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Dictionary of Grammar/Writing Terms You Might Need to Know

A*Active Voice: where the subject of the sentence performs or causes the action expressed by the verb.
Contrast this with the Passive Voice, where in a sentence the subject receives the action of the verb. The agent performing
the action may appear in a by phrase or it may be omitted.
Jeanie made my shirt. (active)
This shirt was made in China. (passivethe person is implied, so the by phrase is omitted)
*Adjective: the part of speech that modifies a noun or pronoun.
The big fish swam ashore.
The chair is wet.
*Adverb formed by adding -ly to an adjective. The adverb softly comes from the adjective soft. However, not all adverbs
end in -ly.
He swam quickly.
I rarely eat beef.
Very, quite, always, almost, and often are some of the common adverbs that are not formed from adjectives.
Always, sometimes, often, rarely, and never are called Adverbs of Frequency.
Some adjectives end in ly: elderly, daily, friendly, lovely, likely.
*Adverb Clause: iis a dependent clause that functions as an adverb. It contains a subject, predicate and modifies a verb. It
cannot stand alone.
When I was 10, I went to the park alone.
*Articles: include a, an (definite), and the (definite). They precede a noun or a noun phrase in a sentence.
*Auxiliary Verb (or Helping Verb): determines the mood, tense, or aspect of another verb in the phrase. The primary
auxiliaries are be, have, and do.
I did not do my work last night.
I am going to school now.
C*Clause: a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate.
A clause may be a sentence (or independent clause) or a sentence-like construction included within another sentence
(dependent clause).
I like coffee (=independent clause) when its made correctly. (dependent clause)
*Complex Sentence: A sentence that contains at least one independent clause and one dependent clause
She came late (independent clause) because her car broke down. (dependent clause-- it cant stand alone)
*Comma Splice (see Run-on Sentence): when two independent clauses are connected by only a comma, this is a type of
run-on sentence.
I like biking, I do it often.
*Compound Sentence: a sentence that contains at least two independent clauses often joined by a conjunction.
I like tea, so I drink it often.
He couldnt write well, but he could speak fluently.
*Conditional Sentences (or Clauses): Three types: I, II, III
Type I (true in the present/future): If I have enough time, I watch TV. If I have enough time, I will watch TV.
Type II (untrue in the present/future): If I had enough time, I would watch TV. If I were you, I would do that.
Type III (untrue in the past): If I had had enough time, I would have watched TV yesterday.
*Conjunction: a word that joins two independent clauses or sentences together.
*Coordinating Conjunctions: (remember FANBOYS= For, And, But, Or, Yet, So) a word that joins two similarly
constructed and/or equal words or phrases or clauses within a sentence (see compound sentence).
*Count Nouns: nouns that can be counted. Therefore, they can be made plural. Sometimes a noun and can be both count
and non-count.
Pens, pencils, chairs, tables (count)
Chickens (can be count and non-count).
I bought two chickens (count) vs. I ate some chicken (non-count)
*Contractions: a word or phrase that has been shortened, mostly in speech, by dropping one more letters. In writing an
apostrophe () takes the place of the missing letter.
Its a beautiful day today.
Im not going to be at the meeting tonight.
D*Dependent Clause: a group of words that begins with a relative pronoun or a subordinating conjunction. A dependent
clause that has both a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a sentence. Also known as a subordinate clause.
*Direct Object: a noun or pronoun that receives the action of a transitive verb.

Give the book (direct object) to your sister (indirect object).

