Back To Course11th Grade English: Tutoring Solution
19 chapters | 214 lessons
First, let's start by looking at why grammar matters. Consider these two sentences:
Let's eat, Grandpa.
Let's eat Grandpa.
At first glance, they might not seem too different. You probably notice the first sentence includes a comma, which is absent from the second, but beyond that they look identical. Further consideration, though, reveals the importance of that single comma as the only line of defense between a lovely family meal and a tableaux of terrifying trauma.
In the first sentence, the comma indicates the speaker is addressing Grandpa directly, inviting Grandpa to join the speaker in eating a meal. In the second sentence, things have changed! The absence of the comma indicates the speaker is suggesting to a third party that they eat Grandpa!
So, don't ever let anybody tell you grammar doesn't count!
In grammar terminology, that one little comma determines whether Grandpa is the addressee or the direct object of the sentence, and you can see what a big difference that makes for Grandpa!
This example was chosen for effect, but the point is that grammar is important to ensure your meaning is accurately conveyed. Also, rightly or wrongly, many people judge the intelligence and seriousness of a writer by his or her adherence to the traditional rules of grammar.
Before we go any further, let's be clear what we're talking about when we talk about grammar. A lot of people use the term grammar generally to mean 'all the technical rules of writing.'
In actual fact, grammar rules are the specific subset of rules that deal with parts of speech, number, person, tense, and word order. Don't worry, we'll talk more about exactly what each of those terms means in a little bit.
By contrast, rules that deal with spelling, punctuation, quotation, and capitalization, technically fall under the category of mechanics instead of grammar.
You're probably saying to yourself right now, 'Wait a minute! The 'Let's eat Grandpa' example was a punctuation error that affected the word's parts of speech!' Good catch! Grammar and mechanics often work together to make meaning.
Now that we know the difference between grammar and mechanics, let's look at some of the most frequent grammar errors, and talk about how to avoid making them.
Every word in English can be classified into a category called that word's part of speech. A word's part of speech determines the role it plays in conveying meaning. For example, nouns name people, places, things, and ideas. Verbs name actions like run, walk, and cogitate.You want to make sure you're using the right part of speech at the right time.
Here's an example of a very common part of speech error:
Wrong: You have a choose to make.
Right: You have a choice to make.
Note that 'choose' is a verb, while 'choice' is a noun. By selecting the right part of speech, you can ensure that you don't confuse whoever you're talking to.
Number in grammar refers to whether a word is singular or plural. A word is singular when there's only one of the word, and plural when there is more than one of it. Nouns and their related verbs should agree in number. For example let's look at these two sentences:
Wrong: They is coming over later.
Right: They are coming over later.
'They' is a plural noun. 'Is' is the singular form of the verb 'to be,' while 'are' is the plural form of the verb 'to be.' Since you want the number of the noun and verb to match, you would go with the plural form of the verb.
In English, there are three categories when it comes to person, and each category can be either singular or plural. Here's how that all breaks down:
First Person Singular: I
Second Person Singular: You
Third Person Singular: He, She, It
First Person Plural: We
Second Person Plural: You
Third Person Plural: They
People sometimes shift person when they're writing, but you don't want to shift person when it's not appropriate. For example:
Wrong: I try to exercise every day. If you don't exercise, you'll never reach your fitness goals.
Right: I try to exercise every day. I know if I don't exercise, I'll never reach my fitness goals.
In the first example, the speaker shifts person when he goes from talking about himself, using 'I' or first person, to directly addressing the reader, using 'you' or second person. If the writer's goal is to address the reader, this is OK, but in this context it seems more likely the writer is really talking about himself and his own fitness goals. So, first person throughout is more appropriate.
Tenses explain when in time an action occurs, will occur, or has occurred. There are technically seven basic verb tenses in English, but the three most common are present tense, past tense, and future tense.
Past tense tells us the event has already happened, as in the sentence: I walked to the store.
Present tense tells us the event is happening now, as in the sentence: I am walking to the store.
Future tense tells us the event will happen in the future, as in the sentence: I will walk to the store.
Shifting tense without a good reason can be confusing, so you want to be consistent. For example:
Wrong: After he joined the club, Tim appears at a party and tells a bunch of jokes.
Right: After he joined the club, Tim appeared at a party and told a bunch of jokes.
There are particular rules for word order in English. The basic framework is:
Subject - Verb - Object - Place - Time
A sentence that follows this order would look like this:
Patrick returned the videos to the store yesterday.
A you can see:
Object: the videos
Place: to the store
Let's look at some examples of common word order errors and how to fix them:
Wrong: I was in Canada fishing.
Right: I was fishing in Canada.
Let's look at another one:
Wrong: He always is early.
Right: He is always early.
It's important to know each of the grammar rules, but the best way to really internalize them is to read as much good writing as possible and practice in your own writing. Remember that when we talk about grammar we're referring to things like parts of speech, number, person, tense, and word order. This is different from mechanics, which focuses on things like punctuation, capitalization, and spelling, among others, though both are important when making sure your writing is clear.
Having good grammar basically comes down to consistency. Don't change person without a good reason; don't change tense without a good reason; don't change word order without a good reason. Make sure that you consistently pick the right part of speech to use in a sentence, and make sure that your subjects and verbs are always consistent in number.
Keeping track of all the rules can sometimes seem daunting, but it's important to keep in mind that there's a reason behind every rule. The overall goal of grammar is not to get bogged down with rules, but to keep language as clear and consistent as possible. If that's not enough motivation for you, do it for Grandpa!
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Back To Course11th Grade English: Tutoring Solution
19 chapters | 214 lessons