Learning a new language is never easy, especially if you want to master it. In some languages, there is no grammar; the written language is simply a reflection of the spoken language; in others, there are grammar rules to follow, and the English language is one of them.
Knowing the rules of grammar does not mean that 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 discussing and talking about what is good and effective writing.
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)
From the above, a possessive noun is applicable only to a person, and not a thing.
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. A singular verb in the present tense generally needs an “s”; of course, there are exceptions, such as the following:
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).
(More on the other SEVEN PARTS OF SPEECH next time)
Copyright© by Stephen Lau