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Friday, January 11, 2019

Knowing the Grammar Basics

Effective writing means knowing, learning, and understanding the grammar basics


Knowing the Grammatical Terms

Knowing the rules of grammar does not mean you will become a good writer, but it will certainly help you avoid bad writing. In addition, knowing the essentials of grammar may give you the following advantages:

Avoiding grammatical errors

Providing clarity to your writing

Giving credibility to your readers

Knowing grammatical terms is essential for effective writing because these grammatical terms provide a common language for talking about good writing.

Knowing the Eight Parts of Speech

Knowing grammar basics means knowing the eight parts of speech in English words and writing: 


A noun names a person, place, or thing.

A noun can be singular (referring to only one) or plural (referring to more than one). Generally, you make a singular noun plural by adding an “s”; however, some nouns do not follow this general rule:

e.g. enemy becomes enemies

e.g. goose becomes geese

e.g. hero becomes heroes

e.g. sheep remains sheep

Some nouns are countable, e.g. books, while some are not, e.g. hunger.

A noun can be possessive (indicating ownership).

e.g. Tom and Jerry’s house (NOT Tom’s and Jerry’s house)

e.g. Jesus sayings (NOT Jesus’s sayings)

e.g. the bottom of the page (NOT the page’s bottom)

e.g. the characters of Star Wars (NOT Star Wars characters)

A noun MUST AGREE with a verb in a sentence, that is, a singular noun requiring a singular verb, and a plural noun requiring a plural verb.

e.g. The data indicate (NOT indicates) that there is a strong demand for this type of goods. (data is the plural form of datum.)

e.g. The criteria for selection are based (NOT is) on the recommendations of the trustees. (criteria is plural)

e.g. Human rights is an important issue in this country. (singular: human rights treated as a single unit and thus requiring a singular verb)

e.g.Human rights are ignored in many parts of the world. (plural: human rights considered individual rights of people)

e.g. Four thousand dollars is a lot of money to me. (singular: a monetary unit)

A proper noun names a specific person, place, or event, e.g. Tom Cruise, Chicago, and World War I.

A proper noun is always capitalized, e.g. The Great Depression (BUT an economic depression).


A verb expresses an action or a state of being.

Action verbs give life to sentences.

e.g. The police officer shot the suspect.

e.g. The bomb exploded.

e.g. He jumped for joy when he heard the good news.

Linking verbs complete sentences but without expressing any action.

e.g. We were unhappy.

e.g. My sister is a school teacher.

e.g. I have no money.

Some verbs can be both linking and action verbs.

e.g. The dish smells delicious. (The linking verb links to the quality of the smell; therefore, it is WRONG to say: “The dish smells deliciously.”)

e.g. The security guard’s dog smelled the man’s luggage. (an action verb)

A transitive verb carries an object; an intransitive verb does not.

e.g. The burglar took the money. (direct object: money)

e.g. My parents sent me some money. (direct object: money; indirect object: me )

e.g. The child is sleeping like a baby. (an intransitive verb)

Many verbs can be both transitive and intransitive.

e.g. We are eating our dinner. (transitive)

e.g. They are eating. (intransitive)

e.g. She sings folk songs. (transitive)

e.g. She sings beautifully. (intransitive)

Only transitive verbs can be used in the passive voice.

e.g. The suspect was shot by the police officer.

e.g. The money was taken by the burglar.

e.g. The money was sent by my parents.

Of course, there are other parts of speech you need to learn, as well, including adverbs, pronouns, adjectives, and prepositions etc. Once you are familiar with the grammar basics, then you can begin writing. With more practice, you can become an expert in effective writing.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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