Grammar is a Greek word that means “craft of something”. To master a language, you first need to get familiar with its grammatical rules. Learning the grammar of a language sounds difficult but in English, the rules are really simple. There are approximately 3500 rules related to grammar. Sound overwhelming for sure, but one just has to learn a few basic ones.
For effective writing and speaking, we need to master grammar rules. Native people do not pay much attention to grammar as they have been speaking the language since birth. Once you have learned some rules, the language will not sound so difficult. This article will explain the basic rules of English grammar.
Grammar Rule # 1: A Complete Sentence Must Start With a Capital Letter and End With a Period.
A sentence should start with a capital word and end with a full stop, also called a period.
The correct way to write a sentence is:
- I am a professional player.
- I want to buy a new car.
- I will go to school on Monday.
To write a sentence like this: i am a professional player- is wrong.
Grammar Rule # 2: Follow Sentence Order: Subject-Verb-Object
The order of a sentence is always Subject-Verb-Object. This rule is for positive sentences. For example:
- I am working on a project.
- We are playing football.
- Together we will win.
Grammar Rule # 3: For Singular Subject, Use Singular Verb
For a singular subject, there must be a singular verb. For a plural subject, there must be a plural verb. We cannot add subjects and verbs that do not agree with each other.
- He goes to work daily.
- They were looking for answers.
- Most people hate the summer season.
Grammar Rule # 4: A Complete Sentence Must Include a Subject (Noun) And a Predicate (Verb/Action).
Any sentence without a verb and subject is incomplete. The object is optional; it will not disturb any rule of grammar.
- Parrots talk.
- We walk.
In above example, ‘parrots and we’ are subjects and ‘talk and walk’ are predicate.
Exception to rule # 4: The only exception of above rule is imperative sentences .These sentences need only predicate because the subject is already understood.
- Run fast!
Grammar Rule # 5: Place Adjectives before Noun
Adjectives come before nouns because it is further explaining the noun. It modifies and describes the qualities of a noun or pronoun.
- He is a handsome man.
- She has very long hair.
- I have a beautiful bag.
Exception to rule # 5: An adjective can be followed by a noun if separated by a verb.
- Her parrot is beautiful.
- My car is red
Grammar Rule # 6: Follow Correct Order of Adjacent Adjectives in a Sentence
While using two adjectives together the order should be: [sub adjective – main adjective – noun] or [noun – verb – sub adjective – main adjective].
- She is a nice French lady.
- I am reading a good intellectual book.
- John brought a blue comfortable chair.
- William Shakespeare was a famous English poet.
Grammar Rule # 7: Collective Nouns Can Be Singular Nouns or Plural Nouns
We can treat collective nouns as single or plural. There are some nouns that are always treated singularly like; team, crowd, and family. Sometimes they are plural as well like; people, children, or sheep.
- The team is getting ready to play.
- ·The crowd is moving forward in a procession.
- Police play an important role in keeping the peace.
- People are running fast.
- Sheep are grazing the field.
Generally, in BrE (British English) collective nouns are usually treated as plural. On the other hand, in AmE (American English) collective nouns are treated as singular.
- The BBC have 8000 news reporters around the world. (typically BrE)
- The CNN has 5000 news reporters around the world. (typically AmE)
Grammar Rule # 8: Know the Difference between Contraction and Apostrophe
Its and it’s are two different words. They are often confused with each other, but both have different uses. “Its” is a possessive pronoun while “it’s” is a contraction of “it is”.
- It’s my cellphone.
- The cheetah is on its way to the cave.
The words your and you’re are different as well. Here, “your” is a pronoun while “you’re” is a contraction of “you are” or “you were”.
Example if “you’re”:
- You’re so gorgeous
- You’re going to survive this exam
Example if “your”:
- Your name is Marry.
- Your father is a good man.
He’s can have two meanings; it can either mean “he is” or “he has”. People mostly confuse these two, but by reading a sentence their senses can be cleared.
- He’s a good boy. (He is)
- He’s a very good sense of humor. (He has)
“He’d” can have two meanings as well. These two meanings are “he would” and “he had”, we can judge both by their use in a sentence. “Would” is mostly used to represent the future while “had” represents something that happened in the past.
- He’d go to play basketball tomorrow. (He would)
- He’d gone insane at that very moment. (He had)
Grammar Rule # 9: Proper Nouns Are Always spelled With First-letter Capital
We always spell proper nouns with the first-letter capital. Proper nouns are; names of a specific thing place or person.
- Tina went to school yesterday.
- I went to eat at French restraint.
- We enjoyed ourselves a lot at Danny’s house.
Grammar Rule # 10: Pronoun I Always Remains Capital.
