SENTENCE STRUCTUREAn independent clause can be a complete sentence on its own. It has a subject and a verb.
A dependent clause cannot be a complete sentence on its own. It depends on the independent clause to complete its meaning.
Independent and Dependent Clauses
Example: Before starting her project, Elaine had to research at the library. Independent Clause: Elaine had to research at the library.
Dependent Clause: Before starting her project,
Every complete sentence contains two parts: a subject and a predicate. The subject is what (or who) the sentence is about, while the predicate tells something about the subject. A sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, a question mark, or an exclamation point. The different types of sentences are identified by how they are constructed and by how they express thoughts. Good writers use a mixture of different sentence structures in their writing. Varying sentences makes writing more colorful and interesting.
A simple sentence contains one independent clause. Example: The dog barks.
A compound sentence contains more than one independent clause. Example: The dog barks, and then it goes to sleep.
A complex sentence contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. Example: After the dog barks, it goes to sleep.
A compound-complex sentence contains more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. Example: After the dog barks, it goes to sleep, and then it wakes up.
Participial Phrases and Gerunds
Learning to use gerunds and participial phrases is an important aspect of becoming a good writer and editor. Keep reading to learn more about these parts of speech.
A gerund ends in -ing and can be used as a noun. A gerund is based on a verb. It shows action or a state of being. However, since a gerund works as a noun, it does the same thing in a sentence that a noun does. examples:
Jogging is good exercise. My favorite thing is sleeping.
A participle is used as an adjective and most often ends in -ing or -ed. A participle is based on a verb. It shows an action or a state of being. However, since a participle works as an adjective, it can also modify nouns or pronouns.
There are two types of participles: present participles and past participles. Present participles end in -ing.
Past participles end in -ed, -en, -d, -t, or -n, as in the words asked, eaten, saved, dealt, and seen. examples:
The crying baby had a wet diaper. The burnt log fell off the fire.
An appositive is a noun or pronoun that renames or stands for another noun.
Because most appositives are nonrestrictive (that means they add on extra information that is unnecessary for the reader), you should use commas around the appositives. But, you should be aware that some appositives are restrictive (that means they add on information that is absolutely necessary for the reader), and restrictive appositives do not use commas.
The well-known writer Murray Spats will be visiting the school Friday.
Murray Spats is the appositive. The name is restrictive because the information is important to the meaning of the sentence.
Our teacher Mr. Johnson won't be here today.
Mr. Johnson is the teacher's name. This is restrictive because without knowing his name, it could be any teacher that will be absent.
The words "no" and "please" are not in his vocabulary.
This is restrictive because without knowing which words are not in his vocabulary, we're only left to guess. Ann Smith, the accordion player, will be in concert Friday.
This is nonrestrictive. The accordion player is extra information. If it was left out, the sentence would still make sense. We don't need to know that she's an accordion player for the sentence to work.
Mr. Buttons, the butler, is still missing.
This is nonrestrictive. We don't need to know what Mr. Buttons does. Knowing that he's missing is enough information.
Indefinite pronouns are words that replace nouns without specifying which noun they replace. It is important to know which indefinite pronouns are singular, plural, or both. This will help you know which verb to use.
Singular Indefinite Pronouns
Here are some examples:
another, anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, little, much, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, one, other, somebody, someone, something.
Singular indefinite pronouns take singular verbs. examples:
Each of these tests gets easier and easier. Everybody knows who will win tonight. Either is okay with me.
Plural Indefinite Pronouns
Here are some examples:
both, few, many, others, several Plural indefinite pronouns take plural verbs. examples:
Both know what to expect. Few ever fall the second time. Many imagine only the best.
Singular or Plural Indefinite Pronouns
Here are some examples:
all, any, more, most, none, some
The pronouns all, any, more, most, none, and some take a singular or a plural verb depending on whether what they refer to is singular or plural.
All of the newspaper is wet. All of the members do as they please. Most of the sky is clear of clouds. Most of the shirts are ruined.
The chart below lists the standard verb tenses with examples.
Simple tenses show that an action happens in the present, past, or future.
Present Singular Plural
1st Person I walk/draw we walk/draw 2nd Person you walk/draw you walk/draw 3rd Person he/she/it walks/draws they walk/draw
Past Singular Plural
1st Person I walked/drew we walked/drew 2nd Person you walked/drew you walked/drew 3rd Person he/she/it walked/drew they walked/drew
Future Singular Plural
1st Person I will walk/draw we will walk/draw 2nd Person you will walk/draw you will walk/draw 3rd Person he/she/it will walk/draw they will walk/draw
Perfect tenses show that an action was or will be completed before another time or action.
