Chapter 26: Grammar

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Grammar

To use grammar correctly, you need to understand the eight parts of speech and the role each plays in a sentence. The eight parts of speech are noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection. See also the Parts of Speech Chart.

 

In this chapter

Noun

A noun is a word that names something.

People: Angela Merkel, politician

Places: South Africa, nation

Things: National Geographic, magazine

Ideas: business ethics, value system

Classes of Nouns

Nouns are divided into five classes: proper, common, concrete, abstract, and collective.

Proper Noun

A proper noun names a specific person, place, thing, or idea and is always capitalized.

Bill Gates

Nasdaq Stock Market

Shanghai Tower

World Federalism

Common Noun

A common noun is a general name for a person, a place, a thing, or an idea and is lowercased.

entrepreneur

stock exchange

sky scraper

ideology

Concrete Noun

A concrete noun names something tangible. It can be seen, touched, heard, smelled, or tasted.

odor

desk

piano

Yosemite

Lake Erie

Alabama

Abstract Noun

An abstract noun names something that cannot be seen, touched, heard, smelled, or tasted. It is usually an idea, a condition, or a feeling.

War on Poverty

democracy

Buddhism

freedom

success

happiness

Collective Noun

A collective noun names a group or a unit. Collective nouns can be used in either the singular or the plural form. (See also Number of a Noun.)

herd

Green Bay Packers

committee

staff

Human Resources Department

Forms of Nouns

Nouns are grouped according to their gender, case, and number.

Gender of Noun

Gender of a noun indicates whether a noun is masculine, feminine, neuter, or indefinite. (Also see more on inclusive language.)

Masculine: father, nephew, buck, drake, Latino

Feminine: sister, niece, doe, hen, Latina

Neuter (without sex): rock, keyboard, lake

Indefinite (masculine or feminine): mayor, firefighter, deer, Latinx

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Case of a Noun

Case tells how a noun functions in a sentence. Three cases of nouns are nominative, possessive, and objective.

Nominative case describes a noun used as the subject of a clause.

Bill Gates heads a multibillion-dollar software company that he founded.

Nominative case also describes a noun when it is used as a predicate noun (or predicate nominative). A predicate noun follows a form of the be verb (for example, is, are, was, were, been) and repeats or renames the subject.

Business handbooks are useful tools for every office.

Possessive case describes a noun that shows possession or ownership. A possessive noun functions as an adjective.

An employee’s desk is a construction site.

Note: Be sure to follow the rules of punctuation when it comes to possessives, especially the placement of apostrophes in plural words or words expressing joint ownership. (See rules for forming plural possessives.)

Objective case describes a noun used as a direct object, an indirect object, or an object of a preposition.

The delete key can give writers nightmares. (Nightmares is the direct object of can give; writers is the indirect object.)

But writing without a delete key is also scary. (Delete key is the object of the preposition, without.)

Number of a Noun

Number indicates whether a noun is singular or plural. (See Agreement of Subject and Verb.)

A singular noun refers to one person, place, thing, or idea.

supervisor

warehouse

monitor

A plural noun refers to more than one person, place, thing, or idea.

secretaries

closets

calculators

A Closer Look

When it comes to their number, some nouns are not what they appear to be. For example, earnings refers to a single thing, but it is actually a plural noun.

Our third-quarter earnings were better than expected.

Singular nouns that appear to be plural:

economics, news, mathematics, mumps, measles, lens, summons

Plural nouns that refer to a single thing:

assets, earnings, media, premises, proceeds, scissors, trousers, goods, grounds, thanks, dues

Nouns that can be singular or plural (depending upon how they are used):

corps, headquarters, gross, means, ethics, data, species, series, class, group, staff, company, committee, board, public

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Pronoun

A pronoun is a word used to refer to or replace a noun.

I

you

she

it

that

myself

someone

who

Almost all pronouns have antecedents. An antecedent is the noun that the pronoun refers to or replaces.

