Grammar what, Why, and How?



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GRAMMAR

  • What, Why, and How?
  • Adjectives and Adverbs Fragments Appositives Possessives Articles Run-Together Sentences Commas Subject & Verb Identification Contractions Subject-Verb Agreement Coordinators Subordinators Dangling Modifiers Verb Tenses
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  • Adjectives & Adverbs
  • What are they?
  • Adjectives and adverbs are words you can use to modify—to describe or add meaning to—other words.
  • Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns. Examples of some common adjectives are: young, small, loud, short, fat, pretty.
  • You can also identify many adjectives by the following common endings:
  • Adverbs, on the other hand, modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, and even whole clauses. Adverbs can tell us how something is done, when it is done, and where it is done. Examples of some common adverbs are: really, quickly, especially, early, well, immediately, yesterday.
  •  
  • While many adverbs do end with “–ly”, don’t take this for granted: some adverbs, like “almost” and “very” do not end this way, and some words that do end in “–ly”, like “lively,” are actually adjectives.
  • Adjectives & Adverbs
  • Comparatives and Superlatives Many adverbs and most adjectives generally have three forms: the normal form; the comparative form, which you can use to compare two things; and the superlative form, which you can use to compare three or more things. The following chart gives you some guidelines for forming the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs.
  • When using comparative and superlative forms, keep the following in mind: - Many adverbs indicating time, place, and degree (i.e. tomorrow, here, totally) do not have comparative or superlative forms. - Adjectives and adverbs that indicate an absolute or unchangeable quality should not be used with comparative and superlative constructions. Such absolute modifiers include words like final, main, impossible, perfect, unavoidable, unique.
  • Adjectives & Adverbs
  • Placement of Adjectives & Adverbs
  • Misplaced adjective or adverbs can cause confusion, as in the following example:
  • - Shaken not stirred, James Bond drank his martinis. The writer is probably referring to the martinis, but the way this sentence is written, it implies that James Bond himself is shaken and not stirred. For more information about misplaced adjectives and adverbs, see “Dangling Modifiers.”
  • Adjectives
  • In order to avoid confusion, try to place adjectives as close as possible to the nouns or pronouns they modify. Most one-word adjectives come right before the nouns they modify. In the examples below, the adjectives are double-underlined and the nouns they modify are in italics.
  • - He made a delicious dinner. - Their full stomachs pushed against their jeans.
  • - The hungry girls devoured it quickly. - But they couldn’t resist the incredible dessert.
  • One major exception to this rule is when an adjective follows a linking verb (i.e. is/are, was/were, feel, smell, taste, look, believe). For example:
  • - Dinner was delicious. - Their stomachs felt full.
  • - The girls were hungry. - Dessert looked incredible.
  • Adjectives & Adverbs
  • Be careful. Sometimes writers will use adverbs with a linking verb when what they really want is an adjective, or vice-versa. Choosing the adjective versus the adverb form of the same word has big implications for the meaning of a sentence. For example:
  • Multiple-word adjective phrases generally follow the noun or pronoun they modify, but occasionally can come before. - The girl snoring in the next room woke up her roommate.
  • - The customer annoyed with the slow service complained to the manager.
  • - Proud of her youngest son, his mother showed his picture to strangers on the bus.
  • Adjective clauses—easy to identify because they start with the words “who,” “whom,” “whose,” “which,” “that,” “when,” and ”where”— follow the noun they modify. For example:
  • - She had a goat that she loved very much.
  • - His favorite girlfriend, who he thought was coming over later that evening, had just received an anonymous phone call.
  • Adjectives & Adverbs
  • Adverbs
  • As with adjectives, adverbs need to be placed where the reader can clearly understand the meaning you intend. Adverbs are a bit more flexible, however. Both single-word and multiple-word adverb phrases can generally be placed either before or after the words they modify. In the examples below, the adverbs and adverb phrases are underlined and the words they modify are in italics. For example:
  • - The lion jumped skillfully through the flaming hoop.
  • - The lion skillfully jumped through the flaming hoop.
  • - Before next Wednesday, she needed to cash her paycheck.
  • - She needed to cash her paycheck before next Wednesday.
  • Adjectives & Adverbs
  • Punctuating Adjectives and Adverbs
  • Adjectives To help you decide whether or not you should use a comma when separating two or more adjectives, ask yourself the following two questions:
  • - Can the order of the two adjectives be reversed?
  • - Can the word "and" be put between the adjectives? If either answer is yes, then the adjectives are coordinate, and you should use a comma. For example:
  • If you cannot reverse the order of the adjectives or add "and" to the adjectives, then they are cumulative, and do not require a comma. For example:
  • Adverbs
  • Place a comma at the end of an adverb phrase when it comes at the beginning of the sentence. For example:
  • - After some thought, she decided to buy her cousin’s used car.
