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Parts of Speech

Parts of speech refer to the way that words are used in sentences. There are eight parts of speech: noun, pronoun, adjective, verb, adverb, preposition, conjunction, and interjection.


A noun is the name of a person, place, thing, or idea. Nouns may be common or proper. Proper nouns are capitalized:

Common: brother newspaper beach democracy baseball

Proper: Grand Canyon Michael Johnson Sea World Paris
Nouns may also be grouped as concrete, abstract, or collective:

Concrete nouns name a tangible thing, something that can be touched or seen:

guitar White House soccer ice-cream friend

Abstract nouns name something that cannot be touched or seen, such as an idea, doctrine, thought, theory, concept, condition, or feeling:

joy Christianity illness love euphoria excellence prejudice

Collective nouns name a group or unit:

faculty audience school herd San Diego Chargers

Nouns may also be grouped by their function in a sentence: subject, object, complement, appositive, or modifier.


A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun. The noun or pronoun that the pronoun refers to or replaces is called its antecedent. (See the section on Pronoun Agreement for more about antecedents).

Personal pronouns change form to indicate case, gender, number, and person:




1st person

2nd person

3rd person

1st person

2nd person

3rd person

Nominative case:








Objective case:








Possessive case:

my, mine

your, yours



our, ours

your, yours

their, theirs

Reflexive pronouns refer back to (or modify) a noun or pronoun. They are formed by adding the suffix –self.

Who or whom?
Who is a subject case pronoun—it does the action:

Who is at the door?
Whom is an object case pronoun—it receives the action:

Whom will you take to the dance?
To test which to use, substitute he or him in the sentence. If he fits, use who; if him fits, use whom.
Ryan loves himself more than anyone.

I didn’t realize that she would bring the package herself.

We decided to show ourselves out.
Relative pronouns relate an adjective clause back to the noun or pronoun it modifies. (See the section on Essential and Nonessential Clauses for more on using relative pronouns.) Relative pronouns are:

who whose whom which what that

My new jeans, which are fabulous, cost $75.00.

Musicians who practice regularly are most comfortable in front of an audience.

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask a question:

who whose whom which what

What do you want? To whom am I speaking?

Whose notebook is this? Which entrée did you order?

Person or thing?
Use who, whom, or whose to refer to people.
Use that or which to refer to things.

Demonstrative pronouns point out, or demonstrate, specific things:

this that these those

That is my suitcase. Those don’t look ripe.
Indefinite pronouns refer to unknown people or things:

anyone someone either everybody

nobody many several nothing


An adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun or pronoun:

Little people peek through big steering wheels.

The strongest man I ever saw wore silver shoes.

An adjective does not always come before the word it modifies:

The dentist, daring and diligent, worked on his new patient’s cavities.

Remember that the articles a, an, and the are also adjectives.


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

An action verb expresses mental or physical action:

speak compose drive participate catch

hope believe approve understand choose
A helping verb helps the main verb to express action or to make a statement. The main verb plus the helping verb together make a verb phrase. The helping verb is italicized below:

My dad will work late one or two nights a week when he should be sleeping in his bed.

Verbs of being include all the forms of the verb be:

Be am is are was were being been

Verbs of being also include verb phrases ending in be, being, or been, such as could be, was being, and, could have been.
A linking verb connects the subject of the sentence with a word that describes or explains it. The most common linking very is be and its forms (above). Other linking verbs include such verbs as smell, look, taste, remain, appear, sound, seem, become, and grow:

In his new carriage, the baby felt cool. He was a driver! He looked more mature.

Verb Tenses

Verb tenses indicate time: past, present, and future. The six tenses are formed from the principal parts of the verb:

Infinitive Present Participle Past Past Participle

To march marching marched marched

Regular verbs follow rules when forming the six tenses. Irregular verbs follow no fixed rules; you simply have to memorize them or consult a dictionary. Regular verbs are formed as follows:
Present tense expresses action that is occurring at the present time or action that happens continually, regularly:

I watch she talks The band marches every day.

Past tense expresses action that was completed at a particular time in the past.

I watched she talked The band marched yesterday.

Future tense expresses action that will occur in the future:

I shall watch she will talk The band will march tomorrow.

Present perfect tense expresses action that began in the past but continues in the present:

I have watched she has talked The band has marched all fall.

Past perfect tense expresses action that began in the past and was completed in the past:

I had watched she had talked The band had marched last week.

Future perfect tense expresses action that will be completed in the future before some other future action or event:

I have watched she will have talked The band will have marched 178

days by vacation.


An adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. An adverb tells how, when, where, why, how often, to what extent, and how much:

Yesterday a fire completely destroyed the home of a family on Hill Street.

Rarely does a fire last so long.

The family looked totally grungy after hauling out their valuables all day.


A preposition is a word (or group of words) that shows the relationship between its object (a noun or a pronoun that follows the preposition) and another word in the sentence.

Prepositions may be simple (at, in, of, to, for, with), compound (without, inside, alongside), or phrasal (in spite of, on top of, aside from, because of).
A preposition never stands alone in a sentence; it is always used in a prepositional phrase with the object of a preposition (a noun or pronoun) and the modifiers of the object:

The pool shark leaned over the ball with a confident smirk on his face.

Standing near the table, he consciously ignored the hisses of the crowd.


A conjunction connects individual words or groups of words:

A puffer fish is short and fat. A tiny bird cannot fly, nor can it feed itself.
There are three kinds of conjunctions:
Coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet
Correlative conjunctions: either… or neither… nor

not only… but also both… and

whether… or just… as
Subordinating conjunctions: after, although, as, as much as, as though,

because, before, if, in order that, provided that, since, than, though, unless, until, when, where, whereas, while


An interjection is a word or group of words that expresses strong emotion or surprise. Punctuation (often a comma or exclamation point) is used to separate an interjection from the rest of the sentence:

Cool, the boat’s leaking. Oh, no! I can’t swim.



A clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb.

My uncle looks and walks exactly like Groucho Marx.

subject verbs
Some clauses can stand alone as sentences; others must be grouped with other clauses to create a complete sentence.
An independent clause can stand alone as a sentence:
Because he looks like Groucho Marx, he won five hundred dollars in a contest.

independent clause
A dependent clause has a subject and a predicate, but it would be an incomplete sentence by itself. A dependent clause contains a subordinating conjunction (e.g., because) and must be joined to an independent clause:
Because he looks like Groucho Marx, he won five hundred dollars in a contest.

Dependent clause

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