English is certainly not the easiest language to master when it comes to spelling, construction, and grammar. While there are general rules that work for most cases, there are exceptions to every rule. The best way to learn English is through practice and memorization. However, there are some core grammar rules to remember if your goal is nothing less than perfect English grammar.
10 Rules to Remember About Perfect English Grammar
While it may seem like a monumental task to memorize everything there is to know about the English language, there are some simple things to keep in mind when writing.
However, in writing, you must always be mindful of your audience–who are you writing to?
There are different ways to learn how to write effectively and concisely, especially if you’re writing for academics and business. There are also subtle rules that apply when writing to friends or colleagues where the dialogue may be less formal. These rules apply to language learners of all levels.
Takeaway: Achieving perfect English grammar is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Check out these 10 rules to help you fine-tune your grammar skills.
1) Pay Special Attention to Apostrophes
An apostrophe is a very important punctuation mark that is frequently misused by both native English speakers and those whose second language is English.
Apostrophes are not only used in contractions like don’t, won’t, or can’t. They can also be used to establish possession, as in “I am returning your brother’s book,” or “That is Mary’s son.” Forgetting to add this punctuation can very easily change the meaning, as in it’s (it is) to its, or they’re to their.
2) Memorize Suffixes, Prefixes, and Homophones
Suffixes are important because they change the meaning of the root word and form new words depending on the meaning. For example, adding the suffix “ful” to the root word “beauty” turns it into “beautiful”. Suffixes and prefixes (which are added to the beginning of a word) are building blocks of English.
Just like we saw in our article on “how do you spell morning“, Homophones sound the same but they’re spelled differently. They also have different meanings. An example of this is sea and see. The first refers to a large body of water and the second means to perceive with your eyes. Master these words if you want perfect english grammar.
Speaking of homophones, our post on is it nosy or nosey, perfectly illustrates how two different words can have the same pronunciation!
3) Use Commas After Prepositional Phrases and Introductory Phrases
While this may appear to be a nonsensical grammar rule, it isn’t. Prepositional phrases are word combinations with the main element being a preposition. Prepositional phrases begin with prepositions and end with a pronoun or noun. Examples of properly constructed prepositional phrases are, “After a long day, John likes to relax in front of the television.”
4) Avoid Sentence Fragments
Sentence fragments can easily sneak into your writing without you being aware of them. These fragments involve incomplete thoughts that don’t make sense on their own.
“But we went” is considered a sentence fragment because it is an incomplete thought. To make it a complete sentence, it needs to answer the question of where they went. If you want to master British or American grammar, avoid sentence fragments.
5) Watch for Run-on Sentences
Run-on sentences are a very common problem that is usually quite simple to fix. As a general rule, there should be only one “and” in a sentence. Furthermore, the word “and” is a conjunction, meaning that it combines two sentences. You should never begin a sentence with “and”.
If you have more than one item that you are listing in a sentence, use commas to separate them. When it comes to the last item in the list, place “and” before it to be grammatically correct.
6) Watch Your Prepositions and Conjunctions
Beginning a sentence with a preposition like “but” is becoming increasingly common, but it is still grammatically incorrect. The word, “but” is considered a preposition. It means other than, except, or apart from. “But” can also be used as a conjunction to connect two ideas.
So, when we begin a sentence with a word like “but,” we are not using it in the proper context. It isn’t connecting two ideas or being used as a preposition.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to combine short sentences with conjunctions. Short sentences can appear choppy depending on how they are worded. Using a conjunction creates better sentence flow.
This rule does come with a caveat, though. It tends to apply in more formal language wherein the casualness of starting a sentence with “but,” “and,” or “or” is frowned upon.
While there is nothing inherently wrong with the practice and the writing won’t be dismissed as bad, you need to consider your audience. If you’re using it in casual conversation, you can start a sentence with “but”..
7) Understand the Use of Articles
Articles are either definite, as in “the,” or indefinite, as in “a/an.” Use “a/an” when indicating something in general. “The” is used when referencing something that is specific.
Someone called for a paramedic.
Someone called for the paramedic living across the road.
8) Use Adverbs and Adjectives Correctly
Adverbs and adjectives are easy to mix up but not difficult to correct with a few simple tips. Adjectives quantify people/things, describe, and identify. They go in front of nouns. Adjectives do not change if your noun is plural.
Adverbs are words that modify a verb. An example would be, “He drives slowly.” The adverb “slowly” describes the verb “drives”, indicating how he drives. If you were to say, “He’s a slow driver”, you are using an adjective. “Slow” modifies the noun “driver”.)
You can also create adverbs by including -ly to your adjective, as in carefully.
9) Verbs Should Agree with the Subject
The subjects that require the most attention are “he,” “she,” and “it” because they may have different forms from the others. An example is, “She has two cats,” which is correct. “She have two cats” is ncorrect because the verb “have” doesn’t agree with the singular subject “she.”
And just like we saw in our analysis of how do you spell addition, a sentence’s structure and word choice are very important!
10) Avoid Double Negatives
In the English language, there are two ways to express negative concepts. If you want to say the classroom is empty, you can say, “There is nothing in the classroom” or “There is not anything in the classroom.”
“Anything” and “nothing” have the same meaning in this context. However, “nothing” is utilized with an affirmative verb (“There is nothing”), whereas “anything” is used with the negative verb (There is not anything). Double negatives are when you use two negatives in a sentence, like, “There isn’t no cookies.” In this sentence, “isn’t” and “no” would be a double negative. You’re actually saying there are cookies!
Just as we saw with the phrases discuss on or about, you want to avoid being redundant in your writing. Your goal should be to communicate your message in as few words as possible!
If you really want to perfect English grammar, then you need to take studying seriously. To take your grammar skills to the next level we recommend the “Perfect English Grammar Workbook.” This workbook demystifies grammar’s rules and makes mastering English grammar easy.
If you have your own English grammar workbook…that’s ok! Any grammar workbook featuring the latest rules for learning English grammar will do the trick.
These are just the basics when it comes to mastering English grammar. They will provide you with a basic guideline for writing perfect English. While English may be a challenging language, learning a few simple rules will help you in your journey