The workers acted as though they had forgotten the proper procedure. (Workers is the antecedent of they.)

Note: Each pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number (singular or plural), in person (first, second, or third), and in gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter). (See more.)

Classes of Pronouns

All pronouns fall into one of seven classes: personal, relative, interrogative, demonstrative, indefinite, reflexive, and intensive.

Personal Pronoun

A personal pronoun (I, you, he, she, it) takes the place of a noun.

Rita Worth is a CEO; she likes to go fishing on her days off.

Relative Pronoun

A relative pronoun (who, whose, whom, which, that) introduces a clause related to another word in the sentence.

The person who leaves last should lock the office door. (The clause beginning with who describes person.)

Interrogative Pronoun

An interrogative pronoun (who, whose, whom, which, what) introduces a question.

Who will write the report?

Demonstrative Pronoun

A demonstrative pronoun (this, that, these, those) points out something.

This is great! These are our best year-end numbers ever.

Indefinite Pronoun

An indefinite pronoun (all, another, any, anyone, anything, both, each, either, everyone, few, many, most, neither, none, no one, one, several, some) refers to an unspecified person, thing, or group.

All are invited to the seminar.

Reflexive Pronoun

A reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself, himself) refers to the subject or the doer of the action.

Letta drives herself too hard.

Intensive Pronoun

An intensive pronoun is a reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself, himself) that is used only to emphasize the noun or pronoun it refers to.

The club members themselves voted yes on this proposition.

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Pronoun Chart

Classes of Pronouns

Personal

I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, ours, you, your, yours, they, them, their, theirs, he, him, his, she, her, hers, it, its

Relative

who, whose, whom, which, what, that, whoever, whatever, whomever

Interrogative

who, whose, whom, which, what, whoever, whatever, whomever

Demonstrative

this, that, these, those

Indefinite

all

everybody

no one

another

everyone

nothing

any

everything

one

anybody

few

other

anyone

many

several

anything

most

some

both

much

somebody

each

neither

someone

each one

nobody

something

either

none

such

Reflexive and Intensive

myself, himself, herself, itself, yourself, themselves, ourselves, yourselves

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Forms of Personal Pronouns

The form of a personal pronoun indicates its number (singular or plural), its person (first, second, or third), its case (nominative, possessive, or objective), and its gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter).

Number of a Pronoun

The number of a pronoun can be either singular or plural. Singular personal pronouns include I, you, he, she, it. Plural personal pronouns include we, you, they. Notice that the pronoun you can be singular or plural.

Have you (singular) completed the tax forms?

Looking at the applicants, he said, “I will contact each of you (plural) within a week.”

Person of a Pronoun

The person of a pronoun indicates whether that pronoun is speaking, is spoken to, or is spoken about. (See also Forms of Pronouns.)

Singular

Plural

First Person

I (am)

we (are)

Second Person

you (are)

you (are)

Third Person

he / she / it (is)

they (are)

Case of a Pronoun

The case of a pronoun indicates how it is used in a sentence. There are three cases of personal pronouns: nominative (or subjective), objective, and possessive.

Nominative case pronouns are used in two ways—as subjects and as subject complements (following the linking verbs am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been).

I appreciate a pat on the back when I deserve it. (subjects)

It was Adam’s idea, so the real hero is he. (subject complement)

Objective case pronouns are used in three ways—as direct objects, indirect objects, and objects of prepositions.

Alex saw it. (direct object)

Max handed her two cups. (indirect object)

The manager talked with him. (object of a preposition)

Note: Do not use objective pronouns as subjects.

Incorrect: Maria and me arrived early.

Correct: Maria and I arrived early.

Possessive case pronouns are used to show possession or ownership.

Their parents have been business partners for years.

Gender of a Pronoun

The gender of a pronoun can be masculine, feminine, or neuter.

He told her about it.

Forms of Pronouns

Forms of Singular Pronouns

Subj.

Poss.

Obj.

