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Grammar: The Basics

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Jamie Achenbach

on 3 July 2012

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Transcript of Grammar: The Basics

The Foundation of Writing

Parts of Speech:
The Building Blocks

Parts of a Sentence:
The Blueprints

Subject-Verb Agreement
The Mortar

The topic of the sentence.
The 'do-er' of the action.
Nouns - person, place, or thing
Pronouns - take the place of nouns
Gerunds - verbs that act as nouns
Noun clauses - a group of words that acts like a noun
Infinitives - 'to' + a verb
The content of the sentence
What is done by the subject
The action
Everything that isn't the subject
Predicates always contain a verb.
They often contain additional information.
"The lion roared."
"The climbers finally reached the top of the mountain."
"Canada is the second largest country in the world."
"We had a very nice picnic yesterday."
"Dancing is my favorite thing in the world."
"What the report indicated was that more research was needed."
"To fly through the air is my fondest dream."
Verbs must be written in the same form (singular or plural) as their subjects.
This can get confusing in some cases.
Subjects joined by 'and' are generally treated as plural...
Jack and Jill climb up the hill.
...unless the subjects are preceded by 'each' or 'every'.
Every man, woman, and child deserves freedom.
When two subject parts are joined by 'or' or 'nor,' the verb agrees with the nearest part.
Neither the child nor his parents know how to do the homework.
In order to avoid awkwardness, it is best to place any plural subjects second.
Neither the parents nor their child knows how to do the homework.
Collective Nouns
A collective noun is a noun that refers to a number of individual things at once.
A collective noun is treated as singular.
My family goes on vacation every year.
The team plays well under pressure.
Subject verb agreement can be tricky when the subject and verb are separated by other words.
A group of soldiers was left on the font lines.
A group of soldiers were left on the front lines.
Some Common Collective Nouns
Nouns are words that name a person, place, thing, idea, or process.
John, Nova Scotia, tree, happiness, departure.
Nouns often act as the subject of a sentence (what does something), or the object of a verb (what something is done to).
A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun, often to avoid repetition.
I, you, he, she, it, we, they
The noun that a pronoun replaces is called its antecedent.
A pronoun must always match the number of its antecedent.
Jenny took her new kitten to the park.
The salesman brough their product to the door.
The salesman brough his product to the door.
An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun.
It describes what kind of thing it is or what qualities it has.
large, small, quick, blue, ugly, new, broken, fantastic, red, eight
Adjective phrases may be made of several words.
I have a friend who is in the military.
The cat with the crooked tail walked along the fence.
Apostrophe's have two uses:
Making words posessive
Replacing omitted letters
Most words need only an apostrophe and 's' added to make them plural.
Dave's car is painted a deep red.
Singular nouns ending in 's' need an apostrophe, but an additional 's' is optional.
The abbess' room was sparsely decorated.
The abbess's room was sparsely decorated.
A plural noun ending with 's' needs only an apostrophe; never add another 's'.
The birds' songs greeted the dawn.
Plural nouns not ending in 's' do receive an 's'
The oxen's driver steered them down the field.
An apostrophe replaces the missing letters when making contractions
Don't = Do Not Can't = Can Not
I'm = I Am You're = You Are
Its and It's
These two words have caused a lot of trouble for writers because it can be hard to see what apostrophe rule is being used here.
Its = Posessive
The dog wagged its (the dog's) tail
It's = Contraction
It's (it is) cold outside!
Commas are used primarily to indicate pauses or breaks in a sentence. There are several ways to do this.
Separate items in a list
Today I went to the garage, the mall, and the aquarium.
Separate independent clauses joined by a conjunction.
I hit the snooze button twice, but I still made it to work on time.
Separate a dependent clause from an independent clause.
When I said I was running late, the salon gave away my appointment.
Separate a complete thought from an its introduction.
Obviously, I should have gotten up earlier.
Separate non-essential information from the rest of a sentence.
My dog, a lovable mutt, brings me my slippers when I come home.
Editing for commas
Many people place commas where they just "feel" right. Sometimes, however, this leads to sentences peppered with unnecessary commas. When editing your work, make sure each comma is serving one of these functions and not just acting as a "breath mark" for the reader.
Quotation Marks
There are two kinds of quotation marks. Although they both isolate words or passages, each serves a slightly different function.
