English Grammar: Types, Rules & Learning Strategies

Grammar is the way in which language is structured. It encompasses the rules that form the foundation of that structure and the study of those rules. At its most basic level, grammar dictates how words are used together to form sentences. 

This article delves into the definition of grammar, its importance to the English language, the rules you must follow when forming sentences, and how to avoid common mistakes.

Dive deep into the world of grammar, and then put your knowledge to the test below.

What Is Grammar?

English Grammar Types Rules Learning Strategies

Grammar is an uncountable noun that refers to the study of the way sentences are constructed in any language. This includes the forms and structure of words, known as morphology; the order and arrangement of words in a sentence, called syntax; the study of sounds or phonology; and meanings or semantics. 

The word “grammar” is also used to describe language rules regarding speaking and writing based on the adaptations of words when placed into a specific, understandable order. 

Why Is Grammar Important?

Grammar is important because it describes how language is structured to be understood. Word placement and their associated parts of speech are what facilitate language comprehension. Mastering the basics of grammar is foundational in any language, as it ensures that both speech and writing are conveyed and received clearly. 

Clarity of Communication

Using proper grammar ensures clear communication. It involves selecting words carefully and deliberately to create a clear and concise message for your audience’s understanding. Both careful word choice, also called diction, and word arrangement, called syntax, help avoid misunderstandings.

Credibility

Credibility is defined as the quality of being trustworthy and believable. Proper grammar suggests that someone is reliable, as being well-spoken or well-written demonstrates a mastery of language and indicates that the author cares about sharing a credible message. 

Effectiveness in Writing and Speaking

Effective writing and speaking facilitate the clear exchange of ideas, knowledge, opinions, and data. Using proper grammar and sentence structure ensures an author’s message is received with clarity and purpose. 

Enhanced Critical Thinking

Proper grammar requires a basic knowledge of word use and placement, requiring a higher level of thinking and problem-solving in order to ensure a clear message. Familiarity with the parts of speech and their optimal application is vital for clarity. 

Language Evolution and Preservation

The English language is composed of words and phrases that originate from various languages. They embody cultural pronunciations and definitions—some of which have stayed true to their origins, while others have gone through etymological changes through the years. 

What Are the Different Types of Grammar and Grammar Theories?

There are two primary ways to study grammar. Traditional grammar focuses on the collective study and application of rules and concepts pertaining to language structure, often stemming from prescriptive norms. On the other hand, grammatical theories deal with the linguistics of a language’s grammar system, examining the intricate combinations of morphemes, phrases, and sentences. 

Structural

Structural theory studies grammatical structures such as phonemes, morphology, syntactic relationships, semantics, and sentences. 

Formal

Formal theory studies sentence structure and provides a formal language model for comprehensive reasoning. 

Functional

Functional theory analyzes grammatical structure but does so through the purpose of the message and works to explain the communicative structure. 

Descriptive Grammar

Descriptive grammar pertains to the language structure as it is naturally used by speakers and writers. While it acknowledges the rules of grammar, its primary focus is on describing actual usage. There are no hard set rules for descriptive grammar, as many words and phrases could be used differently based on context and tone of voice.

Prescriptive Grammar

Prescriptive grammar refers to language structure and dictates how language should be used according to established grammatical rules. It embodies a sense of “right” and “wrong” in word use and adheres strictly to standard grammar rules.

Comparative Grammar

Comparative grammar, also called comparative philology, is the branch of linguistics that compares and analyzes grammar structures of language. 

Generative Grammar

Generative grammar is an influential linguistic study that seeks to identify the rules and principles underlying a native speaker’s intuitive knowledge of their language. It includes several domains, including phonology (the study of word sounds), morphology (the structure of words), semantics (meaning), and syntax (sentence structure). 

Mental Grammar

Mental grammar is a concept introduced by American Linguist Noam Chomsky that explains the innate generative grammar allowing a person to produce language that another person understands. It is also called competence grammar or linguistic grammar competence. 

Performance Grammar

Performance grammar is another concept explained by Noam Chomsky that pertains to the comprehension and production of language as it is actually used in real-life situations. 

Traditional Grammar

Traditional grammar is prescriptive in use as it describes the taught structure of language. It focuses on the differences between how language is structured and what people do with it. 

Transformational Grammar

Transformational grammar, often referred to as TGG or transformational generative grammar, is a theory that focuses on the systematic and rule-governed transformations that sentences in a language can undergo. This approach aims to capture the deep structures and surface structures of linguistic constructions. 

Universal Grammar

Universal grammar explains that there are categories, principles, and operations innately embedded in the human mind, providing a foundation that’s shared across all languages.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Corpus Linguistics 

Corpus linguistics is the study of language as it is manifested in real-life contexts, drawing from large computerized databases known as corpora. These corpus-based studies offer invaluable tools and methodologies for linguistic research. 

Cognitive Grammar

Linguist Ronald Langacker introduced cognitive grammar, which places a usage-based emphasis on the symbolic and semantic aspects of language. Rather than focusing solely on syntax, cognitive grammar shifts the perspective to a more functional approach to language, exploring it through contemporary studies of linguistic behavior. 

What Are the Five Elements of English Grammar? 

The five elements of English grammar are the foundation of all grammatical rules pertaining to both speaking and writing English. Despite hundreds of grammar rules and elements, there are only FIVE fundamental principles you need to understand for proper communication. 