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F*Fragments: are incomplete sentences. Usually, fragments are pieces of sentences that have become disconnected from
the main clause.
Down the street.
Because its late.
G*Gerunds: verbals that end in ing and function as nouns. They can be in the subject or object position.
Swimming is good for your body.
I love skiing and biking.
I*Imperative Sentence: a sentence that gives advice or instructions, expresses a request of a command.
Give me the pen.
Clean up after yourself.
*Independent Clause (also known as a Main Clause): a group of words made up of a subject and a predicate. It can stand
on its own.
I like you.
Dont bring your boots in the house.
*Infinitive: a verbal consisting of the word to + a verb (in its simplest stem form) and functioning as a noun, adjective,
or adverb.
To wait seemed foolish (functioning as the subject)
He wanted to leave (functioning as the direct object)
He lacked the motivation to continue (functioning as an adjective)
We must study to learn (functioning as an adverb)
*Intransitive Verb (contrast with Transitive): a verb that does not take a direct object or complement.
The accident happened at the corner (no object follows, but there can be a prepositional phrase)
We laughed.
M*Main Clause= Independent Clause
*Modals: a modal verb (also called modal, modal auxiliary verb, modal auxiliary) is a type of auxiliary verb that is used to
indicate likelihood, ability, permission, obligation. Modals are can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, ought to,
had better, be supposed to, have to, have got to, be going to, be able to, use to.
I can come to your house tonight.
N*Noun: the part of speech that is used to name a person, place, thing. In a sentence, nouns answer the questions who and
what. Most nouns have both a singular and plural form, can be preceded by an article and/or adjectives.
*Non-Count Noun (or Mass Noun): a noun that is used only in the singular form and is sometimes the name of a group of
things (money, furniture) . Many abstract nouns are non-count; however, not all non-count nouns are abstract.
Love, Education, Food, Homework
*Noun Clause: a dependent clause that functions as a noun within a sentence. Two common types of noun clauses in
English are that-clauses and wh-clauses.
I believe that everything happens for a reason.
I dont know what time it is.
O*Object: a word or group of words that function as a noun or a pronoun and that is influenced by a verb (direct object) a
verbal (indirect object) or a preposition (or prepositional phrase).

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P*Participles: a participle is a verbal that is used as an adjective and most often ends in -ing or -ed.
There are two types of participles: present participles and past participles. Present participles end in -ing.
Past participles end in -ed, -en, -d, -t, -n, or -ne as in the words asked, eaten, saved, dealt, seen, and gone.
The crying baby fell down.
Shaken, he woke up with sweat rolling down his face.
The burning log fell onto the ground.
*Possessive Adjective: a part of speech that modifies a noun by attributing possession to someone or something.
Possessive Adjectives are my, your, her, his its, our, your, their
*Possessive Nouns: they are the possessive forms of nouns that show ownership. A noun is possessive if it can be changed
to say that an item or idea belongs to someone or something.
The boys toy is broken. (one boy, one toy)
The boys toys are broken. (multiple boys, multiple toys)
*Possessive Pronouns: pronouns that show ownership. They are used alone: mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs

That is mine, not hers.

This book is hers. Yours is over there.
*Prepositions: words that work in combination with a noun or pronoun to create phrases that modify verbs,
nouns/pronouns, or adjectives. Prepositional phrases convey a spatial, temporal, or directional meaning.
Examples of prepositions: aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, around, at, before,
behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by, down, during, except, for, from, in, into, like, near, of, off,
on, onto, out, over, past, since, through, throughout, to, toward, under, underneath, until, unto, up, upon, with,
within, without
*Prepositional Phrase: a group of words that has two basic parts: a preposition plus a noun or pronoun + an object of the
preposition. Prepositional phrases convey a spatial, temporal, or directional meaning.
She lives in the brick house /next to the grocery store.
prep phrase #1
prep phrase #2
*Pronoun: a word that takes the place of a noun in a sentence. Like nouns, pronouns may be used either as subjects or as
objects in a sentence.
She decided to go to the party.
Give the book to him.
Subject Pronouns:
She, He, It

1st person
You 2nd person
They 3rd person

Object Pronouns:
Her, Him, It

Us 1st person
You 2nd person
Them 3rd person

R*Relative Pronouns: are which, that, who, whom, and whose. Who and whom refer only to people. Which refers to things,
qualities, and ideas--never to people. That and whose refer to people, things, qualities, and ideas.
That is the man to whom I spoke. (most formal and rarely used in the U.S.)
That is the man whom I spoke to.
That is the man who I spoke to. (used mostly in the U.S)
*Reflexive Pronouns: is used as the object of a verb or preposition when the subject of the sentence and the object are the
same person. They can be used for emphasis.
I saw myself in the mirror.
I faxed the report to him myself.
*Run-on Sentence (also called a fused sentence): is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses (i.e., complete
sentences) are joined without appropriate punctuation or conjunction.
He drives a fast car it is very nice.
S*Stative Verbs usually refer to a state or condition, which is not changing or likely to change. The difference is important,
because stative verbs cannot normally be used in the progressive (BE + ING) forms. One way to look at it is that if it
cannot be forced, then it is stative (not active).
Examples of stative verbs are hate, belong, own, love
*Subject: the part of a sentence that indicates what it is about. Subjects almost always come before the verb.
She planned to come this evening.
John and Harriet are in town.
*Subject Pronouns (see pronouns)
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*Subordinating Conjunctions: a conjunction that introduces a dependent clause, or adverb clause