First Person

I my, mine me

Second Person

you your, yours you

Third Person

he
she
it
his
her, hers
its
him
her
it

Forms of Plural Pronouns

Subj.

Poss.

Obj.

First Person

we our, ours us

Second Person

you your, yours you

Third Person

they their, theirs them

A Closer Look

A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number, person, and gender. (See Agreement of Pronoun and Antecedent.)

Nicole greeted the committee with her distinctive smile. (Both the pronoun her and its antecedent Nicole are singular, third person, and feminine.)

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Verb

A verb expresses either action (run, flip, twist) or state of being (is, are, seem). The different forms of a verb indicate its number (singular or plural); person (first, second, or third); voice (active or passive); and tense (present, past, future, present perfect, past perfect, or future perfect).

Number and Person of a Verb

Number indicates whether a verb is singular or plural. Person indicates whether the verb is correctly used with a first-, second-, or third-person subject.

Singular

Plural

First Person

(I) am.

(We) are.

Second Person

(You) are.

(You) are.

Third Person

(She) is.

(They) are.

Voice of a Verb

Voice of a verb indicates whether the subject acts or is acted upon.

Active Voice

Active voice means that the subject does the action of the verb.

The partners debated the proposal.

Active sentences are concise and direct: The subject does the action of the verb, and often a direct object receives the action.

Passive Voice

Passive voice means that the subject receives the action of the verb. (Passive verbs always begin with a form of “be”—am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, etc.)

Many topics were discussed by the committee.

Passive sentences are indirect: The subject receives the action of the verb, and the doer of the action often appears in a prepositional phrase that begins with by. To convert a passive sentence to an active sentence, ask yourself, “Who or what is doing the action of the verb?” and make your answer into the subject of the rewritten sentence. Often, the previous subject becomes the direct object.

The committee discussed many topics.

Active and Passive Voice

Tense of a Verb

The tense of a verb indicates when the action is taking place or when the condition exists.

Present Tense

Present tense indicates action that is happening at the present time or that happens continually.

More people work in the service industry than in any other industry.

Past Tense

Past tense indicates action that was completed in the past.

In the early twentieth century, heavy industry employed most of the workforce.

Note: Usually the past tense of a verb is formed by adding ed; however, many irregular verbs do not follow this pattern. (See Common Irregular Verbs.)

Future Tense

Future tense indicates action that will take place in the future.

Many workers wonder if Social Security will survive baby-boomer retirees.

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Present Perfect Tense

Present perfect tense indicates action that began in the past but continues in the present or is completed in the present.

Lately, airlines have struggled with rising costs and fewer customers.

Past Perfect Tense

Past perfect tense indicates a past action that began and was completed in the past.

The investors had expected to see returns.

Future Perfect Tense

Future perfect tense indicates action that will begin in and be completed by a specific time in the future.

By the end of December, the company will have been sold.

Active and Passive Verbs Through the Tenses

Active Voice
Tense Singular Plural
Present I see
you see
he/she/it sees
we see
you see
they see
Past I saw
you saw
he saw
we saw
you saw
they saw
Future I will see
you will see
he will see
we will see
you will see
they will see
Present Perfect I have seen
you have seen
he has seen
we have seen
you have seen
they have seen
Past Perfect I had seen
you had seen
he had seen
we had seen
you had seen
they had seen
Future Perfect I will have seen
you will have seen
he will have seen
we will have seen
you will have seen
they will have seen
Passive Voice
Tense Singular Plural
Present I am seen
you are seen
he/she/it is seen
we are seen
you are seen
they are seen
Past I was seen
you were seen
It was seen
we were seen
you were seen
they were seen
Future I will be seen
you will be seen
it will be seen
we will be seen
you will be seen
they will be seen
Present Perfect I have been seen
you have been seen
it has been seen
we have been seen
you have been seen
they have been seen
Past Perfect I had been seen
you had been seen
it had been seen
we had been seen
you had been seen
they had been seen
Future Perfect I will have been seen
you will have been seen
it will have been seen
we will have been seen
you will have been seen
they will have been seen

Classes of Verbs

Verbs can be divided into these classes: auxiliary (or helping), linking, transitive, and intransitive.

Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs (am, is, are, was, were, can, could, will, would, shall, should, etc.) help to form some of the tenses and the voice of the main verb.

Forming tense:

I enjoy skiing. (present tense verb)

I will enjoy skiing. (future tense verb formed by adding the auxiliary verb will)

Forming voice:

The gang devoured your salad! (active voice verb)

Your salad was devoured in no time! (passive voice verb formed by adding the auxiliary verb was)

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Linking Verbs

A linking verb is a special type of intransitive verb that links a subject to its complement—a noun, a pronoun, or an adjective in the predicate of a sentence.

Poorly organized reports are not very helpful. (The subject reports is linked to the predicate adjective helpful.)

Incorrect: This is her. (A linking verb cannot connect the objective pronoun her to the subjective pronoun this.)

Correct: This is she. (A linking verb can connect the subjective pronoun she to the subjective pronoun this.)

Common Linking Verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, smell, look, seem, grow, become, appear, sound, taste, feel, remain

Transitive Verbs

A transitive verb indicates action transferred to an object (or, in the passive voice, the subject). In the active voice, a transitive verb transfers its action to a direct object.

Many people enjoy their jobs. (Jobs is the direct object of the verb enjoy.)

A transitive verb may also have an indirect object, which receives the action indirectly.

Samantha gave Matthew a reassuring glance. (Glance is the direct object of the verb gave, and Matthew is the indirect object.)

In the passive voice, a transitive verb transfers the action to the subject of the sentence.

An attempt to fix the copier was made by the receptionist. (The subject attempt receives the action of the verb was made.)

Intransitive Verbs

An intransitive verb indicates action that is not transferred to anyone or anything. This verb does not need a direct object.

The worst public speakers mumble and dawdle.

Special Verb Forms

A verbal is derived from a verb but functions as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb. There are three types of verbals: gerunds, infinitives, and participles. (See also Verbal Phrases.)

Gerund

A gerund ends in ing and is used as a noun.

Arriving at work on time is important. (subject)

Another key to success is accomplishing your tasks. (predicate noun)

Infinitive

An infinitive is usually introduced by the word “to” and can be used as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb.

To write well is not always easy. (noun)

This is an important point to remember. (adjective)

Writers are wise to practice their writing often. (adverb)

Participle

A participle ends in ing or ed and is used as an adjective.

That employee making clay models is very creative. The completed models will be on display in the coming weeks. (Making modifies employee; completed modifies models.)

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Common Irregular Verbs

Present Tense Past Tense Past Participle
am, be was, were been
arise arose arisen
bear bore borne
begin began begun
bind bound bound
bite bit bitten, bit
blow blew blown
break broke broken
bring brought brought
build built built
burst burst burst
catch caught caught
choose chose chosen
cling clung clung
come came come
deal dealt dealt
dive dived, dove dived
do did done
draw drew drawn
dream dreamed dreamed
dreamt dreamt
drink drank drunk
drive drove drive
eat ate eaten
fall fell fallen
feed fed fed
fight fought fought
find found found
flee fled fled
fly flew flown
forbid forbade forbidden
forgive forgave forgiven
freeze froze frozen
give gave given
go went gone
grow grew grown
hang (execute) hanged hanged
hang (suspend) hung hung
hide hid hidden
know knew known
lay (put) laid laid
lead led led
lend lent lent
lie (deceive) lied lied
lie (recline) lay lain
light lit, lighted lit, lighted
mistake mistook mistaken
prove proved proved, proven
ride rode ridden
ring rang rung
rise (get up) rose risen
run ran run
see saw seen
seek sought sought
set (place) set set
shake shook shaken
shine (emit light) shone shone
show showed shown
shrink shrank shrunk
sing sang sung
sink sank sunk
sit sat sat
slay slew slain
speak spoke spoken
spring sprang sprung
steal stole stolen
strike struck struck, stricken
swear swore sworn
swim swam swum
swing swung swung
take took taken
tear tore torn
throw threw thrown
wake woke, waked woken, waked
wear wore worn
weave wove woven
wring wrung wrung
write wrote written

