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Review of Grammar

Basic Parts of Speech and Grammar Principles


By: Dr. Cynthia Manson and Dr. Christine Jeansonne

(Expanded Version Available in English Department Textbook)



A noun is a word that identifies any type of person, place, or thing. Examples: woman, man, people, city, tree, building, idea


 A pronoun is a word that replaces or stands in for a noun. Examples: she, he, they, it,

     that, etc.

            (There are many, many pronouns. See Section 6 for more info on using



            The subject noun is typically a word or a phrase that is central to the purpose of the

sentence. It is an agent usually performing the action. If written in active voice (See Section 12), the subject noun usually arrives at the beginning of the sentence.

  • The elderly man walks his dog.
  • In this sentence, the elderly man is the subject. He is the one doing the action: the one who walks his dog. While dog is a noun, it is not the subject. Instead, the dog is the one being acted upon.




Past, Present, Future


A verb is a word used to show action, an occurrence, an event, or a state. Almost all sentences require a verb. A verb can be singular or plural (See Section 3), a single word, or consist of a helping verb + another verb form. In this section, we will focus on verb tense: past, present, and future. We will also address irregular verbs. The following section then centers on subject verb agreement and when to use plural or singular verbs.


  • Verbs come in three primary tenses: past, present, and future. These three tenses are broken up in various categories: simple, continuous, perfect, and perfect continuous. Most often, the perfect tenses are the most difficult to remember because they require auxiliary or “helping” verbs. (See below.)


  • Simple
    • Past: She watched the movie.
    • Present: She watches the movie.
    • Future: She will watch the movie.


  • Continuous
    • Past: She was watching the movie.
    • Present: She is watching the movie.
    • Future: She will be watching the movie.


  • Perfect
    • Past: She had watched the movie.
    • Present: She has watched the movie.
    • Future: She will have watched the movie.


  • Perfect Continuous
    • Past: She had been watching the movie.
    • Present: She has been watching the movie.
    • Future: She will have been watching the movie.



  • Irregular Verbs are, well, irregular, in that they do not add -ed to form the simple past and a helping verb plus -ed to form all the perfect tenses. For example, the regular verb love changes to loved in the simple past tense and to has/have loved, had loved and will have loved in the perfect tenses.


  • The most complicated irregular verb is be, which morphs when it appears in present, past and perfect tenses:

                   Third-person point of view     



 Simple Present   Simple Past   Simple Future      Perfect Tenses


   is/are                was/were       will be                  had been

                                                                             have been

                                                                             will have been      


            Below is a full listing of the tenses of be:


  • Simple
    • Past: Kobe Bryant was a hero.
    • Present: Kobe Bryant is a hero
    • Future: Kobe Bryant will be a hero forever.


  • Perfect
    • Past: Kobe Bryant had been a hero for many years.
    • Present: Kobe Bryant has been a hero for many years.
    • Future: Kobe Bryant will have been a hero for many years.
  • Changes in other irregular verbs are listed below. See, for example, that the simple past form of become is became, while the perfect forms are have/has become, had become or will have become.


Verb         Simple Past    Perfect          

become      became            become

begin         began              begun

blow          blew                blown

break         broke               broken

bring          brought            brought

build          built                 built

burst          burst                burst

buy            bought             bought

catch          caught             caught

choose       chose               chosen

come         came                come

cut             cut                   cut

deal           dealt                dealt

do              did                   done

drink          drank               drunk

drive          drove               driven

eat             ate                   eaten

fall             fell                   fallen

feed           fed                   fed

feel            felt                   felt

fight          fought              fought

find            found               found

fly              flew                 flown

forbid        forbade            forbidden

forget        forgot              forgotten

forgive      forgave            forgiven

freeze        froze                frozen

get             got                   gotten

give           gave                given

go              went                gone

grow          grew                grown

have          had                  had

hear           heard               heard

hide           hid                   hidden

hold           held                 held

hurt            hurt                  hurt

keep          kept                 kept

know         knew               known

lay             laid                  laid

lead           led                   led

leave          left                   left

let              let                    let

lie              lay                   lain

lose            lost                  lost

make         made               made

meet          met                  met

pay             paid                 paid

quit            quit                  quit

read           read                 read

ride            rode                 ridden

run             ran                   run

say             said                  said

see             saw                  seen

seek           sought             sought

sell             sold                 sold

send           sent                  sent

shake         shook              shaken

shine          shone               shone

sing           sang                 sung

sit              sat                    sat

sleep          slept                slept

speak         spoke               spoken

spend         spent                spent

spring        sprang             sprung

stand          stood               stood

steal           stole                stolen

swim         swam               swum

swing        swung              swung

take           took                 taken

teach          taught              taught

tear            tore                  torn

tell             told                  told

think          thought            thought

throw         threw               thrown

understand understood      understood

wake          woke (waked) woken (waked)

wear          wore                worn

win            won                 won

write          wrote               written



Subject-verb agreement

In any basic sentence structure, the subject noun must agree with the verb. In order for them to agree, they must both be singular, or they must both be plural.



