Verbs in Past Time When using verbs in past time, do not use a helper verb with the past form; however, use a helper verb with the past participle. This rule applies to all verbs, but focus on irregular verbs as their past tense and past participle forms are different from each other. For example: Mary took the lead after Bob had spoken about the issues.
Verbs are regular or irregular. Verbs are categorized as regular or irregular based on how their past parts are formed. When using regular verbs in past time, add –ed to the base to form the past and past participle; all verbs formed differently are considered irregular. For example: BasePastPast Participle walkwalkedhad walked (regular) speakspokehad spoken (irregular) writewrotehad written (regular)
Third Person Singular: The –S Form In simple present tense, apply the –s form correctly to third person singular verbs. For example: Marty buys a paper every day as he walks to the train station. Can you think of a few more examples?
Use Verb Tense Consistently Keep verbs in a consistent tense; in other words, do not shift verb tense unnecessarily. For example: Incorrect:Alisha says that they went to the meeting at 11 a.m. Revised: Alisha said that they went to the meeting at 11 a.m. Can you think of more examples?
Section B: Pronoun Basics A pronoun is a word that is used in place of a noun or another pronoun. For example: Tony walked Tony’s dog to Tony’s grandmother’s house in Tony’s neighborhood. Tony walked his dog to his grandmother’s house in his neighborhood.
Case and Point of View Pronouns have cases rather than tenses. The basic pronoun cases are: Subjective Objective Possessive Reflexive
Pronoun Case Pronoun case is determined by the pronoun’s function in a sentence. Subjective case pronouns function as subjects of verbs. Objective case pronouns function as objects. Possessive case pronouns show possession. Reflexive case pronouns reflect back to subjective case pronouns.
Pronouns and their Antecedents Pronouns must agree with their antecedents. Antecedents are words to which a pronoun refers. In the following example, managers is the antecedent of they and their: All managers said that they would submit their monthly progress reports on time.
Pronoun Viewpoint Pronouns must have a consistent point of view (or viewpoint). Viewpoint emanates from a subjective case pronoun. When a writer establishes a point of view, the point of view should remain consistent. For example: Incorrect: I like to jog because it’s good for you. Revised:I like to jog because it’s good for me.
Pronouns and Gender Bias When speaking from a point of view, do not express gender bias; keep your writing gender neutral. To make your writing flow better, take out pronoun references when writing from a singular perspective. For example: A manager should give his or her employees opportunities to share responsibility. Revised:A manager should give employees opportunities to share responsibility.
When possible, write from a plural perspective. For example: We should give our employees opportunities to share responsibility. Use the “you” point of view to communicate directly and personally to your readers. For example: (You) Give your employees opportunities to share responsibility.
Section C: Parallel Structure Parallel structure: Relates to putting similar sentence elements in the same form. Creates flow and consistency. Makes your writing readable and your ideas stand out.
Parallelism: Words Present lists of items in the same grammatical form. Incorrect: Charley’s favorite activities are golfing, to fish, and going swimming. Revised: Charley’s favorite activities are golfing, fishing, and swimming. Revised: Charley’s favorite activities are to golf, fish, and swim.
Parallelism: Phrases When related phrases appear, they should be put in the same form. Incorrect: Meeting activities included screening new applicants and a review of department policies. Revised: Meeting activities included screening new applicants and reviewing department policies.
Parallelism: Clauses Sentences often consist of two or more clauses: focus on focus on keeping the verbs in the same tense and voice. Incorrect: He caught the flight to Denver, but then his flight to Dallas was missed. Revised: He caught the flight to Denver, but then he missed his flight to Dallas.
Correlative Conjunctions Correlative conjunctions come in pairs: not... but not only... but also either... or neither... nor both... and Incorrect: We will not only trade for your account but also are providing monthly reports. Parallel: We not only will trade for your account but also will provide monthly reports.
Section D: Using Modifiers Effectively A modifier is a word or group of words that describes a noun or a verb. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. Adverbs (which often end in ly) modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
Modifiers for Action and State of Being Modify nouns and pronouns with adjectives; modify verbs with adverbs. Here are examples of adjectives modifying nouns: The new conference room has pretty, comfortable chairs. Here are examples of adverbs modifying verbs: The computer runs well. Go forward cautiously forward.
Using Comparative and Superlative Degrees to Compare When using adjectives or adverbs to compare, use a prefix OR a suffix to show the degree of comparison (but do not use both). When you compare two items, use the comparative form of the modifier by adding the suffix –er or by prefixing more or less. When comparing three or more items, use the superlative form of the modifier by adding the suffix –est or by prefixing most or least.
Here are some examples: Incorrect:The project is going more better today than yesterday. Correct:The project is going better today than yesterday. Incorrect:I am more hungrier than I thought I was. Correct:I am hungrier than I thought I was. Correct:I am more hungry than I thought I was. Can you think of a few more examples?
Place Modifiers Close to the Word or Words They Modify Placing modifiers close to the word or words they modify keeps meaning clear. Confusing: The applicant was the best candidate arriving late to the interview. Clear: The applicant arriving late to the interview was the best candidate. Can you think of more examples?
Remember, the best way to improve your grammar skills is to identify your own language patterns that are different from Standard English. Once you identify a pattern, come up with some examples, translate them into Standard English, and repeat the Standard phrase until you feel comfortable. Improving language skills is mostly a matter of focused practice... but when you change one pattern, you eliminate a whole series of errors!
Work through the following chapters in your Writer’s Handbook: Verbs Pronouns Modifiers