All other grammatical elements are based on these five grammar principles: 

Principles of Word Order

Word order is the cornerstone of syntax in English. The meaning of a sentence is generally determined by the order in which words are placed. The rule of this order is as follows:

  • Subject
  • Verb
  • Objects and adverbial phrases

For example:

  • The dog ran after the red ball. 
  • My teacher explains our homework very well. 
  • I am going on vacation next week. 

Principles of Punctuation

Punctuation is another important element of syntax that allows clear audience comprehension. Punctuation marks include end marks, commas, semi-colons, colons, and quotation marks. When spoken, punctuation is indicated by stressed words, voice intonation, and pauses. Proper punctuation is vital to the clarity of the written communication. 

Principles of Tense and Aspect

Verbs are required to form a complete sentence, and the application of tense and aspect are the most important parameters of verb usage. Tense and aspect establish the temporal context of a statement, signifying whether an action or state occurred in the past, is happening in the present, or will take place in the future. 

Use of Determiners

Determiners are used with nouns to create context and understanding of a sentence’s message. There are many different types of determiners:  

  • Definite and indefinite articles: The definite article “the” is refers to a specific noun, indicating particularity. An indefinite article, either “a” or “an,” refers to a general or unspecified noun. 
  • Demonstrative determiners: These specify the relative position or proximity of a noun and include “this” and “these” (for closer objects or ideas) and “that” and “those” (for further away or more distant objects or ideas). 
  • Possessive determiners: These indicate ownership and association, specifying to whom a particular noun belongs. They include my, your, his, her, its, our, and their. 
  • Numbers: Cardinal numbers (like one, two, three) indicate quantity, while ordinal numbers (like first, second, third) specify the order or position in a sequence. 
  • Distributive determiners: These refer to a group of individuals or individual people or objects in a group. These include all, half, each, every, both either, and neither. 
  • Interrogative determiners: These are used to introduce questions by modifying a noun or pronoun. These include what, which, and whose. 
  • Quantifiers: These are words that specify the quantity or amount of a noun, whether it’s definite or indefinite. Examples include all, any, little, many, much, few, less, no, several, some, and cardinal numbers. 
  • Determiners of difference: “Other” refers to additional or different types of, whereas “another” signifies one more of the same kind or a different one. 

Use of Connectors

Connectors are the words that link related words, phrases, and clauses to one another in a sentence. They come in three primary types: 

  • Coordination: This expresses the relationship between words, phrases, and clauses using coordinating conjunctions. Examples are and, but, or, nor, and yet. 
  • Subordination: This explains the relationship between clauses using subordinating conjunctions, relative pronouns, and certain subordinating adverbs. Examples include because, although, who, when, that, and if. 
  • Correlation: This highlights the correlation between words and phrases using correlating conjunctions. Examples include “either…or” and “both…and.” 

What Is Grammar Structure?

Grammar structure combines morphology (the rules that determine word structure and construction) and syntax (the rules that determine word sequence and sentence structure).

What Is Morphology? Understanding Word-Level Grammar

Morphology is the study of word parts, known as morphemes, and examines how they are formed and their relationship to other words in the same language. Morphological analysis focuses on word patterns and their independent grammatical structures. 

Inflectional vs. Derivational Morphology

Inflectional morphology studies the modifications of words to convey different grammatical roles without changing the word’s core meaning. For example, adding “-s” to “cat” creates “cats,” indicating plurality but retaining the same basic meaning.

Derivational morphology, on the other hand, studies the formation of new words, often with a shift in the syntactic category or core meaning. For instance, adding “-er” to “run” results in “runner,” which is a noun derived from a verb. 

In summary, while inflectional morphology creates new forms of the same word, derivational morphology leads to the creation of entirely new words. 

What Are Word Formation Processes?

Word formation processes refer to the various methods by which new words are created in a language. These methods encompass both inflectional and derivational morphology. Key processes include word compounding (joining two or more words), affixation (adding prefixes, suffixes, infixes, or circumfixes), blending (combining parts of two words), and the creation of acronyms (using initial letters from a phrase).

Roots and Affixes

There are different types of morphemes, but roots and affixes are the two most important to understand. 

A root is the core part of a word, representing its most basic meaning. It’s the simplest and most fundamental unit and cannot be divided or broken up into more words. For example, the word “nation” is a root word. 

An affix, on the other hand, is a morpheme that cannot stand by itself; it must be attached to a base or root word to convey meaning. For example, you can take the root word “nation” and add the suffix “-al” to create the word “national.” 

 Depending on the language, an affix can go before (prefix), after (suffix), around (circumfix), or even within (infix) a base word. In English, the two most important affixes are:

  • Prefix: An affix that attaches before a base.
    • Example: “im” + “possible” = “impossible”
  • Suffix: An affix that follows a base.
    • Example: “suffer” + “able” = “sufferable”

Compounding Morphemes

Compounding is the process of combining two or more words to create a new word or composition of words. The resulting compound can be presented as a single word, hyphenated word, or separate words, and these frequently form new nouns, verbs, and adjectives. 

For example:

  • Sunglasses (one word)
  • Far-fetched (hyphenated)
  • Sailboat rigging (separate words)

Blending Morphemes

Blending words is the practice of taking recognizable parts of two well-known words and combining them to make another word. Examples of blended words include:

  • Smoke + fog = smog
  • Motor + hotel = motel
  • Breakfast + lunch = brunch

Acronym Creation

Acronyms are words formed by taking a phrase’s initial letter(s). They serve as ways to help remember longer phrasal references to specific things. For example, “Scuba”  stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. 