  • The girl watches the boat.
    • Girl= a singular subject noun
    • Watches= a singular verb that agrees with the subject


  • The girls watch the boat.
    • Girls= a plural noun subject
    • Watch= a plural verb that agrees with the subject

When the subject of a sentence consists of two or more nouns or pronouns that are linked together by and, use a plural verb.

  • The girls and her sisters watch the boat.
    • Girls and her sisters= a plural compound subject
    • And= a conjunction (See Section 5) that links the compound subject
    • Watch= a plural verb that agrees with the subject
  • When two or more singular nouns are linked by oror nor, use a singular verb.
    • The cat or the dog is in the next room.
      • The cat or the dog= a singular compound subject
      • Or= a conjunction (See Section 5) that links the compound subject
      • Is= a singular verb
    • When a compound subject consists of both a singular and a plural noun joined together by or or nor, the verb must agree with the part of the subject that is closest to the verb.
      • The cat or the dogs are in the next room.
        • Dogs= a plural noun subject and is closest to the verb
        • Are= a plural verb
      • The dogs or the cat is in the next room.
        • Cat= a singular noun subject and is closest to the verb
        • Is= a singular verb
      • Collective nouns are nouns that indicate a group or a collective, as in the following: family, community, pack, class, squad, and others. They usually require a singular verb.
        • Her squad watches her back.
          • Squad= collective noun subject
          • Watches= singular verb
        • This pack of teenagers at the movies creates a lot of noise.
          • Pack= collective noun subject
          • Creates= singular verb
        • In cases where a phrase comes between a subject and a verb, remember to still use a verb that agrees with the subject and not the noun in that descriptive phrase.
          • The fisherman, who pulls in pounds of shrimp by the hundreds, smiles about his catch.
            • Fisherman= singular noun subject
            • Smiles= singular verb
          • One of the elephants walks behind the herd in the wild.
            • One=singular noun subject
            • Walks=singular verb



Pronouns and Indefinite Pronouns 

  • When selecting a pronoun to stand in for a noun, the writer needs to be sure that the selected form agrees with the number of the noun (singular or plural); the point of view (first, second or third person); the grammatical role of the noun (Is it a subject? An object? Or is it being used to form a possessive?); and even sometimes the gender of the noun (masculine, feminine, or neuter). The choices seem mind-boggling.


  • However, pronoun choices (and other grammatical choices) can be limited when someone chooses to write in the preferred point of view of third person. Most college and scholarly writing is written from the so-called detached observer’s point of view called, “third person,” even though the third-person writer is still able to convey feelings and values.


  • Problems using singular gendered pronouns, such as he, she or it, can often be avoided in the third person by using the indefinite pronoun “one,” or a noun may be repeated.



                                     SINGULAR                                                  PLURAL


                            Subject    Object   Possessive                   Subject   Object  Possessive

Masc.                  he                 him             his                        they             them           their

Fem.                    she               her              her                       they             them           their

Neuter                  it                 it                 its                         they             them           their

Indef.                   one              one             one’s                     all                all               their


Other indefinite pronouns:                                                            

another, anybody, anyone, anything, each, either,                           

every, everybody, everyone, everything, neither,

nobody, no one, none, nothing, somebody, someone,



  • As one can see from the chart, Indefinite Pronouns are singular and therefore, they require a singular verb.
    • Somebody wants to come inside the house.
      • Somebody= singular noun subject
      • Wants= singular verb
    • Either is the wrong option for her.
      • Either= singular noun subject
      • Is= singular verb
    • Everyone wants to get to know the new kid at school.
      • Everyone= singular noun subject
      • Wants= singular verb



Independent and Dependent Clauses

  • An independent clause is a complete sentence containing a subject and a verb. It expresses a complete thought.
    • Independent clause: Her headache soon dissipated.


  • A dependent clause consists of a grouping of words that contain a subject and verb but cannot stand alone as a complete sentence.
    • Dependent clause: Until he has his way
      • The above is a dependent clause because it cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. It consists of a subject, he, and a verb, has, but these two words do not convey a complete thought.
      • The reader is left asking, “What will happen?”