Cause and Effect



Now that

Even though

Only if
Whether or not
Even if

T*Tag Question: a question added at the end of the sentence to make sure that the information is correct or to seek
You are coming to my party, arent you?
Its nice out, isnt it?
*Tense: the time of a verbs action or state of being, such as present, past, and future.
*Transitive Verb: a verb that takes a direct object or complement
Rihanna breaks my heart.
He raised his hand.
V*Verb: the part of speech that describes an action or occurrence or indicates a state of being.
*Verbal: a verb form that functions as a noun or a modifier rather than a verb. Verbals include gerunds (verb+ing),
infinitives (to+verb), and participles.
To write well is a desired skill.
Writing well is a desired skill.
Frightened, he walked away from the fight.
W*Wh- Questions: questions that start with a Wh-word; who, what, where, why, when, which, whose, whom, and how far.
Where are you going?
Why did that happen?
When will you get your passport?
Y*Yes/No Questions: questions where the expected answer is yes or no.
Did you eat last night?
Answer: Yes, I did.
Do you like cold weather? Answer: No, I dont.

Verb Tenses Rules and Examples

The Simple Tenses:
1. Simple Present: it expresses events or situations that exist always, usually, habitually. They exist now, have existed in
the past, and probably will exist in the future.
I t rains a lot in Costa Rica.
Barbara goes to school every day.
2. Simple Past: At one particular time in the past, this action took place. It began and ended in the past. You often see
ago with this tense.
It snowed yesterday.
Susie went to school two days ago.
3. Simple Future: at one particular time in the future, this action will happen.
It will rain tomorrow.
It is going to rain tomorrow.
Tom will cook dinner tonight.
Tom is going to cook dinner tonight.
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The Progressive Tenses (or Continuous Tenses)




Present Progressive: gives the idea that an action is in progress during a particular time. The tenses infer that an
action begins before, is in progress during, and continues after another time or action. (am, is, are +vb.+ing)
Rina is sleeping right now.
Tomas is studying.
Past Progressive: gives the idea that one action is in progress in the past when a 2nd action takes place. This 2nd action
can be simple past or progressive. (was/were + vb.+ing)
When I got home, the cat was sleeping.
While I was cooking dinner, Mary was doing her homework.
Future Progressive: gives the idea that an action is in progress at some time in the future when a second action takes
place. (will be + vb.+ing)
Tom will be sleeping when I get home.
I will be studying while you are lying on the beach.

The Perfect Tenses: give the idea that one thing happens before another time or event

Present Perfect: (has/have + past participle)

An activity starts at an unspecified time in the past
They have moved into a new house.
He has just heard the news.
An activity is repeated at an unspecified time in the past
She has seen that movie three times.
I have written him twice so far this week.
An activity that begins in the past and continues up to the present (using since and for)
I have met many people since I moved here.
She has been here since 6 o12/30/201112/30/2011clock.
2. Past Perfect: (had + past participle)
An activity that was completed before another activity in the past.
John had left by the time I got home.
My neighbor walked in. I had forgotten to lock the door.
An activity that uses before or after to show the time relationship
Mary had already left before I got home.
After I had cooked dinner, the kids played a game.
Future Perfect: (will have + past participle)
An activity that was completed before another activity in the future (same rules as past perfect but
in the future).
John will have left by the time I get home.
By the time you arrive, I will have finished dinner.
The Perfect Progressive Tenses: give the idea that one event is in progress immediately before, up to, until another
time or event. These are used to express the duration of the first event.
Present Perfect Progressive: (has/have been + vb.+ing)

An activity in progress before now or up to now for a duration of time

Isabel has been studying for two hours.
They have been listening to music all evening.
Past Perfect Progressive: (had been + vb.+ing)

An activity in progress in the past when another activity takes place

Mike had been studying for two hours when his computer crashed.
They had been listening to music before the tornado touched down.
Future Perfect Progressive: (will have been + vb.+ing)

An activity in progress in the future when another activity takes place

Mike will have been studying for two hours before his girl friend calls.
Susana will have been dancing for hours by the time her friends arrive.

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