Other examples include:

  • Radar: RAdio Detection And Ranging
  • Sonar: SOund Navigation And Ranging

What Is Syntax? Understanding Sentence-Level Grammar 

Syntax in English refers to the rules governing the arrangement of words and phrases in sentences. It delves into how words group together to act as a single unit, known as constituency. Syntax encompasses various principles, such as subject-verb agreement, the placement of direct and indirect objects, and dozens of other rules pertaining to the principles of word order—otherwise known as sentence structure. 

The following explains of various syntax elements that help create clear and concise language. 

Parts of a Sentence and Word Order

The parts of a sentence determine its structure or word order. While there are several elements that can be part of a sentence, three main parts make up most English sentences: the subject, verb, and objects. Additionally, adverbial phrases can provide more information about the verb. Typically, English sentences follow this basic order: subject, verb, objects, followed by adverbial phrases if present.

There are four types of sentence structures: 

Sentence Structure Type:
Simple Sentence

Sentence Parts:
Independent clause

Example:
I enjoy running.

Compound Sentence

Independent clause + coordinating conjunction (or semicolon) + independent clause

I enjoy running, but my partner likes to go hiking. 

Complex Sentence

Independent clause + subordinating conjunction (or relative pronoun) + dependent clause

I enjoy running because it is good exercise.  

Compound-Complex Sentence

Independent clause + subordinating conjunction + dependent clause + coordinating conjunction + independent clause

I enjoy running because it is good exercise, so I sign up for every race within 50 miles. 

Agreement

Agreement, also called concord, in grammar occurs when one word is changed to match another word’s grammatical properties. Here are four primary types of agreement to understand: 

  • Subject-Verb Agreement: This refers to the agreement between the subject of a sentence and its corresponding verb. Singular subjects need singular verbs, while plural subjects need plural verbs. For example:
    • He runs. (singular subject, singular verb)
    • They run. (plural subject, plural verb)
  • Demonstrative-Noun Agreement: This pertains to the agreement between a demonstrative (this, that, these, those) and the noun it modifies. For example, “this cat” (singular) and “these cats” (plural). 
  • Noun-Pronoun Agreement: This deals with the agreement between a noun and the pronoun replacing it, ensuring consistency in number (singular/plural), person (first/second/third person), and often gender. For instance, if referring to “a student,” you might say “he or she” (assuming gender is known), but for “students,” you’d say “they.” 
  • Subject-Verb Agreement with “Or” and “Nor”: This type of agreement dictates that when two subjects are joined by “or” or “nor,” the verb agrees with the subject closest to it. For example:
    • Neither the coach nor the players are ready.
    • Neither the players nor the coach is ready. 

Connectives: Conjunctions and Connecting Adverbs

Connectives are words or phrases that link clauses together to ensure a smooth flow of ideas in a piece of text. They can be broadly categorized into two types: conjunctions and connecting adverbs. 

  • Conjunctions:
    • Coordinating conjunctions: These are words like and, but, nor, or, so, for, and yet. They are used to connect clauses of equal importance or to introduce another idea of equal value. For example: “I wanted to play, but it started to rain.”
    • Subordinating conjunctions: These include words like despite, although, because, and since. They introduce dependent clauses, indicating that the idea they introduce is of secondary importance compared to the main clause. For instance: “Although it rained, we continued our game.” 
  • Connecting adverbs:
    • These adverbs connect one sentence or clause with the previous one, creating cohesion throughout the text. Words like however, furthermore, meanwhile, and consequently fall into this category. For example: “It rained heavily. However, we continued our game.” 

Punctuation

Punctuation is one of the five major elements of grammar, guiding readers on how to interpret written text. It gives structure to sentences, helping to convey a clear and concise message. Punctuation includes end marks, commas, semi-colons, colons, and quotation marks. 

Clauses

A clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a predicate. The subject typically refers to what the sentence is about, while the predicate gives information about the subject. For example, in the sentence “Ron’s dog runs in the park”:

  • “Ron’s dog” is the subject (what the sentence is about).
  • “runs in the park” is the predicate (provides information about the subject). 

Phrases

A phrase is a group of two or more words functioning meaningfully within a clause. Unlike clauses, phrases do not contain a subject and a predicate. Here are some common types of phrases: 

  • Noun phrase: Also known as nominals, noun phrases are groups of words that function as subjects or objects in a sentence.
    • Example: “the large horse” 
  • Verb phrase: This comprises the main verb along with its helping verbs, which can indicate tense, mood, or aspect.
    • Example: “was running” 
  • Adjective phrase: Centered around an adjective, an adjective phrase provides additional information or emphasis to the adjective that modifies a noun or pronoun.
    • Example: “extremely short”
  • Adverb phrase: This is a group of two or more words that function as an adverb. It can modify a verb, adjective, or adverb.
    • Example: “only occasionally” 
  • Prepositional phrase: This is a group of words that begins with a preposition and ends with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase, providing context related to time, place, or manner.
    • Example: “in the boat” 

Tenses

Tense indicates the time at which an action or event described by the verb takes place. By signaling whether something occurred in the past, is happening in the present, or will happen in the future, tenses provide crucial context for comprehension. 