The word pronoun “I” always remains capital. We cannot place it as a small alphabet anywhere in a sentence. It will cause a grammatical error.
- I am very hardworking lady.
Grammar Rule # 11. Always Use Active Voice Sentences.
Use active voice most of the time. It is a basic rule and can increase the readability of the write-up.
- The cat is eating meat (active).
Passive voice sentences are only used when a writer or a speaker wants to emphasize on the object and he uses object as a subject to emphasize on it.
- Meat is being eaten by the cat (passive).
Grammar Rule # 12. Use Correct Article.
Use the indefinite article ‘a’ and ’an’ for non-specific countable nouns in general and the definite article ‘the’ for specific countable nouns and all uncountable nouns.
- The Mughal Empire had a very long-ruling era.
- A friend in need is a friend indeed
- An apple is a healthy fruit.
Grammar Rule # 13: Never Use a Double Negative
In English, there are often two ways to express a negative concept: with an affirmative verb, or with a negative verb.
For example, if you want to say there is no luggage in the car, you can say:
- There is nothing in the car.
- There is not anything in the car.
The words ‘nothing’ and ‘anything’ deliver same sense, but ‘nothing’ is used with an affirmative verb, and ‘anything’ is used with a negative verb.
Grammar Rule # 14: Use Neither With Nor
When you want to deny both of the choices or options, you use neither as a conjunction for first choice/option to negate/deny and nor for second choice/option to negate/deny. You cannot use neither with or. See the below examples:
- I drink neither bear nor cola.
- Neither snowfall nor cool wind will stop. You have to stay here for the night.
Grammar Rule # 15: Use Either With Or
Similarly, either and or are used to affirm each of two possibilities or options. You cannot use either with nor.
- Either you can drink cola or you can ask for mango juice. I cannot afford both for you.
Grammar Rule # 16: Use Oxford Comma/Serial Comma
The oxford comma takes its place before the last item in a series of more than three items. As we know that in list of multiple items, we place conjunction and/or before last item. This conjunction and/or is followed by oxford comma, or in simple words the oxford comma is followed by second last item in a list of three or more than three items.
Examples in sentences
- I like juices of apples, bananas, strawberry, and mangoes.
In above example, the comma after strawberry is an oxford comma.
Grammar Rule # 17: Words Derived From Proper Nouns Are Also Capitalized.
Like proper nouns, words derived from proper nouns are also capitalized. As the word Germany is a proper noun and adjective German is derived from it. So, words derived from proper nouns will be capitalized in all cases.
- I love German dairy products.
- My father loves Turkish sweets.
Grammar Rule # 18: Use the Right Past Form of Verb in a Story.
When you are writing a story or other piece of writing in past form, stay in past. Do not jump from past tense to present and again to past in a story. Because story has a continue flow and it can happen only in one tense. There is only exception when there is need to quote stated wording, dialogues, or inner thoughts.
Grammar Rule # 19: Use Definite Article before Superlative Adjective
Always use definite article ‘the’ before superlative adjectives before a noun. Look at below examples.
- Josh is the tallest boy in the class.
- Journey on airplane is the fastest way of traveling.
Grammar Rule # 20: In Question Tags, a Positive Statement is Followed by a Negative Question Tag.
Question tags are short questions at the end of statements to confirm that something is true or not or to put an emphasis to get a reply from the person we are talking to.
Generally, Q tags are used in speech form. A positive statement is always followed by a negative question tag and a negative statement is always followed by a positive question tag. See below examples.
- He is German by birth, isn’t he?
- You aren’t happy, are you?
Grammar Rule # 21: Use of Comma in a List
Always use comma between a list of more than two words: For Example:
- Jolie bought a pen, an eraser, a notebook, and a bag from bookshop.
- Ali has three cars colored white, black, and sky blue.
Grammar Rule # 22: Punctuation After Abbreviation
Always use full stop at the end of abbreviations of first letters e.g. etc. or i.e. If an abbreviation is shortened by using first and last letter, do not put period after it e.g. Mr or Dr from mister and doctor respectively. Some American style put period after contractions and abbreviation shortened by first and last letter.
· Veggies cause weight loss e.g. cucumber, cabbage, lemon, ladyfinger etc. and control blood pressure.
- Dr. Joseph is an experienced dentist. (AmE)
- Mr. Denial was sleeping when we arrived there. (AmE)
Grammar Rule # 23: Acronym and Initialism Do Not Need Full Stop
Unlike abbreviations, Acronym and initialism do not need period after them.
- NASA is working to launch a micro-solar based satellite.
- USA stands for United States of America.
Grammar Rule # 24: Capitalization of Headings/Book Titles
To Capitalize a title of a book or heading on an article, you will face some different rules according to the writing style you are following. But general rules to capitalize a title/heading are:
- Capitalize the first letter of each and every title.
