“When I read some of the rules for speaking and writing the English language correctly, I think any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it," Henry David Thoreau once deprecatingly quipped of his native language. While this may sound depressing for learners of elementary English grammar rules, take comfort in the fact that English is a flexible language. Learning the basic rules is crucial, but even with just the basics you can form sentences and get your meaning across.
Memorize the seven parts of speech. English classifies all of its words into seven categories: noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb, article, preposition, conjunction. Each type performs a different function. For example, a noun describes a person, place or thing, while a verb indicates something being done. The classification of a word can depend on its location in a sentence, which means its relation to the words around it. The word "capture," for instance, denotes action when preceded by a noun, such as "they." When it comes in front of a noun, as in "the captured flag," it works like an adjective, because it gives more detail about the noun, which is the function of an adjective.
Order words into sentences. An elementary English sentence begins with a noun ("they"), followed by a verb ("capture"). Next, you could place another noun, such as "the flag." You can also insert phrases to add more information to your sentence using prepositions, like "with." For example, adding "with great gusto" describes how the flag was captured. You can join another idea to sentence with a conjunction such as "and": "They captured the flag with great gusto and won the game."
Punctuate your sentences for clarity. Periods, commas, apostrophes and question marks comprise basic English punctuations. These small characters inform readers when to stop, pause or question; they can also indicate possession. In "They captured the other team's flag," the apostrophe (') indicates that the flag belongs to the team. Sentences that begin with "What" or "Who," for example, require a question mark at the end; while a comma, like the ones in this sentence, separate related ideas that would sound too jumbled without pauses. A period ends a sentence completely.
Learn the exceptions to English grammar rules. For example, many verbs follow the same pattern of conjugation: "walk," "walked," and "have walked." But an irregular verb, such as "to go," can be confusing. "To go" conjugates as follows: "go," "went" and "have gone." Making nouns plural can be confusing too. While typically you just add "s" ("flags"), some nouns take odd endings, such as "bunny," which becomes "bunnies," and "ox" which becomes "oxen." And some nouns retain the same spelling while plural, such as "deer."
A basic grammar handbook can help you learn the elementary rules of English grammar. You'll want to practice speaking sentences out loud using proper grammar, however.
- A basic grammar handbook can help you learn the elementary rules of English grammar. You'll want to practice speaking sentences out loud using proper grammar, however.
Nadine Smith has been writing since 2010. She teaches college writing and ESL courses and has several years experience tutoring all ages in English, ESL and literature. Nadine holds a Master of Arts in English language and literature from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, where she led seminars as a teaching assistant.