Voice

Voice in grammar indicates the relationship between the subject and the action in a sentence. Specifically, it tells whether the subject is the performer of the action or the receiver. 

  • Active voice: In active voice, the subject performs the action.
    • Example: He took the dog for a walk. (Here, “He” is the subject and the doer of the action.) 
  • Passive voice: In passive voice, the subject receives the action.
    • Example: The dog was taken for a walk. (Here, “The dog” is the subject, but it is not performing the action. Instead, it is receiving the action of being taken for a walk.)

Mood

In grammar, mood does not refer to emotions but indicates the attitude of the verb regarding reality, possibility, necessity, or other conditions. It works grammatically to define the quality of the verb in the sentence as well as indicate tone. There are five categories of mood:

  • Indicative: The indicative mood expresses an action or condition as a statement of fact.
    •  Example: He enjoys watching baseball. 
  • Imperative: The imperative mood creates commands, direct requests, or prohibitions.
    • Example: Do your homework. 
  • Interrogative: The interrogative mood, often employing a combination of helping verbs and main verbs.
    • Example: Where have all the students gone?
  • Conditional: The conditional mood expresses a proposition whose validity is dependent on some condition, often marked with helping verbs like “would” or “could.”
    • Example: If I won the lottery, I would invest wisely. 
  • Subjunctive: The subjunctive mood is used to express a hypothetical situation, demand, or wish. It’s often recognizable by unique verb forms, especially with the verb “be.”
    • Examples: “If I were her, I would go home,” “I wish I had more time,” and “He demanded she prepare the meal.”

Parts of Speech

There are eight primary parts of speech in the English language. Each plays a distinct role in how words come together to convey in sentences. 

  • Noun: Refers to a person, place, thing, or idea.
  • Pronoun: Stands in for a noun to avoid repetition or specify a particular entity.
  • Verb: Indicates an action, event, or state of being.
  • Adjective: Modifies or provides more information about a noun or pronoun.
  • Adverb: Modifies or describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.
  • Preposition: Sets up a relationship between its object (usually a noun or pronoun) and another word in the sentence.
  • Conjunction: Connects words, phrases, or clauses.
  • Interjection: Expresses strong emotion or surprise and is typically set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point or by a comma.

What Are 12 Rules of English Grammar You Should Remember?

English Grammar Types Rules Learning Strategies 2

Although there are hundreds of rules pertaining to English grammar, there are basic rules that help you form cohesive and understandable sentences. These twelve rules are great for remembering how to properly form words into recognizable patterns. 

Rule 1: Every sentence should start with a capital letter in the first word

For example:

  • The day was dragging on. Monica wasn’t sure she could stay awake much longer. 

Rule 2: Every sentence should end with a full stop (or) a question mark (or) an exclamation mark

For example:

  • The cat sat in the sunny window. 
  • Was the cat sitting in the window when you drove by?
  • No way! Look at that cat!

Rule 3: Every sentence should have S-V-O (Subject-Verb-Object)

For example:

  • The horse runs across the field. 

Rule 4: The subject and verb forms must agree in the sentence

For example:

  • The women went to the park yesterday. 
  • The dogs are running through the streets.
  • Dan goes to school every day. 

Rule 5: Use either … or (or) neither … nor for showing alternatives or contrasting pairs.

  1. Either … or is used to present two alternatives or choices.
  • Correct: “You can either eat while in town or wait until you get home.”
  1. Neither … nor is used to indicate that neither of the two mentioned actions or conditions is true.
  • Correct: “Neither player scored the goal nor received credit for it.”

A small nuance to remember is that verb agreement can get tricky when the subjects linked by “either … or” or “neither … nor” are of different numbers. The verb should agree with the subject closest to it:

  • Correct: “Either the players or the coach has to speak at the event.”
  • Correct: “Either the coach or the players have to speak at the event.”

Rule 6: Proper nouns should be capitalized anywhere in the sentences when used

For example:

  • Jonathon and Kaitlyn are traveling to Arizona to visit the Grand Canyon. 

Rule 7: Common nouns should be capitalized only at the beginning of the sentences

For example:

  • Incorrect: Every morning, I read the newspaper while having my Coffee.
  • Correct: Every morning, I read the newspaper while having my coffee.
  • Incorrect: The garden has a variety of flowers, including Roses, Tulips, and Lilies.
  • Correct: The garden has a variety of flowers, including roses, tulips, and lilies. 

Rule 8: The words “its” and “it’s” and “you’re” and “your” are not the same

  • It = works as a pronoun to indicate things previously mentioned.
  • It’s = is the contracted form of “it” and “is.”
  • You = is a second-person personal pronoun.
  • You’re = is the contracted form of “you” and “are.”

Rule 9: Use indefinite articles (a, an) with singular countable nouns when not referring to a specific noun. Use a definite article (the) with both singular and plural nouns when referring to specific items or in cases where the context determines specificity. Some uncountable nouns also use “the” when they are specific in context.

For example:

  • I was welcomed as a guest speaker at the banquet. (indefinite, countable
  • My boss was an angry person. (indefinite, countable)
  • The guests enjoyed the party. (definite, countable)
  • The information you provided was wrong. (definite, uncountable)

Rule 10: Use the article “a” before words that begin with consonant sounds and “an” before words with vowel sounds.

For example:

  • I am going to a party later tonight. 
  • She had an awesome time at the party. 

