Despite its vast and universal use, English grammar rules are still misunderstood by many people. It is understandable that grammar rules are not easy to master. Many words and phrases that may sound correct in your head may appear gibberish when you transfer your thoughts onto the paper. It is common for most people to overlook some fundamental parts of speech and drift away from grammar rules related to verbs, homonyms, punctuation, and conjunctions particularly when self-editing. Here are some easy ways to learn and remember the most important grammar rules that will help you make your writing more effective.
Past vs Present
Simple past and present tenses are the basic parts of speech; however, most of the English learners usually get confused about their correct use, which makes it essential to understand the difference between them. Initially, you must understand that the present tense is always in a sentence where it is not necessary to specify the exact time of a verb. On the other hand, it is necessary to use the simple past tense in a sentence where the time or place of occurrence of a verb is provided or required. Here is an example of two sentences which will further help you understand the correct usage of simple past vs. present:
I have seen the show.
I saw the show yesterday.
You can easily identify the difference between the above two sentences. The present perfect tense is used in the first sentence whereas simple past tense is used in the second sentence. “I have seen the show” and “I saw the show yesterday” both of the sentences talk about a verb which took place in the past; however, there is one significant difference between the two sentences. I have seen the show represents that you saw the show at an unspecified time in the past. Whereas, I saw the show yesterday, represents that you saw the show at a particular time in the past. You should use the past tense in your sentences when you talk about a verb that occurred at a specific time. For example, I visited my grandmother last week. The adverb ‘last week’ is not necessary; however, it surely helps to elude the fact that the verb occurred at a particular time.
A homonym is a word that is pronounced the same as another word with a different meaning. A simple example of a homonym is the word bat, which can mean a sports object used to hit the ball and a flying mammal. There are two types of homonyms, which are homographs and homophones. Homographs are the words with the same spelling but different pronunciation whereas homophones are the words with a different spelling but same pronunciations. Most of the people make mistakes in using following common homonyms:
“It’s” vs “Its”
Using the incorrect form of “it’s” and “its” is one of the most common pet peeves of grammar rules. “It’s” is the contraction of “it is” or “it has”. The basic grammar rule for the use of “it’s” and “its” is actually very simple. If you mean to write “it is” or “it has” then you should use “it’s” and for everything else you should use “its”. Here are some examples for you to further understand the correct use of it’s:
It’s time for dinner.
In the above sentence, “it’s” actually means “it is time for dinner.”
It’s been a really long time.
In the above sentence, “it’s” is used as a contract for “it has been a really long time.”
“Its” is the other form that has no apostrophe. It is used as the possessive determiner to designate things. Here are some examples for you to further understand the correct use of “its:”
My dog hurt its leg.
The company awarded its employees.
Now if you try to replace “its” with “it is” or “it has” in the above sentences, they will not make any sense. Therefore, during writing whenever you feel confused about whether to use “it’s” or “its”, try reading the sentence without contraction. If the sentence makes sense use “it’s” otherwise use “its.”
Their,” and “They’re”
The word “there” is used when you need to talk about a place. “There” is used for all kinds of places such as actual places and imaginary places.
Here are some example sentences to understand the use of “there:”
I used to live there.
Can I get a bus from there?
The word “
Members have presented their views.
Their bags were stolen.
“They’re” is simply the contraction of “they are”. Here are some example sentences to understand its use:
They’re the best parents.
They’re even better than I imagined.
The most commonly used punctuation marks in English grammar are capital letters, commas, periods, question marks, and exclamation marks. When we speak, we tend to use the pitch of our voice and pauses in between our speech to make an emphasis. In writing, this role is played by punctuation to make the reader understand the expression of the text. Punctuation entails some basic grammar rules that a writer needs to follow.
The most common punctuation rule is the use of capital letters to mark the start of a sentence. Moreover, capital letters are used as the first letter of a proper noun. Proper nouns include personal names as well as titles before names, languages, national holidays, the name of days, months, and places. Capital letters are also used for book titles, the name of magazines and newspapers, TV shows, and movies. Here are some examples for use of capital letters:
Julia Green met Dr. Oliver Francis on the last Saturday of October.
Periods are used to mark the ending of a sentence in addition to being used after the initials of peoples names. For instance:
The author of this book is A. Z. Justin.
The question mark is used to mark the end of a question instead of a period. For instance:
Are you feeling alright?
Exclamation marks are used to represent expression in informal writing. For example:
Hooray! It’s going to snow.
Commas are used to separate lists of similar words or phrases. Commas are also used to mark a slight pause between two phrases. For example:
They served cookies, chips, cake, and coffee at the party.
We had in fact, considered every possibility to get there.
Conjunctions are a basic part of speech that connects different words or groups of words. Conjunctions help in making complex sentences. You need to ensure that the phrases connected through conjunctions share the same structure. For example:
I would love to join, but I really have to leave now.
Coordination conjunctions are used to the join the phrases which have a similar grammatical position within a sentence. Some of the most commonly used coordinating conjunctions are “And”, “For”, “But”, “Or”, and, “So.” “But” is coordinating conjunction which should be used in a sentence consisting the main idea and a contrasting idea. For example:
I like watching movies, but I don’t like going to theatres.
I want my fish well-cooked and crispy.
I needed a quiet place to study, so I went to the library.
Subordinating conjunctions are used to connect the subordinating part of a sentence to the main part. This means that instead of two similar parts, only one part of the sentence is considered the main part. Some of the commonly used subordinating conjunctions are “If”, “Because”, “Though”, “Although”, “Until”, “Even”, and “After.” Though and although are the examples of subordinating conjunctions which connects a main part of the sentence to its contrasting subordinating part. These subordinating conjunction can also be used to start a sentence. For example:
Although he is well-educated, he has a conservative opinion about women.
She seemed confused on stage though she tried well to hide it.
Adverbs are another basic part of speech that is used to describe the verb. Adverbs tend to add some detail about the verb. For example:
My dog barks loudly. Loudly is the adverb that defines how the dog barks.
He walks slowly.
Adverbs usually seem to explain how an action is done. Some adverbs are used to modify an adjective, expressing a place, time, circumstance, manner, cause or degree. Some common adverbs that modify an adjective are “Well”, “Totally”, “Quite”, “Fairly”, “Really”, and “Very.” These adverbs are mostly used before the adjectives in a sentence. For example:
The weather is very cold these days.
She was really upset.
If there is an object in the sentence, then the adverb is used after the verb and the object. For example:
I placed the dishes carefully in the dishwasher.
These are some basic grammar rules that will help you avoid some of the most common mistakes people usually make while writing. You should keep practicing these basic grammar rules on a regular basis to become proficient in using English grammar.