Cheat Sheet

English Grammar For Dummies

Whether you’re engaging in everyday speech or writing the perfect paper, you need to be familiar with the various parts of English grammar. Knowing how to correctly use nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, and punctuation as well as how to properly structure a sentence can make or break a good grade or a professional presentation.

Parts of Speech in English Grammar

Every time you write or speak, you use nouns, verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and other parts of the English language. Knowing how to use these parts of speech can help you speak more eloquently, write more clearly, and feel more confident when communicating with others.

  • Noun: names a person, place, thing, idea (Lulu, jail, cantaloupe, loyalty, and so on)

  • Pronoun: takes the place of a noun (he, who, I, what, and so on)

  • Verb: expresses action or being (scrambled, was, should win, and so on)

  • Adjective: describes a noun or pronoun (messy, strange, alien, and so on)

  • Adverb: describes a verb, adjective, or other adverb (willingly, woefully, very, and so on)

  • Preposition: relates a noun or a pronoun to another word in the sentence (by, for, from, and so on)

  • Conjunction: ties two words or groups of words together (and, after, although, and so on)

  • Interjection: expresses strong emotion (yikes! wow! ouch! and so on)

English Grammar Basics: Parts of a Sentence

After you get a good grip on the different parts of speech, it’s time to put them all together to form the proper sentence. The right words and punctuation in the right order can make all the difference in good communication. Keep in mind that you need a minimum number of parts to make a complete sentence: subject/predicate/endmark.

  • Verb (also called the predicate): expresses the action or state of being

  • Subject: the person or thing being talked about

  • Complement: a word or group of words that completes the meaning of the subject-verb pair

  • Types of complements: direct and indirect objects, subject complement, objective complement

Pronoun Tips for Proper English Grammar

The Beatles sang of “I, Me, Mine,” but understanding pronouns takes a little practice. Pronouns can be objective or subjective, and can show possession. You, me, him, her, them, us . . . everyone can speak and write more clearly by understanding pronouns.

  • Pronouns that may be used only as subjects or subject complements: I, he, she, we, they, who, whoever.

  • Pronouns that may be used only as objects or objective complements: me, him, her, us, them, whom, whomever.

  • Common pronouns that may be used as either subjects or objects: you, it, everyone, anyone, no one, someone, mine, ours, yours, theirs, either, neither, each, everybody, anybody, nobody, somebody, everything, anything, nothing, something, any, none, some, which, what, that.

  • Pronouns that show possession: my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs, whose.

English Grammar Tips for Subject-Verb Agreement

Someone or something must be present in a sentence, and that someone or something doing the action or being talked about is the subject. Verbs are the words that express the action the subject is doing or the state of being the subject is in. Subjects and verbs must agree if you’re going to get your point across as clearly as possible. Otherwise, you end up with an incomplete sentence or a sentence that makes no sense.

  • Match singular subjects with singular verbs, plural subjects with plural verbs (I run, she runs, they run).

  • Amounts of time and money are usually singular (ten dollars is).

  • Either/or and neither/nor: Match the verb to the closest subject (neither the boys nor the girl is).

  • Either and neither, without their partners or and nor, always take a singular verb (either of the apples is).

  • All subjects preceded by each and every take a singular verb (each CD is mine; every one of the cheeses is different).

  • Both, few, several, and many are always plural (both/many are qualified; few want the job; several were hired).

Placing Proper Punctuation

Can you imagine what a sentence without any punctuation would be like? Without proper punctuation, it would be unreadable. Knowing when and how to use the period, comma, colon, semicolon, and other punctuation marks will make your writing smoother and more understandable.

  • Endmarks: All sentences need an endmark: a period, question mark, exclamation point, or ellipsis. Never put two endmarks at the end of the same sentence.

  • Apostrophes: For singular ownership, generally add’s; for plural ownership, generally add s’.

  • Commas: In direct address, use commas to separate the name from the rest of the sentence. In lists, place commas between items in a list, but not before the first item. Before conjunctions, when combining two complete sentences with a conjunction, place a comma before the conjunction. If you have one subject and two verbs, don’t put a comma before the conjunction.

  • Hyphens: If two words create a single description, put a hyphen between them if the description comes before the word that it’s describing. Don’t hyphenate two-word descriptions if the first word ends in -ly.

  • Colon: Use a colon after an independent clause that precedes a list and to separate an explanation, rule, or example from a preceding independent clause.

  • Semicolon: Use a semicolon to join independent clauses in compound sentences that do not have coordinating conjunctions (and, or, but, nor, for, so, yet) and commas as connectors. Words like however, moreover, thus, and therefore, are often used as connectors in these sentences. You can also use semicolons to separate long or complicated items in a series that already includes commas, and to separate two long or complex independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction if confusion would result from using a comma.

Verb Tense Tips in English Grammar

Besides showing the action or state of being in the sentence, the verb also indicates the time the action or “being” took place. By learning about the different kinds of simple, perfect, past, and present tenses, your speaking and writing will be clear and concise.

  • Simple present tense: tells what is happening now

  • Simple past tense: tells what happened before now

  • Simple future: talks about what has not happened yet

  • Present perfect tense: expresses an action or state of being in the present that has some connection with the past

  • Past perfect tense: places an event before another event in the past

  • Future perfect tense: talks about something that has not happened yet in relation to another event in the future

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