Rule 11: Use an apostrophe to show possessions

For example:

  • My teacher’s classroom was always decorated for the holidays. 
  • Mark’s new car was expensive.

Rule 12: Active voice is preferred to passive voice in the English language

  • Active: Doctors have shown that a lack of exercise can cause poor health. (subject performs an action)
  • Passive: It was shown earlier that poor health could be caused by a lack of exercise. (subject receives the action)

What Are Common English Grammar Mistakes?

Common English grammar mistakes can confuse the message you want your audience to comprehend. Some errors can completely change a sentence’s meaning when overlooked. 

Take a look at some of the most common grammar mistakes so you can begin to correct them in your own writing. All of the following can be considered examples of faulty sentence structure.

Misuse of Homophones (e.g., “their,” “there,” “they’re”)

Homophones are a pair or set of words that are pronounced the same but have different meanings. They might or might not have the same spelling.

Due to their similar pronunciation, many people confuse these words and use them incorrectly. Examples of commonly misused homophones include:

There/Their/They’re

  • There (expletive): Used to start a sentence without having a specific meaning. 

For example: There are different ways to approach this problem; the challenge is to find the best one.

  • There (adverb): Used to describe a location.

For example: First, place the books over there, and then move these tables against the wall. 

  •  Their (possessive adjective): Indicates possession, belonging to people, animals, or things.

Example: I love that store; their new sweaters are perfect for fall layering. 

  • They’re: Is a contraction of “they are.” 

Example: The class wanted to go to the beach for senior skip day, but they’re going to the movies instead due to the bad weather. 

Its/It’s

  • Its (possessive adjective): Indicates possession, belonging to people, animals, or things. 

Example: Our classroom moved to a new building this year, and its location is much more accessible for students.. 

  • It’s: Is a contraction of “it is.” 

Example: It’s important to show up to work on time because we sometimes have morning meetings.

To/Too/Two

  • To: Used with the base form of a verb to make the infinitive.

Example: The boys like to play video games together to hone their skills for school eGames competitions. 

  • To (preposition): Indicates direction or destination. 

Example: “I am going to the coffee shop. Do you want anything?” 

  • Too (adverb): Indicates an excessive amount. 

Example: Too much water can be just as harmful as too little. 

  • Too (adverb): Means “also” or “in addition.” 

Example: I am signing up for that class too!

  • Two: The number 2.

Example: There are only two acceptable reasons for being late: your teacher held you back, or your parents checked you in after the bell. 

Other commonly confused homophones include:

  • Affect/effect
  • Lead/led
  • Whether/weather

Incorrect Use of Apostrophes

There are many different ways to misuse an apostrophe; these are the five most common mistakes. 

Do NOT use an apostrophe + s to make nouns plural

  • Incorrect: I eat apple’s every day. 
  • Correct: I eat apples every day. 

Do NOT use an apostrophe + s to make a proper name plural

  • Incorrect: Love, the Clement’s
  • Correct: Love, the Clements

Do NOT use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns

  • Incorrect: The dog shows up at my house every day even though it’s home is down the block. 
  • Correct: The dog shows up at my house every day even though its home is down the block.

Do NOT use an apostrophe in verbs

  • Incorrect: Her toddler always find’s things to get into. 
  • Correct: Her toddler always finds things to get into. 

Do NOT use an apostrophe in numbers and abbreviations that are plural but not possessive

  • Incorrect: The manuscript was written in the 1600’s
  • Correct: The manuscript was written in the 1600s

Subject-Verb Agreement Errors

Subjects and verbs must agree in number. You cannot have a singular subject and a plural verb or vice versa. 

  • Incorrect: There is many reasons I disagree with you concerning literary analysis. 
  • Correct: There are many reasons I disagree with you concerning literary analysis.

Incorrect Use of Tenses

Errors in verb tense are usually attributed to either misuse of the future tense forms or an inconsistent tense shift in compound sentences and within paragraphs. 

  • Incorrect: We were driving down the road when suddenly, the sky goes dark. 
  • Correct: We were driving down the road when suddenly, the sky went dark. 

Incorrect Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

A pronoun-antecedent error occurs when the pronoun does not agree in number or gender with its antecedent, which is the noun that the pronoun is replacing. 

  • Incorrect: If the student wants to pass the class, they should do their homework and turn it in on time. 
  • Correct:  If a student wants to pass the class, they should do his or her homework and turn it in on time. 

OR

  • Students who want to pass the class should do their homework. 

Run-on Sentences and Comma Splices

Run-on sentences, also known as fused sentences, occur when two or more independent clauses are joined without proper punctuation or conjunctions.

  • Incorrect: She is buying a plane ticket to travel to Europe she will also meet her best friend while in Germany. 
  • Correct: She is buying a plane ticket to travel to Europe. She will also meet her best friend while in Germany.

A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are separated solely by a comma without a coordinating conjunction. 

  • Incorrect: After sightseeing in Germany, she will travel to Greece, she will take a cruise through the Aegean. 
  • Correct: After sightseeing in Germany, she will travel to Greece, and She will take a cruise through the Aegean.

OR

  • After sightseeing in Germany, she will travel to Greece; she will take a cruise through the Aegean.

Incorrect Use of Commas

There are many ways to use commas correctly, which is why they can become confusing and misused on a regular basis. Keep in mind these common mistakes to avoid creating them:

Remember to place a comma after an introductory word, phrase, or clause

  • Incorrect: Determined to pay off her loan Sarah worked hard every weekend. 
  • Correct: Determined to pay off her loan, Sarah worked hard every weekend. 

