Applying Grammatical Rules

Grammatical rules are guidelines in a language that determine how words and phrases can be combined to form sentences. They dictate the structure of sentences, including word order, verb forms, punctuation use and the agreement between subjects and verbs.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Subject-verb agreement ensures that the verb in a sentence agrees with the subject in terms of number and person. Here’s what you need to know:

Singular Subjects:

  • Singular subjects require singular verbs. For example, “The cat purrs.”
  • Remember to add “s” or “es” to the verb when the subject is in the third person singular (he, she, it). For example, “She plays the piano.”

Plural Subjects:

  • Plural subjects require plural verbs. For example, “The cats purr.”
  • Do not add “s” or “es” to the verb when the subject is in the plural form. For example, “They play soccer.”

Indefinite Pronouns:

  • Some indefinite pronouns, such as “everyone,” “nobody,” or “everyone,” are singular and require singular verbs. For example, “Everyone is invited.”
  • Others, such as “both,” “few,” or “many,” are plural and require plural verbs. For example, “Many were present.”

Tense Usage

Using the appropriate tense helps to convey actions accurately in relation to time.

Present Tense

Use the present tense to describe general truths, habitual actions or ongoing situations. For example, “Water boils at 100 degrees Celsius.”

  • Also, use the present tense when writing narratives or discussing events in literature, as it creates a sense of immediacy. For example, “She opens the door and enters the room.”

Past Tense

Use the past tense to talk about completed actions or events that happened in the past. For example, “They visited the museum yesterday.”

  • When writing about historical events or recounting stories, the past tense is commonly used. For example, “In 1969, humans landed on the moon.”

Future Tense

Use the future tense to discuss actions that will happen in the future. For example, “I will meet you tomorrow.”

When making predictions or talking about future plans, the future tense is appropriate. For example, “He will become a doctor someday.”

Pronoun Reference

Pronouns replace nouns and help avoid repetition. However, it’s important to use pronouns correctly and to use clear references. Here’s what you need to know:

Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

A pronoun must agree in number and gender with its antecedent (the noun it refers to). Use singular pronouns for singular antecedents and plural pronouns for plural. 

For example, “Lisa brought her book.” “The students brought their books.”

Ambiguous Pronoun Reference

Avoid unclear pronoun references by ensuring that it is clear which noun the pronoun refers to. For example, “John told Mark that he passed the test.” (Unclear)

  • It could mean that John is telling Mark about John himself passing a test (he = John), or it could mean that John is telling Mark that Mark has passed a test (he = Mark). The exact meaning would depend on the context in which the sentence is used.

Clarify by using the noun instead of the pronoun or by rephrasing the sentence. For example, “John told Mark that Mark passed the test.”

  • This sentence is clear. John is telling Mark that Mark has passed the test.

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