  • For more detailed information on when to use commas with adjectives and adverbs, please see the “Commas.”
  • 1. Their timid leader tentatively put one fat, calloused foot on the grass.
  • 2. She then gingerly placed the other foot down.
  • 3. She paused, thoughtfully scratched her forehead, and then started to waddle quite gracelessly toward a dim light.
  • 4. Soon the braver aliens followed her but the more cowardly aliens hung back inside the door of the silver spaceship.
  • 5. Suddenly, they heard a short, high-pitched yelp.
  • 6. The youngest alien had stepped accidentally on the tail of a small furry creature, and both of them
  • cried out instinctively.
  • 7. The little alien regained his composure right away and, curious about the strange creature, he carefully reached down to pick up the frightened mouse.
  • 8. The mouse, still terrified, dashed away.
  • 9. It ran over the sensitive toes of several aliens who squealed loudly
  • 10. The resulting commotion distracted the group, and they didn’t notice the two young children slowly riding up on their creaky three-speed bicycles.
  • PRACTICE
  • (Pause)
  • A) Identify the adjectives and adverbs in the following sentences by underlining the adjectives twice and the adverbs once.
  •  
  • For example: The one-eyed green aliens stepped cautiously out of their spaceship.
  • 1. Their timid leader tentatively put one fat, calloused foot on the grass.
  • 2. She then gingerly placed the other foot down.
  • 3. She paused, thoughtfully scratched her forehead, and then started to waddle quite gracelessly toward a dim light.
  • 4. Soon the braver aliens followed her but the more cowardly aliens hung back inside the door of the silver spaceship.
  • 5. Suddenly, they heard a short, high-pitched yelp.
  • 6. The youngest alien had stepped accidentally on the tail of a small furry creature, and both of them cried out instinctively.
  • 7. The little alien regained his composure right away and, curious about the strange creature, he carefully reached down to pick up the frightened mouse.
  • [“Curious about the strange creature” is an adjective phrase that modifies ”he”, and “strange” is an adjective that modifies “creature”]
  • 8. The mouse, still terrified, dashed away.
  • 9. It ran over the sensitive toes of several aliens who squealed loudly
  • [“Who squealed loudly” is an adjective clause modifying “aliens”; within that clause, “loudly” is an adverb modifying “squealed”]
  • 10. The resulting commotion distracted the group, and they didn’t notice the two young children slowly riding up on their creaky three-speed bicycles.
  • A) Identify the adjectives and adverbs in the following sentences by underlining the adjectives twice and the adverbs once.
  • ANSWERS
  • 1. The island was populated by birds that soared over the trees.
  • 2. It was also populated by tourists who stayed at the resort and sat by the pool.
  • 3. The man in a suit was reading a magazine on his morning commute to work.
  • 4. The woman next to him sighed as the train stopped in a tunnel.
  • 5. The neighbors gossiped about the people who lived in the house on the corner.
  • 6. UPS delivered packages to the back door and strangers in cars visited.
  • 7. The students in the computer lab talked to each other and worked on their essays.
  • 8. The tutor helped the boy with his homework.
  • 9. The children ate the ice cream.
  • 10. A bully grabbed one of the cones and stuffed it in his mouth.
  • PRACTICE
  • (Pause)
  • B) Create more detailed sentences by adding your own adjectives and adverbs to modify the words in italics. For example: The star punched the photographer.
  •  
  • The reclusive movie star violently punched the pushy photographer.
  • Appositives
  • What are they?
  • In your essays, you often want to use long, complex sentences to draw your reader in, to avoid the choppiness that comes from a series of short sentences, and to provide clear and vivid detail. While adjectives can modify nouns (the blue car), sometimes nouns themselves—appositives—also modify nouns for the purpose of offering details or being specific. Sometimes these appositives will be called noun phrase appositives (or NPAs).
  • What does an appositive look like?
  • - It will begin with a noun or an article (a, an, the).
  • - As a phrase, it will not have its own subject and verb.
  • - It will be usually set off with a comma, but occasionally is separated with a colon (:) or dash (—).
  • Appositives
  • Create Your Own Appositives
  • Because you may be writing a whole new sentence to give just a little piece of information to your reader, try to make your writing less choppy and repetitive by using an appositive to combine the ideas.
  • You might have:
  • - I wanted to give Droopy to the SPCA before she attacked.
  • - Droopy is my sister’s ferocious pit bull.
  • These sentences could easily be combined:
  • - I wanted to give Droopy, my sister’s ferocious pit bull, to the SPCA before she attacked.
  • What happened to create the appositive? The writer noticed that the second sentence, “Droopy is my sister’s ferocious pit bull” only gave more information about Droopy, who had already been introduced in the previous sentence. That additional information is dropped into the first sentence after the noun it modifies. Remember to use commas to set off the NPA.
