have parallel structure in all of your clauses and all items in a series. Your writing also has to have parallel structure from sentence to sentence. Here are some clues to checking for parallel structure:
 

When writing in parallel structure, it often does not matter which way you edit your writing (for example, all in the third person, or all using imperative verbs. What matters is that each part of your sentence and sentences is grammatically comparable.

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That and Which: Restrictive and Nonrestrictive Clauses
 

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Who and Whom
 

Numbers

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Punctuation:

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Titles

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Names

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Miscellaneous

Problem Word Usage:
 

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Quotes

Direct quotations of a person's words must be in quotation marks, whether you are taking an entire passage, a complete sentence or just a few words.
 

Special note: If you are quoting someone's exact words in a direct quote and the speaker used the first person point of view, you must also.
 

Indirect quotations or paraphrases tell someone's statements without using his or her exact words.

In dialogue, begin a new paragraph to introduce a new speaker.

If a single speaker says more than one paragraph, introduce each paragraph with quotation marks, but do not close the quotation until the end of the last paragraph.

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Style Guide

Proofreading Symbols You Should Memorize:
 

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Page Format:

All papers will utilize the format suggested by the Modern Language Association (MLA), which is the standard followed by all courses at Onondaga Community College.

BASIC FORMAT:

PAGE FORMAT:

Your name                                                                                  

Your professor's name

Course title and number

Date

A Sample Research for English 103

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For a highly detailed, on-line writing and grammar guide go to a website developed by Professor Charles Darling of Capital Community-Technical College in Hartford, Conn.:

http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/

Another newer site is the "Learn Stuff" guide to grammar and writing:

http://www.learnstuff.com/guide-to-learning-english/

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