Present PerfectSingular Plural
1st Person I have walked/drawn we have walked/drawn 2nd Person you have walked/drawn you have walked/drawn 3rd Person he/she/it has walked/drawn they have walked/drawn
Past Perfect Singular Plural
1st Person I had walked/drawn we had walked/drawn 2nd Person you had walked/drawn you had walked/drawn 3rd Person he/she/it had walked/drawn they had walked/drawn
Future Perfect Singular Plural
1st Person I will have walked/drawn we will have walked/drawn 2nd Person you will have walked/drawn you will have walked/drawn 3rd Person he/she/it will have walked/drawn they will have walked/drawn
Progressive tenses show continuing action.
Present ProgressiveSingular Plural
1st Person I am walking/drawing we are walking/drawing 2nd Person you are walking/drawing you are walking/drawing 3rd Person he/she/it is walking/drawing they are walking/drawing
Past Progressive Singular Plural
1st Person I was walking/drawing we were walking/drawing 2nd Person you were walking/drawing you were walking/drawing 3rd Person he/she/it was walking/drawing they were walking/drawing
Future Progressive Singular Plural
1st Person I will be walking/drawing we will be walking/drawing 2nd Person you will be walking/drawing you will be walking/drawing 3rd Person he/she/it will be walking/drawing they will be walking/drawing
Phrases and Clauses
A phrase is a group of words that acts as a single part of speech. A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a verb.
There are several types of phrases. example:
Sally, an excellent singer, will be singing the main part in the musical.
In this sentence, one phrase is will be singing. This is a verb phrase that functions as a verb.
The example sentence also has two other phrases in it. It has an appositive phrase. An appositive is a word that gives added information about a noun. An appositive phrase is an appositive plus modifiers. Can you see that the appositive phrase in the example sentence is an excellent singer?
*Punctuation note:If an appositive or appositive phrase gives information necessary to understanding the sentence, no commas are needed. If an appositive or appositive phrase gives extra, unnecessary information, set it apart with commas.
Finally, the example sentence has a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase is a group of words that begins with a preposition. A prepositional phrase can act as an adjective or adverb. In the example sentence, the prepositional phrase in the musical acts as an adjective modifying the noun part. It answers the question which part?
There are two kinds of clauses.
Independent Clause — This clause can also be a sentence. examples:
John, a boy in sixth grade, runs very fast around the track.
* Punctuation note: Use a comma before a coordinating conjunction (and, but, or, nor, for, so, yet) that joins two independent clauses.
Dependent Clause — This clause has a subject and a verb, but it cannot stand alone as a sentence. A dependent clause will begin with a subordinating conjunction, such as if, when, that, unless. They make the clause they are added to less important than an independent clause. The dependent clause depends on an independent clause for its meaning.
I will go outside if the rain ever stops falling.
After the teacher graded the tests, she reported the results to the class.
* Punctuation note: If a dependent clause comes at the beginning of the sentence, use a comma after the clause (like in the second sentence above). Do not use a comma if the dependent clause comes at the end of a sentence (like in the first sentence above).
(1) I always take along a swimming suit. (2) When I go to my Aunt Carolyn's house. (3) She has a swimming pool in her own backyard.
Which one of these is a dependent clause and, therefore, not a complete sentence? Sentence (2) is a dependent clause that begins with a subordinating conjunction.
Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers
A modifier describes, clarifies, gives more detail, and adds to or sets limits on a certain word or word group. It is important to place modifiers in their proper place within sentences in order to avoid confusion about who or what is being modified.
A misplaced modifier doesn't modify the word it is trying to modify, and this can confuse the reader. example:
When I was at the market yesterday, I only browsed the movies. Because of the word only, this sentence can be read three different ways:
1. Did you only look at the movies and not buy any? 2. Did you only look at the movies and nothing else? 3. Were you the only one who looked at the movies?
The way to clear this up is to move the placement of the word only so that it looks like this: When I was at the market yesterday, I browsed only the movies.
Now, the sentence means you looked at the movies and nothing else, and it is clearer to you and your readers.
Another example of a problem with modifiers is the dangling modifier. When you start a sentence with a dangling modifier that doesn't state the person, thing, or idea being modified, your readers will think that the modifier is meant for the subject of the clause that follows the modifying phrase.
Rushing to get home before the rain started, her car almost ran over a dog.
