The basics of grammar in English is a bit complex, but it becomes second nature with practice and experience. Be aware that English can be a complex language, and there are often exceptions to every rule.
What is Grammar?
Before we start the basics of grammar in English, what is grammar? Grammar is the system that English writers agree to use to make parts of their writing clear and precise in order to make the information presented better understood. Grammar’s purpose is not to cause agony for writers or give internet trolls an easy thing to heckle people about. It’s purpose is to make information easier to read and be understood by the reader. Mastering the basics of grammar in English is crucial for technical writing.
Using strong and effective grammar has the following benefits:
- Makes information easier to read
- Improves your credibility and professionalism
- Aids the logic and critical thinking of the document
- Improves your fluency in the language used
- Makes your writing less vulnerable to criticism
Basics of Grammar in English: 8 Parts of Speech
The basics of grammar in English starts with knowing the 8 parts of speech.
A noun is the part of speech that is a person, place, or thing, which includes physical and abstract objects. Proper nouns are names of places, people, eras of time, works of art, etc.
In a sentence, nouns can serve the function of the:
- Direct object,
- Indirect object,
- Object of a preposition,
- Appositive, and
- Predicate nominative.
Pronouns are words that take the place of a noun, usually to save space since the noun is long and/or already been used many times to the point of redundancy. Pronouns in english commonly are words like: he, she, it, they, those, my yours, ours, myself, who, what, and where. Pronouns serve the same functions in a sentence as nouns.
Verbs are words that convey action or state of being. Action verbs are words like run, read, play, write, finish, stared, etc. Verbs that show state of being are words like is, are, been, shall, being, etc. and are followed by predicate nominatives. For example, in ‘He was an English major’ ‘was’ is the state of being verb and ‘major’ is the predicate nominative. Strong verbs make sentences more understandable and exciting.
Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs can be words like: quickly, very, necessary, well, badly, towards, a lot, never, and later. Adverbs explain and expand on how much, how far, when, in what way, and how often. They sometimes end in -ly.
Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. They describe the noun’s size, shape, weight, age, appearance, taste, sound, odor, feel, number, emotion, or can be other descriptors like accurate or alive. Words like ‘a’ and ‘the’ are adjectives as well.
Prepositions are words that show spatial or temporal relationships between nouns (usually). Most prepositions will fill in the black of the phrase ‘the mouse went ____ the box’. Other prepositions include but, as, and since. These words can be adverbs and/or conjunctions as well, so check in the sentence for context to determine their function. Prepositions can function as adverbs and adjectives in a sentence.
Conjunctions are words that connect words, phrases, and clauses. The common conjunctions are ‘and’, ‘but’, ‘or’, ‘so’, and ‘yet’. Subordinating conjunctions that begin adverb clauses include:
Being the least common type of words, Interjections are words that are found at the start of a sentence and show feeling and emotion, usually as an exclamation. When the emotion is strong, the interjection is set off by an exclamation point, but, when the feeling is weaker, it is set off by a comma. Common interjections include ‘wow’, ‘hey’, ‘darn’, ‘yeah’, ‘eek’, and ‘drat’.
Phrases vs. clauses
A phrase is a group of words that modify a word, phrase, or clause but do not have a verb in them. A phrase can never be a complete sentence; it is only a fragment by itself.
An adjective phrase is a phrase that serves the purpose of an adjective, modifying a noun or pronoun. It does not contain a verb. An appositive – a noun or phrase that is set aside that expands on a noun or pronoun – can be an adjective phrase.
A verbal phrase is a phrase that contains a verb, and it modifies and functions as a noun or as an adjective phrase. For example, in ‘To get a dog was the goal’ ‘to get a dog’ is the verbal phrase.
Rarely is a preposition used outside of a prepositional phrase, which is the set of words that includes the preposition, it’s object, and sometimes adverbs and adjectives as well.
A clause is a group of words that contain a noun or stand in for a noun and a verb. An independent clause is a group of words that can function as a complete sentence without any other phrases and clauses. On the other hand, a dependent clause is a group of words that have a noun and a verb but does not form a complete sentence. For example, ‘since he was a young man’ is a dependent clause.
An adverb clause is a clause that starts with a subordinating clause and functions as an adverb, which modifies a verb, adverb, or adjective and is movable in the sentence. When adverb clauses are at the start of a sentence, they are set off with a comma.
A noun clause is a clause that takes the place of a noun. A good test is that this clause should be replaceable by it, something, or someone. In ‘Whatever you said hurt her feelings’, ‘whatever you said’ is a noun clause.
An adjective clause is a clause that modifies a noun or pronoun. It is not moveable in the sentence and is found directly before or after the noun it modifies. An essential (or restrictive) adjective clause is not set off by commas; for example, ‘He is the boy who speaks little’.
A nonessential (or nonrestrictive) adjective clause is set off by commas, and the sentence can be completed without this clause. For example: ‘The girl, who has yellow ribbons, is running to school’. Adjective clauses is the other main function for appositives.
Beyond the basics of grammar in English, as mentioned above, a verbal is a verb that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb depending on the type of verbal.
A gerund (pronounced jair-und) or gerund phrase functions as a noun but is or starts with a verb with the suffix ‘-ing’ at the end of it. For example: ‘Reading in the afternoon is a good practice’.
A participial phrase is a verbal phrase that functions as an adjective in a sentence. For example, ‘The grinning trickster ran away’.
Functioning as a noun, adjective, or adverb, an infinitive phrase is the last of the verbal phrases. This verbal always starts with the word ‘to’ right before the verb. For example: To have good grammar, one must study the language first’.
The basics of grammar in English is critical to master for writers. Grammar is the system that English writers agree to use to make parts of their writing clear and precise in order to make the information presented better understood. The eight parts of speech are nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. Phrases and clauses are both groups of words; clauses have nouns and verbs and phrases don’t. There are three types of verbals, gerund, participial, and infinitive.
Stay tuned for part 2 – Punctuation.