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Grammar Basics

By Judy Vorfeld


  • Adjectives are mod­i­fiers. They describe nouns and spec­ify size, color, num­ber, etc., e.g., The small “x” in the upper cor­ner of the win­dow is used to exit your file.

  • Adverbs describe verbs, adjec­tives & other adverbs, e.g., The exhausted sec­re­tary screamed loudly as her mon­i­tor flick­ered slowly, then died.

  • Alliteration can give a pleas­ing sound to a sen­tence, as long as it’s not over­done, e.g., World Wide Web … smelly, slimy SCSI … res­o­nant ring­ing. Here’s the def­i­n­i­tion of “allit­er­a­tion”: the rep­e­ti­tion of usu­ally ini­tial con­so­nant sounds in two or more neigh­bor­ing words or syl­la­bles (as wild and woolly, threat­en­ing throngs) — called also head rhyme, ini­tial rhyme. *By per­mis­sion. From Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate® Dictionary at www.m-w.com by Merriam-Webster, Incorporated.

  • Clauses are groups of words with a sub­ject and pred­i­cate. A main clause stands alone as a sen­tence; a sub­or­di­nate clause is incom­plete and is used with a main clause to express an idea. Main:I like play­ing Tetris, Subordinate: when I have time.

  • Compound nouns usu­ally form the plural by plu­ral­iz­ing the fun­da­men­tal part of the word, e.g., attor­neys gen­eral; spelling matches; vice presidents.

  • Conjunctions join words, phrases or clauses. Coordinating con­junc­tions: and, but, for, or, nor, either, nei­ther, yet, so, so that. (Yet & so are also used as adverbs.) Subordinating con­junc­tions join two clauses (main and dependent/subordinate): although, because, since, until, while, etc.

  • Metaphors sug­gest com­par­i­son between two dif­fer­ent things, e.g., Bill Gates has a heart of gold … His mind is a sharp razor.

  • Noun  The name of a per­son, place, thing, qual­ity or action. Secretary, desk, com­puter, Redmond, tech­nol­ogy, frus­tra­tion.

  • Phrases are closely related words with no sub­ject or pred­i­cate, and may be used as nouns, verbs, adjec­tives, or adverbs, e.g., Waiting for Technical Support has kept me at my desk all after­noon (noun). The typ­ing could have been done ear­lier (verb). The per­son with the bleary eyes is a com­puter nerd (adjec­tive). Buy mem­ory chips now, since the price will go up soon (adverb).

  • Predicates are one of two main com­po­nents of a sen­tence. They are verbs and the words used to explain the action or con­di­tion. They always agree with the Subject, e.g., Choosing the right ISP can be a dif­fi­cult process.

  • Prepositions show how nouns or pro­nouns relate to other words in a sen­tence, e.g., Little Susie rolled the $800 CD-ROM into the bath­room; her mother hid behind the shower curtain.

  • Pronouns are sub­sti­tutes for nouns, e.g., Judy sat at her com­puter and opened WordPerfect. Suddenly, her mind went blank, so she con­tacted the WordPerfect guru.

  • Proper nouns form their plu­rals by adding s to the sin­gu­lar or es if the word ends in s, z, ch, sh, or zh, e.g., the Carolinas, Robinsons, Piersons, Judys, Joneses, Savages, Morrises.

  • Similes show a sim­i­lar­ity between two things, using “like.” Bill Prowell has a mind like a razor … After six hours at the com­puter, her eye­lids felt like lead weights.

  • Subjects, one of two main com­po­nents of a sen­tence, are nouns, pro­nouns, or phrases used as nouns, e.g., Choosing the right ISP can be a dif­fi­cult process.

  • Verbs make things hap­pen, show action or state of being & also indi­cate time of action or being, e.g., Jeff’s son waved good­bye to the com­puter repair­man (past). I need to shut down Windows (present). You will enjoy learn­ing HTML (future).

  • Voice. Active is prefer­able to pas­sive to cre­ate action and inter­est. Sometimes, in cer­tain types of doc­u­ments, pas­sive voice is pre­ferred, e.g., Connie typed the let­ter (active). The let­ter was typed by Connie (passive).

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