Essential Grammar Terms Explained

Have you ever gotten a phrase and a clause confused? Could you define a gerund or a participle? Despite using the English language every day, many English speakers have a hard time figuring out the difference between important grammar concepts. Keep reading for definitions and examples of essential grammar terms that may help you vary your writing.

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Grammar Terms Explained

When you understand the basic elements of grammar, you can write more confidently. It helps you ensure that your writing does not contain grammatical errors and makes your writing more interesting to read. In order to understand essential grammar terms, you’ll need to know the parts of speech, parts of a sentence, and types of sentences in the English language.

Parts of Speech

There are eight parts of speech that you can use to create a sentence. Each part of speech works with the others to complete full thoughts and statements. For example, here is a sentence to start:

My brother went to the store across the street.

Let’s look at the sentence again with each part of speech in mind. There are different types of each of these concepts, but it’s good to know the basics first. Here are the eight parts of speech that you need to understand:

  • Noun – The person, place, thing, or idea in the sentence.
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Verb – The action word in the sentence.
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Adjective – The describing word in the sentence that modifies the noun.
    Example:
    My brother went to the grocery store across the street.

  • Adverb – The describing word in the sentence that modifies the verb.
    Example:
    My brother quickly went to the store across the street.

  • Pronoun – A small word that replaces a noun in the sentence.
    Example:
    He went to the store across the street.

  • Preposition – A word that describes a noun’s location.
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Conjunction – A word that connects two words or ideas.
    Example: My brother went to the store across the street and bought some gum.

  • Article – A short word (the, an, and a) that determines which noun you are speaking about in the sentence. 
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

Parts of a Sentence

Now that you know the parts of speech, you’ll need to know where to put them. Syntax is an important way to convey meaning and to ensure understanding. Without it, the intent of your communication may be misunderstood.

See if you’re familiar with these parts of a sentence:

  • Subject – The noun that the sentence is about, and that performs the action in the sentence
    Example: My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Predicate – The part of the sentence that explains more about the subject
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Direct Object – The noun that receives the action from the verb in a sentence.
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Indirect Object – The noun that receives the secondary effect from the verb in a sentence.
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Clause – A group of words that conveys a complete thought with a noun and a verb.
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Phrase – A group of words that doesn’t convey a complete thought and is missing either a noun or a verb.
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

Sentence Types

You’ve got the right parts of speech and the proper syntax for your sentence. But what message are you trying to send with that sentence? Check out the four different types of sentences to make sure you’re saying what you want to say:

  • Declarative – A sentence that makes a statement to relay information.
    Example:
    My brother went to the store across the street.

  • Interrogative – A sentence that wants to find information by asking a question.
    Example: Did my brother go to the store across the street?

  • Imperative – A sentence that requests or commands the listener to complete an action.
    Example: Please go to the store across the street.

  • Exclamatory – A sentence that expresses strong emotion, either positively or negatively.
    Example: I asked you to go to the store across the street an hour ago!

Other Essential Grammar Terms

Now that you know the basics, check out some additional grammar terms. These are on the trickier side, but once you understand them, your writing will be as clear as day. More essential grammar terms include:

  • Verbals – Verbs that function as other parts of speech. These include gerunds (-ing verbs functioning as nouns), participles (verbs functioning as adjectives), and infinitives (verbs that start with to and function as nouns, adverbs, or adjectives).

  • Active voice – A syntax style that positions the subject before the verb, making it clear that the subject is performing the action in the sentence

  • Passive voice – A syntax style that puts the verb before the noun, making the noun the receiver of the action and removing the subject of the sentence

  • Subject-verb agreement – A state in which the sentence’s verb correctly reflects whether its subject is singular or plural

Is Punctuation a Grammar Concept?

Even though punctuation is necessary for a grammatically correct written sentence, punctuation is a writing convention, not a grammar concept. That’s because grammar rules exist in both written and spoken forms, while punctuation exists only in the written form. You use inflection to convey meaning in a spoken sentence rather than a period, comma, or question mark.

Proper Grammar Helps You Communicate

Grammar is a vehicle that carries your ideas. Learning the essential concepts of grammar can help you write and speak more clearly. For more tips on fixing your grammar, check out these 11 grammar rules that can clear up any unnecessary communication errors.

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