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Basic Grammar Rules

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Religiously following the most basic grammar rules can make us good communicators aside from being good writers. By following certain rules in grammar and in good writing in general, we ensure that our readers will understand us and our articles will stand on its own. Here are some of the most basic grammar rules every writer should know.

Subject-verb agreement

The most basic but also the one frequently broken, subject-verb agreement is simply the rule of having a singular verb for a singular subject and a plural verb for a plural subject.

He sits down. (The subject, "he" is singular. The verb, "sits" is also singular)

They stand up. (The subject, "they" is plural. The verb, "stand" is also plural)

Note that verbs are plural when it doesn't have an "s" and are singular when "s" is added to it.

Tense consistency

In English grammar there are three main tenses: past, present, and future. In constructing your sentences, always remember to stick to one tense. Shifting tenses is allowable only on a few exceptions. To be sure you are writing tenses correctly, always ask yourself what time or tense the whole sentence is in.

Incorrect: The sky darkened, the wind picks up, and thunder came streaking across the sky.

Correct: The sky darkened, the wind picked up, and thunder streaked across the sky.

Exception:

Beverly was planning to go to a concert that afternoon, but then she had an accident and had to miss the concert.

Beverly planned to go to a concert that afternoon, but then she had an accident and had to miss the concert.

In the example above, both sentences are correct. While the first sentence used the present tense of plan, "planning," the use of "was" put the verb in past tense.

Double negatives

Using double negatives in a sentence would create a positive meaning in the sentence.

Example:

Losing your way in town is not uncommon for first time visitors to Santa Fe.

Losing your way in town is common for first time visitors to Santa Fe.

Both sentences mean the same thing except in the first sentence; double negatives were used, while in the second sentence, none were used.

Pronoun consistency

Much similar to tense consistency, pronoun consistency is using pronouns consistently in a sentence.

Incorrect: One should be very careful in observing grammar rules whenever you write.

Correct: You should be very careful in observing grammar rules whenever you write.

Misplacing modifiers

Modifiers are words that describe or limit other words. Too often, modifiers are placed incorrectly in a sentence, resulting in a very different meaning.

John told her he wanted to marry her frequently.

John frequently told her he wanted to marry her.

See how incorrectly placing frequently changed the meaning of the first sentence?

By following some of these basic grammar rules, you can ensure that you don't fall into the trap of writing clunky, hard to understand articles that no one would want to publish let alone read. Good writers do break some of them, but as they often say: you need to know the rules before you can break them.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JOHN W.
Go to the official English Grammar website for more grammar lessons, rules, and news for everyday use - http://www.englishgrammar.org/

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