Don’t use unnecessary commas

  • Incorrect: The professor’s lessons applied to her highest-level classes, and her weekend study groups. 
  • Correct: The professor’s lessons applied to her highest-level classes and her weekend study groups. 
  • Incorrect: Many students, studying philosophy, volunteer at a local soup kitchen each weekend. 
  • Correct: Many students studying philosophy volunteer at a local soup kitchen each weekend.

Remember to place commas around non-restrictive elements

  • Incorrect: Jonathan the graduating salutatorian gave his motivational speech to the rest of the graduating class. 
  • Correct: Jonathan, the graduating salutatorian, gave his motivational speech to the rest of the graduating class. 

Commas separate compound sentences

  • Incorrect: I waited hours to get my vehicle licensed but I wasted my time as the dealership hadn’t sent them the correct forms. 
  • Correct: I waited hours to get my vehicle licensed, but I wasted my time as the dealership hadn’t sent them the correct forms.

Using Double Negatives

Negative words create opposition to ideas and actions. Using two negatives in one sentence is called a double negative. This use should be avoided as it creates confusing and unclear writing and speech. 

  • Incorrect: I don’t not want to start college next week, but I’m nervous. 
  • Correct: I want to start college next week, but I’m nervous.
  • Incorrect: I don’t want no lemonade with my meal. 
  • Correct: I don’t want any lemonade with my meal. 

Incorrect Use of Prepositions

Prepositions are words or groups of words used before nouns, pronouns, and noun phrases that show time, place, direction, spatial relationships, and location. There are hundreds of prepositions, and when used incorrectly, they can create problems with language clarity. 

  • Incorrect: He is good on playing the guitar.
  • Correct: He is good at playing the guitar.
  • Incorrect: She is fond in reading mystery novels.
  • Correct: She is fond of reading mystery novels.

Avoid Using a Preposition at the End of a Sentence

Prepositions are almost exclusively followed by a noun and have an object. So, you should never place them at the end of a sentence except in very few instances. 

When determining if the preposition is placed correctly at the end of a sentence, remove it. If the sentence still makes sense, it shouldn’t be there. If the sentence doesn’t make sense, then the preposition placement at the end is acceptable. 

  • Incorrect: Where are you going to?
  • Correct: Where are you going?
  • Incorrect: This is the book I was looking for.
  • Correct: This is the book for which I was looking.
  • Correct: That’s the man she’s been living with.
  • Correct: What are you thinking about?

Don’t Confuse “In” and “Into”

Use “into” to indicate motion toward something. In contrast, “in” indicates a location. Don’t confuse the two. 

  • Incorrect: I swam into the pool.
  • Correct: I swam in the pool.
  • Incorrect: I walked in the department store. 
  • Correct: I walked into the department store. 

Don’t Interchange “Than” and “From”

When the word “different” is used in a sentence, avoid using “than.” Instead, use the word “from.” 

  • Incorrect: You look so different than your twin sister. 
  • Correct: You look so different from your twin sister. 

Incorrect Word Order

When the word order is incorrect, it can make a sentence sound awkward or incorrect. This mistake usually happens when adjectives are incorrectly placed. 

  • Incorrect: She was exhausted completely after spending the day on home maintenance. 
  • Correct: She was completely exhausted after spending the day on home maintenance.

Mixing Up Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives and adverbs describe other words, which means they can sometimes be confused with one another. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns, while adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. 

  • Incorrect: That was real nice of her to offer to take you to town.
  • Correct: That was really nice of her to offer to take you to town.

Using Incorrect Conjunctions

Conjunctions are used to connect clauses or sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause. Avoid these common mistakes:

One conjunction for two clauses

  • Incorrect: Because she works hard so she can travel overseas. 
  • Correct: Because she works hard, she can travel overseas. 

OR

  • She works hard so she can travel overseas. 

Sentences that start with a negative word must invert the main verb

  • Incorrect: Neither she arrives on time nor does she apologize. 
  • Correct: She neither arrives on time nor does she apologize.

OR

  • Neither does she arrive on time, nor does she apologize.

Misplaced Modifiers

A misplaced modifier is when a word, phrase, or clause is placed incorrectly within a sentence and is separated from the word it is supposed to modify or describe. These sentences often are confusing to understand or sound ridiculous. 

  • Incorrect: Yesterday, when walking in the park, Tom discovered a silver woman’s pendant
  • Correct: Yesterday, when walking in the park, Tom discovered a woman’s silver pendant. 

Adjectives, adverbs, phrases, and clauses can all be misplaced. 

Dangling Modifiers

A dangling modifier is a phrase or clause used to modify a word (or words) but lacks clarity or logic to make the sentence understandable. They often appear at the beginning of a sentence, although they can come at the end. 

To correct a dangling modifier, you will almost always need to add a subject-verb agreement. You can also restructure the sentence to make sense. 

  • Incorrect: When six years old, my family moved to Boston. 
  • Correct: When I was six years old, my family moved to Boston. 

OR

  • My family moved to Boston when I was six years old. 

Dangling Participles

A dangling participle refers to participles and participle phrases that are missing the word they are supposed to modify. To correct these sentences, they will need to be rewritten in a manner that clearly indicates the noun they modify. 