Irregular Verbs

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Adjective

An adjective is a word that describes, limits, or in any other way modifies a noun or a pronoun. (The articles a, an, and the are adjectives.) Adjectives can appear in different positions. They often come before the words they modify; but as predicate adjectives, they come after the words they modify.

The beautiful day ended with Marcia in tears. She was overjoyed. (The and beautiful modify the noun day; overjoyed is a predicate adjective and modifies the pronoun she.)

Common and Proper Adjectives

Like nouns, adjectives can be common (lowercased) or proper (capitalized).

The professors at Oxford University agreed that Americanized English was unusual.

Note: Since Americanized is derived from the proper noun America, it is considered a proper adjective and is always capitalized. The and unusual are common adjectives; the is capitalized only because it is the first word of the sentence.

A Closer Look

Don’t add adjectives to nouns that don’t need them. The adjectives listed below are unnecessary and only repeat what the noun already says.

basic necessities, end result, exact replica, final outcome, foreign imports, free gift, joint cooperation, mutual cooperation, past history, sum total

Forms of Adjectives

Adjectives have three forms: positive, comparative, and superlative.

Positive Adjective

The positive form describes without making any comparisons.

Good employees are important assets.

Comparative Adjective

The comparative form (-er, more, or less) compares two persons, places, things, or ideas.

Good employees are a more important assets than good buildings.

Superlative Adjective

The superlative form (-est, most, or least) compares three or more persons, places, things, or ideas.

Good employees are the most important assets a business can possess.

Note: Most one-syllable and some two-syllable adjectives take the -er and -est endings. Most adjectives of two or more syllables use more and most (and less and least).

Forms of Adjectives

Positive Comparative Superlative
good better best
bad worse worst
cold colder coldest
crabby crabbier crabbiest
impressive more impressive most impressive
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Adverb

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb (or verbal), an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs tell how, when, where, why, how often, or how much. (Not and never are adverbs.)

The business was sold quickly. (Quickly modifies the verb was sold.)

The staff was extremely concerned. (Extremely modifies the adjective concerned.)

Management moved very quickly to reassign employees. (Very modifies the adverb quickly, which modifies the verb moved.)

Note: Most adverbs have an ly ending. Some adverbs can be written either with or without an ly; when in doubt, use the ly form.

deep, deeply; tight, tightly; loud, loudly

A Closer Look

Adverbs can be placed in different positions in a sentence. Usually, they appear in front of the words they modify, but they can correctly follow the words as well. Caution: Adverbs should not be placed between a verb and its direct object.

The secretary carefully prepared the report. (adverb before the verb)

The secretary prepared the report carefully. (adverb after the verb and its direct object)

If the problem isn’t addressed, these customers will definitely leave. (adverb between verbs)

Forms of Adverbs

Adverbs have three forms: positive, comparative, and superlative.

Positive Adverb

The positive form describes an action without making any comparisons.

This copier operates efficiently.

Comparative Adverb

The comparative form (-er, more, or less) compares the actions of two persons, places, things, or ideas.

This copier operates more efficiently than the one downstairs.

Superlative Adverb

The superlative form (-est, most, or least) compares the actions of three or more persons, places, things, or ideas.

This copier operates most efficiently of all the copiers in the building.

Special Adverb Form

Conjunctive Adverbs

A conjunctive adverb can both modify and connect words, phrases, and clauses. It can be used at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.

Consequently, we believe the profit/earnings ratio will not meet our expectations. We do wish, however, to evaluate your stock again in six months. We will buy another stock instead.