The sentence seems correct, but the car can't actually hit anything without the driver who drives it. A better way to state the sentence would be like this:
Fragments, Run-Ons, and Comma SplicesTo be a good writer, express your thoughts with clear and complete sentences. Sometimes writers break a thought into too many parts. This causes incomplete sentences, or fragments. Other times, writers will string too many clauses together within a sentence. This can make writing difficult for the reader to understand.
A run-on sentence (also called a fused sentence) is when two sentences are joined together without a word to connect them or punctuation to separate them.
On Saturday, Bill went to the baseball game unfortunately rain delayed the game for three hours. Correction:
On Saturday, Bill went to the ball game. Unfortunately, rain delayed the game for three hours.
A comma splice occurs when you include the comma between two independent clauses without a conjunction. There are different ways to correct this. You could include a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) when joining two main clauses with a comma. If you'd rather not use a
conjunction, eliminate the comma and use a semicolon. You could also make the independent clauses separate sentences.
Luz and Domino walked to school, they were still early. Correction:
Luz and Domino walked to school, and they were still early. Correction:
Luz and Domino walked to school; they were still early. Correction:
Luz and Domino walked to school. They were still early.
A fragment is an incomplete sentence. It is often created when a writer incorrectly breaks a sentence in two. Using end punctuation and capitalization carefully will help you avoid sentence fragments. Fragment:
Please keep trying. Until you succeed. Correction:
Dad tried to return the pink-elephant suitcase that my little sister got him. Even though he had no receipt.
Dad tried to return the pink-elephant suitcase that my little sister got him even though he had no receipt.
Subjects and verbs must agree with one another in number. In the present tense, a
singular subject takes a singular verb, and a plural subject takes a plural verb. Below is a list of common subject-verb agreement rules.
Singular verbs end in
Unlike nouns, the plural form of a verb is not made by adding an -s (or -es) to the ending. It's actually the opposite. For present-tense verbs, adding the -s to the end makes it singular. If the verb is plural, there is no -s ending used.
The pilot flies the airplane. The cloud drifts through the air. Plural Verbs
The pilots fly the airplane. The clouds drift through the air.
Compound subjects with
take a plural verb.
A subject that is made up of two or more nouns is a compound subject. When the parts are connected by and, the subject is plural, so it takes a plural verb.
The boyand his companion walk along the pier.
The athlete, the agent, and the owner agree to the terms.
Subjects with singular nouns joined by
take a singular
Either the dogor the cat goes to the vet today. Neither the hikernor the mountaineer needs a map.
Subjects with a singular noun and a plural noun joined by
take the verb that agrees with the closer noun.
Tedor his parents walk the dog daily.
Neither the sailorsnor their captain enjoys a harsh storm.
Subjects are not in modifying phrases.
When the subject and the verb are separated by other words or phrases, make sure the verb agrees with the subject, not with a noun within the phrase.
Oneof the packetscontains a surprise.
The peoplealong the boardwalkwatch the tourists. The manwith all the dogswalks about dizzily.
Don't let those phrases fool you.
Phrases using with, together with, including, accompanied by, in addition to, or as well do not change whether a subject is singular or plural. If the subject is singular, the verb should be as well.
The young cadet, accompanied by his leader, runs to the rescue. The sea captain, as well as his sailors, is hungry for adventure.
Nouns with a plural form but with a singular meaning take
Nouns such as United States, civics, mathematics, measles, and news take singular verbs. The United States contains many people.
Nouns such as
These nouns may appear to have a singular meaning, but each of these things is made up of two parts. Trousers make the man.
Tweezers are nifty tools.
take singular verbs.
A collective noun has a singular form even though it refers to a group of individuals or things. Examples include army, audience, crowd, group, team, committee, class, and family. These nouns take a singular verb when the group acts as one unit.
The team runs around the track after practice. The committee elects new members.
The family goes to the park.
However, a plural verb is used when people or things within a group act separately. The retired group have gone their separate ways.
The class disagree on which method is best.
If the subject follows the verb, the subject and verb should still
When the normal subject-verb order is inverted in a sentence, the verb still agrees with the subject. For example, in sentences beginning with there or here, the subject follows the verb. Since neither there nor here is ever the subject of a sentence, the verb agrees with the noun that follows the verb.
Thereare clues to be found. Hereis your snack.
With words that indicate portions, look to the object of the
With words that indicate portions—percent, fraction, part, majority, some, all, none, remainder, and so forth—look at the object of the preposition (the noun following the of phrase) to determine whether to use a singular or plural verb. If the object of the preposition is singular, use a singular verb. If the object of the preposition is plural, use a plural verb.
Three-fourths of the pizza has been eaten.