  • A Note on Colons and Dashes You may be wondering when a colon or dash is appropriate to set off an NPA. Most of the time a comma will do just fine. Sometimes, though, you will wish to call more attention to the information in apposition—draw the reader’s eyes to it—and in those instances, a dash (which is made with two hyphens “—“) may do the trick. A colon is usually used when the NPA is a series or list of items (“I brought her favorite fruit: apples, oranges and peaches.”)
  • 1. The lunch was cheap, served cold, and brought an hour late. The lunch was a bowl of soup.
  • 2. Maxwell’s car topped fifty miles per hour—but barely. His car was a sleek Corvair.
  • 3. The student body voted “no” on the resolution even though it would have benefited them explicitly. The student body is a confused group of adults whose only interest in common was the college’s location.
  • 4. The pilot was stranded for twelve hours inside of his jet. The pilot was a former Air Force mechanic. His jet was a Cessna Skylane.
  • 5. I want to speak on the important subjects. The important subjects are philosophy, linguistics and chemistry.
  • 6. After six long years Alec finally achieved his lifelong goal. The goal was a scholarship to a good college.
  • 7. Even though you’re willing to forfeit the prize, I think you should wait a week or two—until you know you won’t need the money. The prize would be my salary for a whole year.
  • 8. The bear came to our tent, peeked in, and went on his merry way. The bear was a sleepy grizzly.
  • 9. Camped around the fire, each of us stared at the night sky. The fire was a glowing source of warmth. The night sky was a bowl full of sparkling stars.
  • 10. Mrs. Peterson warned us that we would have only one more day to hand in the assignment. Mrs. Peterson is my least favorite teacher.
  • PRACTICE
  • (Pause)
  • Exercise 1 – Noun Phrase Appositives – Sentence Combining
  • Combine the following sentences using NPAs.
  •  
  • Example: I want to take the painting to the museum for donation. The painting is a Van Gogh.
  • CORRECT: I want to take the painting, a Van Gogh, to the museum for donation.
  • 1. The lunch was cheap, served cold, and brought an hour late. The lunch was a bowl of soup.
  • The lunch, a bowl of soup, was cheap, served cold, and brought an hour late.
  • 2. Maxwell’s car topped fifty miles per hour—but barely. His car was a sleek Corvair.
  • Maxwell’s car, a sleek Corvair, topped fifty miles per hour—but barely.
  • 3. The student body voted “no” on the resolution even though it would have benefited them explicitly. The student body is a confused group of adults whose only interest in common was the college’s location.
  • The student body, a confused group of adults whose only interest in common was the college’s location, voted “no” on the resolution even though it would have benefited them explicitly.
  • 4. The pilot was stranded for twelve hours inside of his jet. The pilot was a former Air Force mechanic. His jet was a Cessna Skylane.
  • The pilot, a former Air Force mechanic, was stranded for twelve hours inside of his jet, a Cessna Skylane.
  • 5. I want to speak on the important subjects. The important subjects are philosophy, linguistics and chemistry.
  • I want to speak on the important subjects: philosophy, linguistics and chemistry.
  • 6. After six long years Alec finally achieved his lifelong goal. The goal was a scholarship to a good college.
  • After six long years Alec finally achieved his lifelong goal : a scholarship to a good college. Continued on next page…
  • Exercise 1 – Noun Phrase Appositives – Sentence Combining
  • Combine the following sentences using NPAs.
  •  
  • ANSWERS
  • 7. Even though you’re willing to forfeit the prize, I think you should wait a week or two—until you know you won’t need the money. The prize would be my salary for a whole year.
  • Even though you’re willing to forfeit the prize—my salary for a whole year—I think you should wait a week or two—until you know you won’t need the money.
  • 8. The bear came to our tent, peeked in, and went on his merry way. The bear was a sleepy grizzly.
  • The bear, a sleepy grizzly, came to our tent, peeked in, and went on his merry way.
  • 9. Camped around the fire, each of us stared at the night sky. The fire was a glowing source of warmth. The night sky was a bowl full of sparkling stars.
  • Camped around the fire, a glowing source of warmth, each of us stared at the night sky, a bowl full of sparkling stars.
  • 10. Mrs. Peterson warned us that we would have only one more day to hand in the assignment. Mrs. Peterson is my least favorite teacher.
  • Mrs. Peterson, my least favorite teacher, warned us that we would have only one more day to hand in the assignment.
  • Exercise 1 – Noun Phrase Appositives – Sentence Combining
  • Combine the following sentences using NPAs.
  •  
  • ANSWERS
    • 1. My best friend lost the race.
    • 2. Bill Clinton took first prize for his book.
