Copyright 2009 - Daily Writing Tips
All rights reserved. No part of this ebook may be
reproduced, posted or shared in any form, by any
The content of this ebook was written by Maeve
Maddox and Daniel Scocco.
This ebook does not attempt to include every aspect
of English grammar found in a traditional schooltextbook. Its purpose is to present a brief review of
grammar terms necessary to an understanding of
the most common errors that occur in ordinary, nonacademic writing.
Because written language is an arrangement of
words, understanding how words work individually
and in groups is essential to correct written
The sports fan must understand terms like
shortstop, quarterback andcenter in order to follow
the description of a game.
Similarly, those who wish to speak and write
standard English must master the concepts that we
will cover ahead.
Section 1: The Sentence
The basic unit of speech and writing is the sentence.
A sentence is a series of words that form a complete
thought, for example:
Samuel Johnson's father ran a bookstore.
My twoblack cats enjoy lazing in the sun.
A complete sentence has two main parts: subject
1.1 The Subject
When we speak or write, we speak or write about
something. The subject is what is being spoken
about. For example:
Birds fly. (the subject is "birds")
Samuel Johnson's father ran a bookstore. (the subjet
is "Samuel Johnson's father.")
My two black cats enjoylazing in the sun. (the
subject is "My cats.")
The main word in the subject (usually a noun) is
called the simple subject. The main word with all the
words that describe it is called the complete subject.
For example, in the second sentence above, the
simple subject is "father." The complete subject is
"Samuel Johnson's father."
1.2 The Predicate
While the subject is what we are talkingabout, the
predicate is what we say about the subject. For
Birds fly. ("fly" is what is being said about the birds;
it's what they do.)
Samuel Johnson's father ran a bookstore. ("ran" is
what the father did; it's what is being said about
My two black cats enjoy lazing in the sun. ("enjoy" is
what the cats do; it's what is being said about
The main word in thepredicate is a verb. The verb
by itself is called the simple predicate. The complete
predicate is the verb plus any words or phrases that
complete it or tell more about it. The simple
predicate may contain more than one word because
some tenses require helping verbs. For example:
The king has ruled the kingdom for seven years.
In this sentence the simple predicate is "has ruled."
Thecomplete predicate is "has ruled the kingdom
for seven years."
NOTE: Most of the time the verb will denote an
action, but not always. Sometimes the verb will
denote a state of being or sensing. For example,
Toni Morrison is a celebrated author. The verb "is"
does not convey an action, but it is a complete verb
in this sentence. Edward VI became king at a young
age. The verb "become" doesnot convey an action,
but it is the complete verb.
COMMON ERROR: The predicate always contains a
complete verb (one that indicates tense). A common
writing fault is treating an incomplete verb as if it
were complete. For example:
INCORRECT: All of us laughing in the water.
CORRECT: All of us were laughing in the water.
CORRECT: All of us laughed in the water.
1.3 Phrases and Clauses
Asentence may be as short as one or two words, or
much longer. Longer sentences contain words that
tell more about the subject or the predicate.
Sometimes the words are single descriptive words;
sometimes they are grouped as phrases and
A phrase is a group of grammatically related words
that does not contain a main verb. The words in the
phrase act as a unit, usually...