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Preposition

A preposition is a word (or word group) used in front of a noun or a pronoun to form a phrase that modifies some other word in the sentence.

The paperwork has been piled onto the file cabinet. (The preposition onto begins a phrase that acts as an adverb modifying the verb has been piled.)

Prepositional Phrase

A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition, the object of that preposition, and the modifiers of the object.

The flowers on the luncheon table are wilted. (preposition on, object table, and modifiers the and luncheon)

Common Prepositions

aboard contrary to onto
about despite on top of
above down opposite
according to down from out
across due to out of
across from during outside
after except outside of
against except for over
ahead of excepting over to
along for owing to
alongside from past
alongside of from among prior to
along with from between regarding
amid from under round
among in round about
apart from in addition to save
around in back of since
as in behalf of subsequent to
as for in case of together with
aside from in front of through
at in place of throughout
away from in regard to till
back of inside to
because of inside of toward
before in spite of under
behind instead of underneath
below into unlike
beneath like until
beside near unto
besides near to up
between notwith-
standing
upon
beyond of up to
by off via
by means of on with
concerning on account of within
considering on behalf of without
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Conjunction

A conjunction is the part of speech used to connect words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. Used properly, conjunctions can add continuity to your writing.

Kinds of Conjunctions

Subordinating Conjunction

Subordinating conjunctions connect a dependent clause to an independent clause, completing the meaning of the dependent clause.

If the trailer is still here tomorrow, it will be impounded. (The dependent clause if the trailer is still here tomorrow depends on the rest of the sentence to complete its meaning.)

Correlative Conjunction

Correlative conjunctions are always used in pairs, linking items of equal weight.

She decided to neither buy nor lease a new car.

Coordinating Conjunction

Coordinating conjunctions connect grammatically equivalent elements, that is, a word to a word, a phrase to a phrase, or a clause to a clause.

“It’s not the most intellectual job in the world, but I do have to know the letters.”

—Vanna White

Kinds of Conjunctions

Coordinating

and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

Correlative

either, or; neither, nor; not only, but also; both, and; whether, or; though, yet

Subordinating

after, although, as, as long as, as though, because, before, if, in order that, provided that, since, so that, that, though, till, unless, until, when, where, whereas, while

Interjection

An interjection is a word or phrase that expresses strong emotion or surprise. Punctuation (usually a comma or an exclamation point) sets off an interjection from the rest of the sentence.

Help! The elevator is stuck!

Oh my, that happens often.

Caution: Use strong interjections sparingly. Like shouting, they can distract from rather than enhance your message.

Parts of Speech
  1. A noun is a word that names something: a person, a place, a thing, or an idea.

    Donald Trump/president

    China/country

    Discover/magazine

    Christianity/religion

  2. A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun.

    I

    you

    she

    it

    which

    themselves

    me

    that

    he

    they

    whoever

    whatever

    my

    mine

    ours

  3. A verb is a word that expresses action or state of being.

    fight

    walk

    drive

    rip

    dive

    jump

    play

    write

    lift

    type

    call

    work

    is

    are

    was

    were

  4. An adjective describes or modifies a noun or pronoun. (The articles a, an, and the are adjectives.)

    good

    bad

    tall

    wide

    clear

    fast

  5. An adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. An adverb tells how, when, where, why, how often, or how much. (Not and never are adverbs.)

    tomorrow

    near

    far

    perfectly

    well

    completely

    surely

    regularly

    greatly

    partly

    slowly

    quickly

  6. A preposition is a word (or group of words) used in front of a noun or a pronoun to form a phrase that modifies some other word in the sentence.

    above

    across

    after

    away from

    by

    for

    from

    in

    of

    off

    on

    out

    over

    through

    to

    until

    up

    with

  7. A conjunction connects individual words or groups of words.

    and

    but

    or

    nor

    for

    yet

    so

    because

    when

    though

    whereas

    while

  8. An interjection expresses strong emotion or surprise.

    Help!

    Yikes!

    Wow!

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