A Grammar Guide – Quick and Easy
I have noticed that some people have expressed the need for help with basic English Grammar. I have also seen a good deal of interest and appreciation for hubs on this subject. Hence this hub from me.
John + Julia + Ram + Sheila = Team
That’s a simple equation. Let’s put it in the form of a sentence.
John, Julia, Ram and Sheila form a Team.
In other words, the Team consists of John, Julia, Ram and Sheila.
You can also say: The Team comprises John, Julia, Ram and Sheila.
(Note: ‘comprises of’ is wrong.)
John, Julia, Ram and Sheila are each part of the Team; likewise, there are parts which combine to form a complete, meaningful and grammatical sentence. These are called parts of speech.
In any sentence, if you understand the functions the parts perform and the relationship between them, you will understand the sentence and will be able to construct sentences of your own.
Parts of Speech
There are 9 parts:
Mnemonic – CAP VIA NAP (the first letters of the 9 parts)
1. Verb – word that denotes action - run, write, walk, think, feel
Note: Even ‘hibernate’, which means ‘to be inactive’, is a verb!
It is important to use the right form of the verb – runs, ran, has run, have run and so on.
2. Noun – word that refers to a person, place or thing - Gandhi, Bangalore, Computer
Note: Even words like ‘happiness’ and ‘perpendicularity’ are nouns.
3. Pronoun – word used instead of a noun – I, he, she, it, they
Note: Pronouns can take the place of abstractions, too – emotions and feelings.
Example: I felt happiness; it was pure and immeasurable. Here, ‘it’ refers to happiness.
4. Adjective – word that describes or qualifies a noun – beautiful, good, huge, awesome
Note: In the phrases, ‘the middle berth’ and ‘the fifth set’, ‘middle’ and ‘fifth’ are adjectives because they qualify the position and number of the nouns they precede.
5. Adverb – word that modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb – easily, wonderfully, amazingly
6. Preposition – word that describes the relation between two nouns/pronouns – to, from, at, beside, in
7. Article – the adjective ‘the’ (definite article), ‘a’ or ‘an’ (indefinite article)
8. Conjunction – word that connects sentences, clauses and words – and, if, unless
Note: Some words function both as conjunction and adverb.
Example: Though he was short, he was strong - ‘though’ as conjunction
Though short, he was strong – ‘though’ as adverb
9. Interjection – word or phrase expressing exclamation - hello, lo, good heavens
(A quick quiz: as just words, what are these nine parts? Leaving aside their functions, what are they? Answer: They are all NOUNS.)
Now, let’s put them together and see how they function.
Julia: Hi guys, has anybody got plans for the weekend?
John: Well, how about checking out the local disco scene?
Ram: That is an exciting idea. It would be an absolutely new experience.
Sheila: It certainly is exciting and new. I vote for it.
All in a chorus: Hurray, the disco it is. Let us do it.
Now, let’s pick out the various parts in the above chat.
Verb: has got, checking, would be, is, vote, do
Noun: guys, anybody, plans, weekend, scene, idea, experience
Pronoun: I, us
Adjective: exciting, new
Adverb: absolutely, certainly
Interjection: Hi, hurray
Now, check these words with their definitions and try to understand their functions.
All in one
Wow, the way she danced was so amazingly stylish and smart, no one believed this was her maiden appearance at a disco.
The foregoing sentence has all the 9 parts. Identify them and see how they all hang together in a neat construction.
Just as a lab analyst or a business analyst analyses, you analyse a sentence into its parts in order to understand its structure and meaning.
It may be useful to know the basis on which we analyse a sentence. We analyse largely on the basis of Person, Number, and Tense.
Person – First Person, Second Person, Third Person – I, you, he/she/it
Number – Singular, Plural – We, they
Tense – Present, Past, Future and their variants
Let’s take an example.
She writes beautiful poems.
This sentence is in Third Person Singular Present Tense.
To make ourselves understood, it is very important to get the tense right when we speak or write, because tense indicates the time of the action. And, which words denote action? Verbs they are.
Let’s just take up one verb and see how its form changes to indicate the time. For easy understanding, we will use the Q and A pattern.
The verb ‘to reach’
When do you want to reach the station?
I want to reach the station early – Present
Did you reach the station in time?
I reached the station in time – Past
Will you reach the station in time?
I will reach the station in time – Future
Have you reached the station?
I have reached the station – (Present) Perfect
Had you reached the station when the train was brought to the platform?
I had reached the station when the train was brought to the platform – Past Perfect
Where will you be by this time tomorrow?
By this time tomorrow I will have reached my destination – Future Perfect
The Continuous forms are rather easy – I am reaching, I was reaching, I will be reaching, I have been reaching, I had been reaching… But one must remember to use the continuous forms in the appropriate context; otherwise they may sound casual and even silly.
Some practice might help in gaining a good grip on verbs and their forms. Pick up a dozen and practice!
A word on Voice
Sentences are constructed either in active or passive voice.
I accept your proposal – active voice
Your proposal is accepted (by me) – passive voice
The difference between the two sentences is very simple and striking.
With active voice, the subject is the doer of the action – I
With passive voice, the subject is what sustains the action or the effect of the action – Your proposal
The earthquake devastated China – active
China was devastated by the earthquake - passive
Remember that not all sentences can be expressed in passive voice.
Examples – I sleep well. Birds fly.
It is largely a matter of feeling at home with terminology. Get familiar with verbs, nouns, adjectives and the rest; understand the functions consciously and see them in action by analysing sentences. When you feel confident and excited, try teaching what you have learnt. You will soon feel like a master of grammar.