  • Often, dependent clauses are marked by a subordinating conjunction, which is a dependent marker word. (See below.) These words set up the dependent clause so that an independent clause follows to complete the thought.
    • In the above example sentence, until functions as a subordinating conjunction.
    • Some other common subordinating conjunctions:
      • after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order to, once, since, though, unless, whatever, when, whenever, whether, which and while.
      • If an independent clause is connected to the dependent clause, it becomes a complete thought.




Coordinating Conjunctions and Subordinating Conjunctions


  • Coordinating Conjunctions: and, nor, but, or, yet, so, however, nevertheless, therefore
  • When a coordinating conjunction conjoins two independent clauses (sentences that can stand on their own as full sentences), a comma is used before the coordinating conjunction.
    • She wanted to ride the horse, but she was afraid he would throw her off.
  • Do not use a comma when using a coordinating conjunction to merge two verbs, nouns, adjectives, or adverbs:
    • He wanted to work swiftly and efficiently.


  • Subordinating Conjunctions: After, although, as (as if), because, before, even though, if, in order that, rather than, since, so that, than, that, though, unless, until, when, whenever, whereas, whether, while, despite, now that
    • Subordinating conjunctions are dependent markers.
      • Although I've been there before (dependent clause), I still have trouble remembering that feeling (independent clause).
      • Now that I've done the work (DC), I’m ready for rest (IC).
    • Can also merge two independent clauses:
      • I'm everything I am because you support me along the way.
      • We're never going to get there unless you ask for directions




Adjectives and Adverbs


  • An adjective is a word used to give more detail on a noun or pronoun. Typically, adjectives answer one or more of the following questions: 1.) Which? 2.) How many? 3.) What kind?
    • The shy child hid behind her mother when meeting older relatives.
      • Shy= an adjective that describes what kind of child.
    • Take the pink cupcake to the elderly woman over there wearing all pink. It’s her favorite color.
      • Pink= an adjective used to identifies which color cupcake to bring.
    • The little girl dropped countless rocks from the garden onto the picnic table.
      • Countless= an adjective that addresses how many rocks were dropped.
    • Adjectives cannot modify verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.
      • She ran quick to the store.
        • The writer, here, uses quick to explain the speed at which the subject ran. But, using an adjective, here, quick, is incorrect. Instead, the writer needs to use an adverb. In this case, the word quick would be changed to
      • She ran quickly to the store.
        • Quickly= an adverb that describe the speed at which she ran.


  • In most cases, adjectives come before the noun. But when using sensory-related verbs that address how something feels or appears, the adjective usually follows the noun it modifies. Such verbs include be, taste, smell, look, sound, feel, seem, appear.
    • The coffee pot sounds broken.
      • Broken= an adjective that explains how the coffee pot sounds.
    • Those white geese appear
      • Old= an adjective that describes how the geese appear.
    • Michelle feels
      • Cold= an adjective that addresses how Michelle feels.


  • An adverb is a word used to describe a verb and anything else but a noun or pronoun. While adjectives mostly address which, how many?, and what kind, adverbs usually describe 1.) How, 2.) When, ) Where, and 4.) The extent of something/ a kind of emphasis. Adverbs are easy to spot because many of them are created by adding an -ly to the end of an adjective.
    • The train traveled noisily on the tracks above the Pontchartrain.
      • Noisily= an adverb used to detail how the train traveled.
    • The church choir arrived promptly for their Jazz Fest performance.
      • Promptly= an adverb that tells when the church choir arrived.
    • Ten pelicans landed here, in front of this Cypress tree.
      • Here= an adverb that pinpoints where the ten pelicans landed.
    • I am so tired of hearing him complain about his work!So= an adverb used to convey the extent of being tired.
  • So, here, adds a kind of emphasis.




  • Prepositions are words that start a prepositional phrase.
  • A prepositional phrase begins with a preposition and ends with the object or noun of the phrase. It will never contain the subject of the sentence. Mostly, prepositional phrases perform as adverbs and adjectives, in that they modify verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or nouns in the sentence.


  • Ritchie, along with his two friends, walked on the path carved out through the brush.
    • Along with= The preposition
    • His two friends= The object of the phrase
  • Neither of his friends wanted to keep walking.
    • Of= The preposition
    • His friends= The object of the phrase
  • But Ritchie decided to keep pushing until they reached the water.
    • Until= The preposition
    • They reached the water= The object of the phrase
  • The friend with the broken foot protested this plan.
    • With= The preposition
    • The broken foot= The object of the phrase
  • And so, for the sake of his friend, Ritchie agreed to stop and pitch a tent there.
    • For= The preposition
    • The sake of his friend= The object of the phrase


  • The following are the most commonly used prepositions:























in front of










in spite of


up to



instead of








because of









with regard to





with respect to





  • Infinitives are verbal phrases that express a state of being or an action. They contain a verb but may act like the subject, a direct object noun, an adjective, or an adverb. Infinitives emerge in this format: to + verb.
  • Acting as the subject of a sentence:
    • To procrastinate causes a lot of problems.