- Capitalize the last word regardless of what part of speech that is.
- Capitalize all nouns, pronoun and adjectives.
- Capitalize all verbs (even short ones, like is, am are), all adverbs, and phrasal verbs.
- Lowercase articles (a, an, the).
- Lowercase all coordinating conjunctions. (for, nor, or, and, but, yet, so)
- Lowercase subordinating conjunctions shorter than four letters. (e.g. as, if, how)
- Lowercase short prepositions like subordinating conjunctions. (e.g. in, on, at)
- ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is my favorite novel.
Grammar Rule # 25: Know the Difference Between Who and Whom
WHO refers to the subject, while WHOM refers to the object. See below example to understand it. Use WHO when the word is performing the action and use WHOM when it is receiving the action.
- John was watching movie with Sana.
- Who was watching movie?
- With whom, John was watching movie.
Grammar Rule # 26: Capitalization in Quotation
Always capitalize the first word in a complete quotation (even it is in mid of the sentence).
- Joseph replied, “The race was not easy with forty year age, but I won by three seconds”.
Exception: In some cases, we do not capitalize quoted phrase when it continues a sentence.
- Denial assured us that the matter was “far from over” and that “they will win.”
Grammar Rule # 27: Do Not Mix Gerund Nouns with Present Participle
Do not mix gerunds with present participle. Both looks alike but present participle is always followed by an auxiliary verb. But in case of gerund, we put an auxiliary after it.
See examples below:
- He is singing in the party. (Present participle)
- Singing is good for the brain. (Gerund)
Grammar Rule # 28: Do Not Mix Verbal Nouns with Verbs
Verbal nouns are derived from verbs and looks like verbs but they act as a noun in a sentence. Do not mix verbal nouns with gerunds and verbs. Verbal nouns have noun-like properties and can be modified by adjectives (also can be pluralized) whereas gerunds are modified with adverbs and have verb-like properties. See below example to differentiate a verbal noun from verb or gerund.
- Police attack on those who are involved in notorious activities. (ATTACK as a verb)
- Furious attacks on notorious people diminish criminal activities. (ATTACK as a verbal noun)
- Attacking unwisely can lead you to failure. (ATTACK as a gerund)
Grammar Rule # 29: Use Simple Present Tense for Habitual Actions
Always use simple present tense for habitual actions like:
- I play football.
- He loves long drive
- She avoids cola.
Grammar Rule # 30: Subject and Verb Must Agree in Number
Always remember that a singular subject needs a singular verb and a plural subject needs a plural verb.
- Ronnie lives in UAE.
- John and Ronnie live in UAE.
Grammar Rule # 31: When Two Singular Subjects are Connected by OR, use a Singular Verb
When two singular subjects are connected with conjunction OR, use a singular verb.
- Joseph or Mary is coming to join us.
- Either coffee or tea is fine.
Grammar Rule # 32: Many vs. Much
Many and much are used to express large quantity of something. The words many is used for plural countable nouns and much is used or uncountable nouns.
- How many pen do you have?
- How much sugar you will like in your tea.
Grammar Rule # 33: A Few vs. A little
FEW is used for not many and LITTLE is used for not much and normally convey a negative idea of being less.
- I have few color pencils.
- Please have little patience to bear it.
Similarly A FEW and A LITTLE are used to express a small amount in a positive way.
- I have a few helping friends that will help me to get good score in the exam.
- A little donation can save a soul.
Grammar Rule # 34: Colons and Semicolons are Not Interchangeable
It seems like semicolons and colons function in the same way, but they don’t. A semicolon connects two independent clauses that are related to one sense while a colon connects two clauses when the second one further explains the first, before a list of items in a sentence, direct quote.
- This is senseless; I am going back.
- I am studying three novels: Henry’s Diary, Serial-51, and Othello.
Sometimes, both punctuation can be used in a single sentence.
- There are four fruits on the table: one is apple; second is orange; third is apricot; and last is banana.
Grammar Rule # 35: Use Parentheses to Add Information
Use parentheses to enclose words that add information to other parts of the sentence. See below examples to understand it.
- For Picnic, she’d like a new pair of hiking shoes, a sun cap, a blanket (which she really doesn’t need), a camera, and a music player.
Grammar Rule # 36: Spell Out All Numbers Beginning a Sentence.
Always spell out number at beginning of sentence The AP Stylebook makes an exception for writing years.
- Twenty-four hundred houses were wrecked during flood.
- 2021 remained a lucky year for me.
Grammar Rule # 37: Hyphenate All Compound Numbers from Twenty-one to Ninety-nine.
Always hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
- Forty-seven people were arrested by police for initiating a riot.