    • 3. Joanne told Larry to go for a ride on his boat.
    • 4. Napoleon discovered the “trapple.”
    • 5. My binder contains one hundred papers and two pamphlets.
    • 6. The dog bit Bill in the leg before he could run into a house.
    • 7. Her shirt nearly blinded me.
    • 8. Abe Lincoln probably didn’t use Log Cabin syrup.
    • 9. I like the school’s newest building.
    • 10. Cindy took the money to the bank.
  • PRACTICE
  • (Pause)
  • Exercise 2 – NPAs – Sentence Combining
  • For each of the following sentences, add one or more NPA to give the reader additional information. Make up whatever you like! (Hint: find the noun(s) in the sentence to look to see what can take an NPA.)
  • Example: The textbook fell from my desk.
  • CORRECT: The textbook, a giant collection of poetry, fell from my desk.
  • 1. My best friend lost the race.
  • 2. Bill Clinton took first prize for his book.
  • 3. Joanne told Larry to go for a ride on his boat.
  • 4. Napoleon discovered the “trapple.”
  • 5. My binder contains one hundred papers and two pamphlets.
  • 6. The dog bit Bill in the leg before he could run into a house.
  • 7. Her shirt nearly blinded me.
  • 8. Abe Lincoln probably didn’t use Log Cabin syrup.
  • 9. I like the school’s newest building.
  • 10. Cindy took the money to the bank.
  • Exercise 2 – NPAs – Sentence Combining
  • For each of the following sentences, add one or more NPA to give the reader additional information. Make up whatever you like! (Hint: find the noun(s) in the sentence to look to see what can take an NPA.) NOTE: Answers will vary but one of the underlined nouns must be modified in each sentence.
  • ANSWERS
  • Articles
  • What are they?
  • The English language has definite (“the”) and indefinite articles (“a” and “an”). The use depends on whether you are referring to a specific member of a group (definite) or to any member of a group (indefinite).
  • Articles
  • Plural Indefinite Article - some
  • You will use the word “some” before a plural noun (or its modifying adjective):
  • The singular: I put all of my clothes in a box I found in the basement.
  • The plural: I put all of my clothes in some boxes I found in the basement.
  • Plural Nouns
  • Plural nouns do not require an indefinite article: “I love apples,” instead of “I love an apples.” (You must use the definite article if you have already introduced the idea or are referring to a specific member of a group: “I love the apples grown across the street.”)
  • Non-count Nouns
  • Non-count nouns, which include concepts and ideas that cannot be counted in number, may or may not require an article: no one hard and fast rule applies. You can write “Kindness spreads like wildfire,” instead of “A kindness spreads like wildfire,” or “The kindness spreads like wildfire” (unless you are referring to a specific kindness mentioned elsewhere in your writing, as in “the kindness you showed me”).
  • Articles
  • Proper Nouns
  • Proper nouns, which name a particular person, place or thing, sometimes take the article “the” and sometimes do not.
    • Soda is damaging to your teeth, but everyone still drinks it.
    • The soda in my cup is flat, so I think I will throw it out.
    • We are going to meet at the White House.
  • Do not use “the” before:
    • names of countries (except the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States)
    • names of cities, towns or states
    • names of streets
    • names of lakes and bays (except a group of lakes—the Great lakes)
    • names of mountains (except mountain ranges—the Rockies)
    • names of continents
    • names of islands (except island chains—the Canary islands)
  • Do use “the” before:
    • names of rivers, oceans and seas
    • points on the globe
    • geographical areas
    • deserts, forests, gulfs and peninsulas
  • 1. Last week _______ seagull dropped his fish onto my car.
  • 2. Maria took out _______ garbage before reading.
  • 3. _______ surfboard cut through the waves as she sped toward the beach.
  • 4. Sculpture is _______ interesting art form, whether in metal, clay or uranium.
  • 5. I love picnics—especially when I remember _______ food.
  • 6. My house is falling apart, _______ shutters are in disrepair, and _______ windows are broken.
  • 7. The brothers met to discuss _______ possible solution.
  • 8. I went to the lab to work on _______ computer, but they were all taken.
  • 9. Well, professor, _______ alien came and stole my gray matter before I could finish my homework.
  • 10. This semester _______ same student violated his restraining order.
  • 11. She passed him to avoid _______ confrontation involving _______ police.
  • 12. I want to go to _______ part of Ukraine where they speak _______ Russian dialect.
  • 13. The assistants found _______ theme that meant the most to them, and they wove it carefully into _______ handbook they could be proud of.
  • 14. _______ airplane’s tires skidded down _______ Los Angeles Airport’s main runway before knocking out _______ baggage cart and _______ fuel truck.
  • 15. I am studying _______ American history in school, but only after I pass my Biology class and ace _______ final exam.
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