  • Incorrect: Looking in the parking lot, many cars filled the spaces.
  • Correct: When I looked in the parking lot, I noticed many cars filling the spaces.

Incorrect Use of Active and Passive Voice

For the most part, you always want to try and use the active voice, especially in formal, professional, and legal contexts, as it often makes your writing clearer and more direct. However, using the passive voice is not inherently incorrect. 

For passive voice, you can use them in the following scenarios:

  • Broad statements about widely held opinions or social norms.
  • Reports of crimes with unknown perpetrators or actions with unknown doers.
  • When the writer or speaker wants to avoid assigning blame.
  • Situations that emphasize the action or the recipient of the action rather than the actor.

Incorrect Use of Capitalization

Errors in capitalization occur when writers capitalize words that shouldn’t be capitalized or don’t capitalize a word that should be capitalized. 

  • Incorrect: She spoke to mr. martin about the State Fair
  • Correct: She spoke to Mr. Martin about the state fair. 

Incorrect Use of Reflexive Pronouns

Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and object are the same within a sentence. When this is not the case, avoid reflexive pronoun use and simply use a pronoun. 

  • Incorrect: Will you go to the movies with myself and Robert?
  • Correct: Will you go to the movies with me and Robert?

Incorrect Use of Gerunds and Infinitives

Both gerunds and infinitives allow a verb to act as a noun in a sentence. Gerunds are the verb forms with an “-ing” ending. Infinitives are the base form of the verb preceded by “to,” such as “to read” or “to eat.” Common mistakes usually occur when people believe they serve as both the noun and verb in a sentence and leave an action verb out. 

  • Incorrect: The students were annoyed by her loud gossiping class. 
  • Correct: The students were annoyed by her loud gossiping during class.

Using Redundancies in Sentences

Redundancy is the practice of using needless repetition of words, phrases, ideas, sentences, and even paragraphs within speech and text. Redundancy use creates boring and lifeless messages.

  • Incorrect: We collaborated together on the final project. 
  • Correct: We collaborated on the final project. 

OR

  • We worked together on the final project. 

What Are Effective Grammar Learning Strategies?

The following grammar learning strategies can help you create clear and concise messages for all audiences. Organized speaking and writing ensure that you provide the communication needed for people to follow directions and understand what you are saying. 

Regularly Read a Variety of Texts

Reading a diverse range of texts, including fiction, non-fiction, magazines, manuals, and legal documents, helps you hone comprehensive skills and exposes you to a large array of different sentence structures. Exposure to different styles of writing allows you to better model them in your work. 

Practice Writing Daily

Writing down your thoughts, even if only for a few minutes each day, helps you master sentence structure and writing fluency. If you have time, read it back to yourself and edit for mistakes or clarity, considering how an audience would respond to what you wrote. 

Review Basic Grammar Rules

There are MANY grammar rules, as you can see above. Review the basic rules to help you remember how to form proper sentences and ensure your audience can understand your message. 

Use Grammar Checking Tools

Most word-processing software comes with built-in grammar-checking tools. However,  there are also specialized online versions that can give you a more comprehensive check and even suggest corrections. It’s beneficial to leverage these tools to ensure grammatical accuracy in your writing.

Engage in Conversations in English

Engaging in conversational English is an excellent way to not only build confidence in speaking but also to practice sentence structure and concise communication. Whether you’re reading, writing, or speaking, you are continually honing those skills. 

Keep a Vocabulary Notebook

Building vocabulary is as much about using words correctly in context as it is about having a reference to revisit when needed. When you hear a new word, take the time to write it down along with its definition and perhaps its use in a sentence. This approach is especially helpful for English language learners. 

Enroll in English Grammar Courses or Workshops

In-person and online grammar courses and workshops can hone the skills of even the most fluent native speakers. Receiving clear guidelines, engaging in exercises and practices, and having someone to help answer your questions are among the best ways to expose yourself to clearer grammatical structure. 

Practice English Grammar Exercises

Practice makes perfect! Take the time to test your knowledge with online or in-person practice sessions and assessments. When done, review what you got wrong, look up the grammar rules you missed, and make corrections. That is one of the best ways to retain information. 

Use English Learning Apps and Websites

Apps and websites offer quick and easy ways to test your knowledge and find answers to your questions. Take advantage of free programs if you aren’t interested in subscribing to anything. 

Listen to English Language Podcasts

Listening to a language in action is a gateway to grasping its proper grammar. Podcasts and audiobooks are excellent ways to be exposed to spoken language and all its nuances, which you can then incorporate into your own materials. 

Watch English Movies and TV Shows With Subtitles

Watching television and reading subtitles allow you to trigger more than one area of your brain. Reading the text while you hear it allows you to better comprehend the word within context, as well as proper pronunciation. 

Join English Speaking Clubs or Discussion Groups

Anytime you are able to work with people in your learning process, you are elevating your skills. Join physical or online groups to practice and build speaking and writing skills. 

Try Translating Texts From Your Native Language to English

If you are an English language learner, translating texts from your native language to English and vice versa is an excellent way to practice your language skills. Use translation programs to help you when you first get started. Additionally, try finding a native English speaker to check your translations to help ensure you have the correct sentence structure and context. 

Make Use of Online Dictionaries and Thesauruses

Online resources that allow you to translate are an excellent way to work on your skills while on the go. Learning new words and their contextual uses is a great way to build language skills. 