Double Quotes
These are the most common and are usually used to mark when exact words or phrases appear.
Direct dialogue and speech
"Let's go to the park," said James
Titles of poems, short stories and journal articles
"Language, Orthodoxy, and Performances of Authority in Vietnamese Buddhism" by Alexander Soucy appeared in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
Material quoted directly from another source
According to the author, "the Buddhist pagoda in Vietnam is generally seen as a feminine space" (Soucy, 2009).
Single Quotes
Less common than double quotes, these are used for two main purposes
Terminology and key words
Any time double quotes would be used in material that is already separated by double quotes (e.g., speech within speech).
"I asked my mother if I could go out, but she said, 'Not until you clean your room,'" Billy explained.
'Photosynthesis' is the process by which plants convert sunlight into energy.
Colons are used after an independent clause to introduce information.
This means that in order for a colon to be correct, the sentence before the colon must be able to stand on its own.
They can be used to...
Introduce lists
Magic mud is made with three simple ingredients: water, cornstarch, and food colouring.
Introduce quotations
The professor had some strong words for cheaters: "Anyone caught cheating will receive an F in the course."
Provide emphasis or clarification
Only one person can make Gotham City safe: Batman.
Remember to make sure the sentence before the colon is complete.
The pizza was topped with: pepperoni, mushrooms, and peppers.
The pizza was topped with the following items: pepperoni, mushrooms, and peppers.
The semicolon is one of the most commonly misused punctuation marks. However, its use is actually quite simple.
The semicolon can be used to show the relationship between two closely related independent clauses (or complete sentences).
I didn't lose my hat; he stole it!
I thought I was going to retire early; however, I still haven't won the lottery.
In this case, think of the semicolon as a cross between a period and a comma; there is a separation between complete sentences, but not a complete break.
The other use of the semicolon is to separate items in a complex list (a list where the individual items have punctuation of their own).
The team consisted of Ryan, the keeper, Ashley and Tara, the defenders, the strikers, Scott and Jordan, and Lori playing the center.
The team consisted of Ryan, the keeper; Ashley and Tara, the defenders; the strikers, Scot and Jordan; and Lori playing the center.
With this use, we can think of the semicolon as a 'super-comma', providing a stronger separation than a regular comma in order to keep the sentence clear.
These are the ONLY times when a semicolon should be used.
Do not use them to
Intoduce a list
Separate introductory information
Separate an independent clause from a dependent clause (both sides of the semicolon must work as complete sentences)
A verb is a word that signifies an action or a state of being.
walk, dance, hope, be, lie, enjoy, remember, jump
Verbs are often found in groups with 'helping verbs' to form different tenses.
Verbs form the most important part of the predicate of a sentence.
Victor will go to school tomorrow.
By this time tomorrow, I will have been awake for 30 hours.
He was walking around the city all day yesterday.
Adverbs are words that modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or even a whole sentence.
They describe how, when, where, or to what extent something was done .
Adverbs are easy to spot because they usually end with 'ly'.
quickly, suddenly, really, greatly, very, kindly, well, fortunately, finally, furthermore
The student worked tirelessly on her final essay.
Fortunately, I was wearing my seatbelt when I had my accident.
Finally, we turn our attention to this last slide.
I will arrive home tomorrow.
Alice performed well at her piano recital.
A preposition descibes an object's location in time, space, or logical relationship.
on, under, near, among, between, after, before, during, until, over, through, beneath
A 'prepositional phrase' consists of the preposition, its object, and any associated adjectives.
I dropped my book under the table.
I'm going to the concert after lunch.
In many cases, a prepositional phrase can act like an adverb, providing information about the verb (where or when).
A conjunction is a word that links words, phrases, or clauses together.
and, but, nor, for, yet, or, so, because, since, after, although, whether
Coordinating conjunctions (and, but, nor, for, yet, or, and so) can be used to link items on equal footing.
Subordinating conjunctions can link a dependent clause to an independent clause.
Because I went to the movies last night, I was tired for school this morning.
I had a sandwich for lunch and spaghetti for supper.
Mark has brown hair, but his parents are blonde.
When joining two independent clauses with a conjunction, they need to be separated with a comma.
My dog is black and white.
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