Grammar Rule # 38: Prefer Short Sentences
In English writings, short sentences are always preferred. Avid lengthy and log sentences because it will decrease your readability score.
Grammar Rule # 39: Too vs. Very
Read below sentences
- The pizza is very spicy.
- The pizza is too spicy.
In above two examples, pizza looks spicy. But is sentence one, the pizza is spicy but it is still good to eat but in second sentence pizza is not able to eat because of too much spicy.
Grammar Rule # 40: Avoid Redundancy
In English grammar, avoid redundancy. Redundancy is the use of two or more words together that mean the same thing or needless repetition of words, phrases, ideas, or sentences.
- I learned from my
togetherboth the column of the table.
Grammar Rule # 41: Do Not Use etc. with Names of People
Always keep one thing in your mind while using etc.; do not use it with the name of the people.
- I met to Alia, Lizzy, Janie, Tom, etc. (Wrong sentence)
- I met to Alia, Lizzy, Janie, and Tom. (Correct sentence)
Grammar Rule # 42: Use et al. to Refer Other People.
“Et Alia” is a short Latin phrase which means ‘and others’ like ‘Et cetera’ (etc.). “Et al.” is used in a list of people, particularly in academic writing when referring to the authors of an academic publication.
- ST Coleridge, WW Worth et al. promoted romanticism.
Grammar Rule # 43: Use etc. for One-class Items
When you place items in a list and want to use etc. at the end, you must use one-class items; item in the list should be of same kind. When you use etc. at the end of the sentence, it means there are other items related to same class mentioned in the list. See below examples.
- Mango, banana, grapes, apricot, motorbikes, electric fans etc., are cheap in Pakistan. (Wrong sentence)
- Mango, banana, grapes, apricot, etc., are cheap in Pakistan. (Correct sentence)
Grammar Rule # 44: Do Not Use ‘and’ with etc.
Do not use word ‘and’ before last item in a list while using etc. at the end of a list. See below example to comprehend the point.
- I bought juice, cola, water, milk etc., for hiking.
Grammar Rule # 45: Do Not Use ‘Introductory Phrase’ with etc.
Never use etc. when introductory word like ‘such as’ or ‘like’, are in the beginning of a sentence. Example is given below.
- Bring items such as chocolates, juice, and ice cream for tonight party.
Grammar Rule # 46: Use etc. Only Once in a Sentence
Avoid using etc. more than once at the end of a list in a sentence. In example below, the repetition of etc. Is wrong.
- I have to buy shoes, socks, cap, gloves etc., etc., etc., from my salary. (Wrong sentence)
Grammar Rule # 47: Do not use etc. with a specific list
Do not use etc. if there is a specific list of items that you need. If you only need juice, cake, and cookies for the party: do not use etc. Using etc. in the sentence will make the reader or listener confused that you may need other items like dessert also for the party.
- Please fetch juice, cake, cookies, etc., for the party. (Sentence is wrong if only three items in the list are needed)
Grammar Rule # 48: Use of Punctuation Marks with etc.
As you have learned that etc. is always followed by period (full stop). What we will do if we have to use other punctuation marks like question mark, colon, or any other punctuation mark. Its answer is simple that you can use any punctuation mark (question marks, exclamation marks, semi-solons or colons) after etc. but after period like comma in the middle of the sentence. When we are using it at the end and sentence ends at period then we will use only one period. Look at the examples below to understand it in a better way.
- Is he going to buy plates, cups, napkins, etc? (Wrong sentence)
- Is he going to buy plates, cups, napkins, etc.? (Correct sentence)
- I hate watching movies, dramas, etc! (Wrong sentence)
- I hate watching movies, dramas, etc.! (Correct sentence)
Grammar Rule # 49: Use of am and pm for Twelve Hour Clock Format.
The 12-hour clock format divides the 24 hours of a day into two periods. The first 12-hour period is labelled as am: ante meridiem (covers midnight to noon) and the second period is distinguished as pm: post meridiem (covers the second 12 hours period).
Grammar Rule 50: Capitalization Distinction in Poetry
In poetry, the capitalization rules are bit changed. In poetry, first word in each line of stanza is capitalized.
Moreover, in poetry personified elements are also capitalized. Personified elements are those elements that are inanimate objects and poet attributes them with a trait of living being. (See more about personification).
- The angry Sun, showering heat on the shore
In above line, poet personified the sun because sun cannot be angry like living beings but the context of poet is that the sun is too much hot.
To learn English grammar, it is important to consider each and every rule and practice it as well. No new language is difficult to learn, we just need to learn a few basic rules and we can master that language in no time. The above-mentioned basic grammar rules are really simple and each one holds its importance. Remember, you cannot learn every rule at once, so only practicing it daily can bring perfection. Good luck!