  • Acting as the direct object noun of a sentence:
    • The college sophomore wants to start writing but can’t settle his distracted mind.


  • Acting as the adjective of a sentence:
    • The best time to start on a project is when you get the assignment.


  • Acting as the adverb of a sentence:
    • But he pushed himself to finish his work before the deadline.


Remember: Although they contain a verb, infinitives do not function as  verbs.




Apostrophes, Commas, Colons


  • Apostrophes are not for plural nouns.
    • Don’t use when a noun is not possessive.


  • Semi Colon
    • You can use a semi-colon to join two independent clauses. Joining two independent clauses this way implies that the two clauses are related and/or equal, or perhaps that one restates the other.
      • Seinfeld was definitely my favorite television show during the 1990s; in fact, it is my favorite television show of all time.
      • I am going to visit Anna in St. Louis next weekend; we will get to see the Arch, Busch Stadium, and the Landing.
    • Use semi-colons between items in a list that already involve commas.
      • I have lived in Chicago, Illinois; Kansas City, Missouri; and Omaha, Nebraska.
      • The sweaters I bought today were purple, blue, and green; yellow, white, and red; and pink, black, and grey.


  • Commas
    • Use them to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of the coordinating conjunctions: and, but, or, nor, so, yet.
    • Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b) phrases, or c) words that come before the main clause.


  • Colons
    • Use a colon after an independent clause when introducing a list.
      • The catering facility offers the following entrees: fried catfish, grilled chicken, pan-seared salmon, and sirloin steak.
    • Use a colon after an independent clause when introducing a quotation with a noun or adjective (as opposed to a verb: X says, “…”).
      • My teacher’s remark on my final essay was very complimentary: “This essay coherently analyzes musical trends of the late 20th century.”
      • Use a colon between two independent clauses when you want to emphasize the second clause.
      • I don’t understand why everyone shops at that store: everything there is so expensive.




The, A, An 

  • An article is a word used to modify a noun as definite or indefinite. In other words, an article can make the noun specific or nonspecific.
    • The definite article, the, provides the sense of specificity to the noun it modifies.
      • The horse galloped in front of the bus of students on their field trip.
        • Here, we know that a specific horse galloped in front of the kids.
      • The indefinite articles, a and an, provide a lack of specificity to the noun they modify. Use a in front of nouns that start with a consonant. Use an in front of nouns that start with vowels (a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes, y).
        • A horse galloped in front of the bus of students on their field trip.
          • Here, by using the indefinite article, a, we know it could be any horse.
        • An owl then flew right above the school bus and landed in a tree.
          • An is used here to indicate an indiscriminate or nonspecific owl. It is also used because “owl” starts with the vowel, o.


Quality Writing

Formal Writing, the need for specificity, and active voice


  • Colloquialisms
    • Colloquialism is another word for informal, conversational speech.
    • Examples include: “gonna,” “gimme,” “my bad.”
    • You may say all of these in everyday life, which is acceptable for speech communication. But when writing in a formal genre, such as a composition paper, remember to code switch: Bring in your formal, sophisticated, strong writing voice.
      • Why? Because it conveys that you are professional with a solid grasp of your chosen topic.


  • Be specific.
    • Your paper topics should be rich, multi-dimensional and yet, specific
      • Studying the legalization of medical marijuana in the NFL (specific) versus studying the legalization of pot (too broad);
      • Analyzing the outlooks on climate change in the Gulf Coast (specific) versus analyzing climate change, in general (too broad);
      • Analyzing the queer community’s role in the fashion industry (specific) versus analyzing queer gender in the United States (too broad);
      • Analyzing the racist dimensions of school dress codes (i.e., rules about hair, hoodies, etc.) (specific) versus studying racism in America (too broad).


  • Active and Passive Voice
    • Active voice: Used when the subject of the sentence acts upon something or someone. This pattern gives your writer’s voice energy and action!
      • Michelle swings the bat.
        • Michelleis the subject. Hits is the action. The bat is the object.
      • Whereas, in passive voice, the subject is acted upon.
        • The student was chosen by her teacher to present her project at the beginning of class.
          • While teacher arrives later in the sentence, it is actually the subject of the sentence written in passive voice. Student is a noun but not the subject.
          • Let’s change this sentence to active voice:
            • The teacher chose the student to present her project at the beginning of class.
              • When changed to active voice, teacher, the subject, arrives earlier and conveys a stronger connection to the verb.