Learn and Understand Common English Idioms and Phrases

Idiomatic expressions are meaningful parts of speech that are used figuratively rather than literally. Though many idioms may have originated from literal contexts, their meanings have evolved over time, which can make them confusing for those unfamiliar with them. Take the time to learn them to help you understand the nuances of the English language. 

Regularly Review and Correct Your Writing

Editing your writing is one of the best ways to improve your writing skills and grasp of the language. Identifying and correcting your mistakes not only builds your skills but also helps prevent them in future writing. 

Read Aloud to Practice Pronunciation

Reading aloud lets you hear your pronunciation and practice unfamiliar words, which can help build better speech patterns and boost fluency. 

Learn About Different Writing Styles

Once you feel comfortable with one writing style, consider learning another. For example, look at the differences between a narrative and a to-do list. Think about how a fictional story is worded compared to an instruction manual. All of these writing styles are important for effective communication. 

Write Summaries of Read Texts

After reading something, pick up a piece of paper and write a summary from memory. This not only enhances recall and reading comprehension but also aids in practicing sentence fluency. 

Seek Feedback on Your Writing and Speaking Skills

Never be afraid to ask somebody else to look over, review, edit, and critique your skills. If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t growing. Sometimes a fresh eye is the best way to get better. 

Grammar Quiz #1

Grammar Quiz #1

Identify whether the sentence is true or false.

A preposition is a type of conjunction used to join sentences.
A run-on sentence is a grammatically correct sentence that is excessively long.
In a compound sentence, two independent clauses are joined by a comma alone.
An adjective is a word that describes a noun.
An apostrophe is used to indicate possession and contraction.
A sentence must always begin with a capital letter and end with punctuation.
The subject of a sentence is always located at the beginning.
The word “their” is a contraction of “they are.”
Start Over
Grammar Quiz #2

Grammar Quiz #2

Test your knowledge and skills, and feel free to go back and review the many rules of grammar we covered to help you.

Identify the interjection in the sentence: “Wow! That was impressive!”
Which sentence is an example of the first-person point of view?
Choose the correct sentence:
Choose the sentence with the correct use of “its” and “it’s”:
Choose the correct indefinite article: “I saw _____ elephant at the zoo.”
Identify the conjunction in the sentence: “She wanted to go, but he stayed.”
Choose the sentence that uses “effect” correctly:
Identify the correct sentence:
Which sentence is in the future tense?
Select the sentence that uses the apostrophe correctly:
Which sentence is correctly capitalized?
Which sentence contains a misplaced modifier?
Identify the direct object in the sentence: “She baked cookies for her friends.”
What is the correct form of the verb in this sentence? “She had just __________ home.”
What is the past tense of “run”?
Identify the preposition in the sentence: “The cat jumped over the wall.”
Which sentence is written in the passive voice?
Choose the correct form of the verb: “She _____ to the store yesterday.”
Choose the correct sentence:
What is the correct way to write the contraction for “they are”?
dentify the sentence with proper subject-verb agreement:
Which sentence uses the correct form of “your”?
Identify the sentence with correct punctuation:
Choose the correct sentence:
Choose the correct possessive pronoun: “That book belongs to _____.”
Start Over

FAQs on English Grammar

When Should You Use ‘Who’ vs ‘Whom’?

Who is used as a subject in a sentence. It refers to the person performing the action.
Example:

  • Who is coming to the party?

Whom is used as an object in a sentence. It refers to the person who receives the action.

Example:

  • To whom did you send the letter?

“How to Use ‘I’ vs ‘Me’ Correctly?”

Understanding when to use I and me correctly in sentences is essential for proper grammar.:

I is a subject pronoun. It is used when you are the one performing the action in a sentence.

Examples:

  • I am going to the store.
  • Sarah and I went to the movies.

Me is an object pronoun. It is used when you are the recipient of the action or when you are the object of a preposition.


Examples:

  • He gave the book to me.
  • The teacher praised Sarah and me.

“What Is the Oxford Comma and When to Use It?”

An Oxford comma is used before the coordinating conjunction in a sentence that includes a list of three or more items. For this reason, an Oxford comma is also known as a serial comma. 

Only the comma that appears before the coordinating conjunction is known as the Oxford comma.

For example:

  • The four seasons are spring, summer, fall, and winter.
  • The four seasons are spring, summer, fall and winter.

In this instance, the Oxford comma appears in the first sentence after the word “fall”. The meaning does not change depending on the use or omission of the Oxford comma. 

Another example in which the use of the Oxford comma does matter:

  • I dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

Leaving out the Oxford comma creates confusion, indicating that Ayn Rand (a famous writer I highly recommend) and God are the author’s parents. And, the book is dedicated to them. 

Let’s add an Oxford comma to help clarify the sentence:

  • I dedicate this book to my parents, Ayn Rand, and God.

The Oxford comma helps clear up confusion and makes it known that the author is dedicating the book to their parents, the author Ayn Rand, and God. 

Conclusion: Let’s Review English Grammar

Grammar describes the study of the way sentences are constructed in any language. The form, structure, order, arrangement, sound, and meanings of words in a sentence are all part of grammar. 

Grammar is important because it describes how language is structured to be understood. Word placement and their associated parts of speech are what create language comprehension. Knowing the basics of grammar is the first thing anyone learns in any language because, with it, speech and writing will be understood and understood.