Identifying Clauses

A reader has asked for help in distinguishing noun, adjective, and adverb clauses. First, what is a clause? A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a finite verb. (A finite verb shows time such as present, past, or future.) Clauses are of two main kinds: independent and dependent. An independent … Read more

5 Cases of Faulty Parenthesis

When a sentence includes a form of parenthesis—a word, phrase, or clause framed by a pair of commas, dashes, or parentheses—writers must take care that the statement surrounding the interjection is structurally valid so that if the optional parenthesis is omitted, the remaining wording is still coherent and thus the parenthesis makes sense grammatically. To … Read more

The Use of “They” for Gender Identity

Merriam-Webster recently announced that it has provided an additional sense in the definition for the pronoun they: “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” What does this mean? First, two more definitions: Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “gender identity” as “a person’s internal sense of being male, female, some combination of … Read more

Adverb Placement

A reader wants to know “if there is a rule for the proper placement of an adverb in sentence structure.” The general rule with adverbs is to place the adverb as close as possible to the word being modified. Most adverbs can go in one of three positions in a sentence. First position (before the … Read more

Questions on WAS and WHO

A reader poses two grammar questions, one on linking verb agreement and one on pronoun case. Question One What is the rule that governs which linking verb to use when the subject is singular and the predicate is plural? The highlight for me ______ the poems that Mary wrote and read.” was or were? The … Read more

Indirect References to Questions

When referring to a paraphrased question, writers often introduce grammatical mistakes in the course of confusing the query for a quoted question. In the following sentences, errors are introduced in the course of posing an indirect question (or, in the case of the final example, a direct one). Discussion of the specific error, and a … Read more

Use Correct Tense with Third Conditional Sentences

Most English speakers have no difficulty with first and second conditional clauses, but a great many speakers get into trouble with the third conditional. First a review. Conditional clauses take their name from the fact that they place limits or conditions on the main clause they modify. Here are three examples of subordinate if clauses … Read more

Predicate Nominative and Predicate Adjective

Two terms you might come across when you’re learning English or studying grammar are “predicate nominative” and “predicate adjective”. They’re both types of “predicate complement”. This might all sound complicated, but the good news is they’re actually quite simple to understand and use. Before we dig in too deep, though, let’s quickly revise a couple … Read more

Learn English and Grammar Skills with Google Home Assistant

Would you like to learn English and improve your grammar without getting off the sofa and without cracking open a textbook? Google Home could be just what you need. It’s a device a bit like Amazon’s Echo (though created by Google, not Amazon) that connects to the Google Assistant to let you get answers and … Read more

Parallel Structure Exercises

Previous posts on this website have discussed syntactical errors that result in a lack of grammatical balance between equivalent words and phrases; this post lists the various types of mistakes that lead to flawed parallel structure. You are invited to fix each sentence before reading the explanation. Absence of One Word Most sentences with faulty … Read more

All About Prepositional Phrases, with Over 60 Examples

This article contains every common preposition in the English language. Isn’t it nice to know that you can learn them all? A list of every common verb or every common noun would be very long… Prepositional phrases usually begin with a preposition and end with an object. For example, in the prepositional phrase under the … Read more

7 English Grammar Rules You Should Know

This post outlines seven general areas of grammar and syntax that writers must be familiar with to enable them to write effectively. 1. Subject-Verb Agreement Use singular verbs for singular subjects and plural verbs with plural subjects. A verb should agree with its subject, not with an intervening modifying phrase or clause: “The box of … Read more