There are hundreds of grammar rules but the basics refer to sentence structure and parts of speech, which are noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, preposition and conjunction. Let’s look at the way sentences are put together and the words that form them.
Basic English Grammar Rules
Some of the most basic and important English grammar rules relate directly to sentence structure. These rules specify that:
- A singular subject needs a singular predicate.
- A sentence needs to express a complete thought.
Another term for a sentence is an independent clause:
- Clauses, like any sentence, have a subject and predicate too. If a group of words does not have a subject and predicate, it is a phrase.
- If a clause can stand alone and make a complete thought, then it is independent and can be called a sentence.
- If clauses do not express a complete thought, they are called dependent clauses. An example of a dependent clause, which is not a sentence, is “when I finish my work.” A dependent clause needs an independent clause to make it whole.
So, what are the other basic rules for sentence structure?
Subjects and Predicates
Basic to any language is the sentence, which expresses a complete thought and consists of a subject and a predicate.
- The subject is the star of the sentence; the person, animal, or thing that is the focus of it.
- The predicate will tell the action that the subject is taking or tell something about the subject.
Basic Parts of Speech
Once you have a general idea of the basic grammar rules for sentence structure, it is also helpful to learn about the parts of speech:
- A noun names a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, activity, or feeling. A noun can be singular, plural, or possessive.
- A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun, like “I”, “you”, or “they.”
- A verb shows action and can be a main verb or a helping verb, like “were” or “has.” Verbs also indicate tense and sometimes change their form to show past, present, or future tense. Linking verbs link the subject to the rest of the sentence and examples are: “appear” and “seem.”
- An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun. It adds meaning by telling which one, what kind, or describing it in other ways.
- An adverb will modify a verb and tell more about it, like how much, when, where, why, or how.
- A preposition shows a relationship between nouns or pronouns. It is often used with a noun to show location, like “beside,” “in,” or “on”. It can also show time, direction, motion, manner, reason, or possession.
- Conjunctions connect two words, phrases, or clauses. Common conjunctions are “and”, “but”, and “or.”
Mention needs to be made about other types of words that are considered by some to be parts of speech.
- One of them is the interjection. It shows emotion and examples are “hurray”, “uh-oh”, and “alas.”
- Articles are very useful little words. Indefinite articles are “a” and “an” and “the” is a definite article.
To fully understand basic grammar rules, you also need to look at punctuation rules.
- Capitalization is important. All sentences must start with a capital, or upper-case, letter. Titles of people, books, magazines, movies, specific places, etc. are capitalized. Organizations and compass points are capitalized.
- Every sentence needs a punctuation mark at the end of it. These include a period, exclamation mark, or question mark.
- Colons are used to separate a sentence from a list of items, to introduce a long, direct quote, or between two sentences (or clauses) when the second one explains the first.
- Semicolons can take the place of a conjunction and are placed before introductory words like “therefore” or “however.” They are also used to separate a list of things if there are commas within each unit.
- There are a lot of rules for commas. The basic ones are that commas separate things in a series and go wherever there is a pause in the sentence. They surround the name of a person being addressed, separate the day of the month from the year in a date, and separate a town from the state.
- Parentheses enclose things that clarify or numbers and letters that are part of a list.
- Apostrophes are used in contractions to take the place of one or more letters and also to show possession. An apostrophe and “s” is added if the noun is singular and an apostrophe alone is added if the noun is plural.
So, now you have some basic grammar rules under your belt you'll be well on your way to becoming a grammar expert. For a little fun, try out your new-found knowledge in our quick quiz Could You Pass a Basic English Grammar Test?