Conjunctive Adverbs vs. Adverbs

A conjunctive adverb is an adverb that has been authorized to perform the function of a conjunction, which simply means that it links one part of a sentence with another. (Standard conjunctions consist of the phrase and clause connectors for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so, acronymized in that order as the mnemonic FANBOYS.) … Read more

Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctions are words that link words, phrases, and clauses and provide a smooth transition between ideas. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Some adverbs can also join or show connections between ideas. When they do this, they are called conjunctive adverbs. Conjunctive adverbs show comparison, contrast, sequence, cause-effect, or other relationships between ideas. The … Read more

Helping Verbs

A reader of the post on the uses of the past participle wonders, How did English come to require helping verbs? Isn’t that unusual among languages? Helping verbs are not unique to English. Also called “auxiliary verbs,” helping verbs are common in analytical languages like English. (An analytical language has lost most of its inflexions.) … Read more


Like the word grammar itself, the grammatical term gerund is often mentioned with a shudder. If you already understand all about gerunds, this post is not for you. If you’d like to review the concept, read on. A gerund is a verbal. If you’ve read previous posts about present and past participles, you know that … Read more

Predicate Complements

The term complement comes from the verb to complete. The predicate nominative and predicate adjective complete the meaning of a state-of-being or linking verb. The most common linking verb is to be, with its forms am, is, are, was, were, being, been. Other verbs, like seem and appear, also function in this way. The predicate … Read more

Inflections in English

Inflections are word elements that indicate grammatical relationships among the words in a sentence. For example, the verb walked is in the past tense; we know this because of the inflectional ending -ed. The noun girls is plural. We know this because of the s that has been added to the singular word girl. All … Read more

Direct and Indirect Objects

A transitive verb takes its name from the fact that its action goes “across” from the verb to a receiver of the action. The receiver of the action is called an object. Transitive verbs can take two kinds of object: “Direct Object (DO)” and “Indirect Object (IO).” Direct Objects A direct object may be a … Read more

Grammatical Case in English

Old English had five cases: nominative, accusative, genitive, dative, and instrumental. Modern English has three cases: 1. Nominative (also called subjective) 2. Accusative (also called objective) 3. Genitive (also called possessive) The objective case subsumes the old dative and instrumental cases. Case refers to the relation that one word has to another in a sentence, … Read more

Transitive Verbs

The grammatical term “transitive verb” occurs in numerous posts on this site, usually with a reminder of what it means, but perhaps a dedicated post will be useful to readers who remain shaky on the concept. Note: To keep this post focused on the concept of transitive verbs and their direct objects, I am not … Read more

Mood vs. Tense

Judging by comments I’ve read on this and other language sites, many people are not quite clear as to the difference between the grammatical terms mood and tense. For example, I’ve seen such expressions as “subjunctive tense” and “progressive mood.” Because both tense and mood have to do with verbs, the confused terminology is understandable. … Read more

Four Kinds of Morpheme

A useful definition of morpheme–good enough for most purposes–is “a minimal and indivisible morphological unit that cannot be analyzed into smaller units.” This broad definition is adequate for most general discussions, but it’s possible to get more specific. Just for fun, here are four different kinds of morpheme. allomorph or morph: any part of a … Read more

The Parts of a Word

A reader asks about the terms prefix, root, and suffix, and wonders how to distinguish them in a word. At the most basic level, words are made up of units of meaning called morphemes. A morpheme may be a recognizable word like tree, run, or button that cannot be broken down into smaller meaningful parts. … Read more