7 Important Rules in English Grammar

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This post describes seven general but important areas of English grammar and composition that writers must know to write perfectly.

  • Subject-Verb Agreement

According to this rule, singular verbs are used for singular subjects and plural verbs are for plural subjects. The verb should be according to the subject, not with an overriding clause or phrase. “The box of oranges is on the table.”

  • Singular verbs are suitable for the following parts of speech:
  • Indefinite Pronouns: “No one is here.”
  • Uncountable nouns: “The water has boiled.”
  • Inverted Subjects: “Where is the mobile?”
  • Subjects having plural form but their meaning is singular: “Statistics (subject) is not boring,” but “Statistics (data) of death is not up to date.”
  • Compound subjects: “John and Andrew are friends.”
  • Collective nouns: “The army is ready to fight.” (But if all the members of a collective are referred, rephrase to clarify, such as “The soldiers of the army stood behind the decision of commander.”

  • Nominative, Objective and Reflexive Pronouns

Sometimes, when a phrase contains more than one subject, pronouns are not used correctly. For example, though “My sister and I are not coming.” is right because in this sentence the subject is “My sister and I” so the nominative pronoun I is suitable, but “They called my sister and I for a dinner.” is not right because in this sentence “my sister and I” is the objects and the pronoun should also be in objective form i.e. me not I.

If reflexive pronouns, -self and compound of a pronoun are related to a predecessor pronoun, then they would be correct, e.g. “He did it himself.”; “Call Rahim or themself.” It is not correct because the reflexive pronoun is not referred to any previous pronoun.

  • Dangling Participles

The dangling participle is the type of participle which is used in the sentence but it does not modify the noun or pronoun, it mostly comes in the start of a sentence as a phrase or clause but the subject of the sentence is different from the participle. For example, “Looking around the hospital, Johnathan found the office of Jim.” In this sentence, the writer expressed that Jonathan was looking around the hospital but the subject of a sentence is John who was looking around the hospital, if the sentence is changed, “Johnathan found the office of Jim, looking around the hospital.” 

  • Out-of-Place Modifiers

The word, phrase or clause is not separated properly from the word it modifies, it should follow the word it describes. For example, “She overhead that they are going to celebrate the birthday in the bedroom.” In this sentence, the “celebrating birthday” is followed by “the bedroom” which gives the meaning that the birthday is going to be celebrated in the bedroom. However, “in the bedroom” follows the subject, “She overhead” so the modifier should follow the subject: “She overhead in the bedroom that they are celebrating a birthday.”

  • Unfinished Sentences

There are many explanations for the incomplete sentences, but these should be used sensibly is a way that makes it clear to the reader that the writer is intentionally writing an incomplete sentence, not an incorrect sentence. 

  • Clause and Phrase Lists

In-line lists, the phrase, and clauses presented within the composition of a sentence should be grammatically consistent. The parallel structure involves the repetition of the same grammatical form when the items are listed or compared. For example, in the sentence “Intuitions are not adaptive, actionable and help in achieving the preferred objectives.” It is constructed incorrectly because “are” assists the first adjective and help is related with achieve, but adaptive can share “are” with actionable only if these are separated with conjunction instead of a comma. “Intuitions are not adaptive and actionable and help in achieving the preferred objectives.”

In another sentence that has to remain in the listed form, each element that is listed must follow parallelism, such as in the alteration of “Taylor always condemns public schools because they are government-funded, compulsory and normalizing.” to “Taylor always condemns because they receive money from government, require students attendance and abolishes student’s humanity.” When items are compared in a list, they should have a parallel structure.

  • Phrases and Clauses (Restrictive & Non-restrictive)

Restrictive clauses modify the noun and it restricts or identifies the noun and if it is removed from the sentence, the meaning of the sentence will be changed i.e. it is essential for the noun. The non-restrictive clause is an adjective clause that describes the meaning of a word that already has a clear meaning. The use of which and that in English has different rules in British and American. “That” is used to introduce a restrictive clause and “which” is for the non-restrictive clause. For example, in the sentence “They do not prefer this job which is less stable.” This sentence may be correct in American English (can also be used in British English). But good writers maintain a difference between which and that to help their readers. If a non-restrictive phrase is used, “They do not prefer this job, which is less stable than freelancing.” Here which is not essential for the sentence but if we use it with a restrictive phrase, “They do not prefer this job that is less stable.” Here “that is less stable” becomes an essential part of the sentence.