How Grammar Works: A Self-Teaching Guide

( 2 )


Your English teacher wasn't kidding.

Nothing says more about you than your command of language.

Here is a quick and easy way to brush up on the intricate system of grammar that powers the English language. The updated and expanded edition of this proven guide is a painless way to master parts of speech, syntax, and all the rules of good usage. Best of all, the self-teaching ...

See more details below
Paperback (REV)
$14.27 price
(Save 24%)$18.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (31) from $1.99   
  • New (13) from $10.67   
  • Used (18) from $1.99   
Sending request ...


Your English teacher wasn't kidding.

Nothing says more about you than your command of language.

Here is a quick and easy way to brush up on the intricate system of grammar that powers the English language. The updated and expanded edition of this proven guide is a painless way to master parts of speech, syntax, and all the rules of good usage. Best of all, the self-teaching format enables you to learn at your own pace, when it is convenient for you.

Now you can learn to write and speak Standard American English effectively.

The task is easier if you have a solid understanding of how and why grammar "works" than if you try to memorize lists of rules. That's why author Patricia Osborn emphasizes grammar in action, taking the rules out of the classroom and into everyday language. She explains the functions performed by the various parts of speech and provides a new glossary of frequently misused word pairs. You'll discover:
* How grammar works to make communication clear and effective
* Techniques for improving your writing skills
* Simple ways to remember the rules and use them in everyday language
* The "magic" of word order in an English sentence.

Were you daydreaming in your English class? No one will ever have to know. This self-teaching guide takes all the confusion and mystery out of grammar. You'll learn to speak and write with assurance, which is the first step in building confidence in yourself, in your personal life, and in your career.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471243885
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Series: Wiley Self-Teaching Guides Series, #168
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 276
  • Sales rank: 1,316,696
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

PATRICIA OSBORN, a professional editor and writer, taught grammar for many years and was chair of the English Department at Bowsher High School in Toledo, Ohio.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents


What is Grammar, Anyway?

Nouns: The Building Blocks of Sentences.

Verbs: The Energy of Sentences.

Complements: The Completion of the Verb.

Pronouns: Getting Personal.

Adjectives: The First Add-On.

Adverbs: Add-On Number Two.

Prepositions: Relating One Word to Another.

Coordinating Conjunctions: One and One Makes Two.


Word Order is Part of Meaning.

Just Enough Punctuation.

The 5 W's and an H. The Amazing Word Be and its Many Faces.

More About Pronouns and Nouns.

Introducing the Verbals.

More Punctuation: I Said, "May I Have Your Attention Please?"Combining Sentences.

Keeping It Simple, Even When Sentences Get Complex.

Verbs Do More: The Fine Points of Using Verbs.

Questions of Usage: How Can Words Agree with One Another WhenPeople Don't.

Forming Comparisons Correctly: A Matter of Degree.

The Complete Sentence: Putting It All Together.

Making the Right Choice.


Read More Show Less

First Chapter

How Grammar Works
A Self-Teaching Guide Second Edition

Patricia Osborn

(The figures and/or tables mentioned in this sample chapter do not appear on the web version.)

Chapter 1
What Is Grammar, Anyway?

Early people invented language, just as human beings have had to invent all of our other tools, from the simple stone axe to the latest technology. Almost all inventions are attempts to improve our quality of life, and language is no different. As the world becomes more complex, the tool of language adapts and changes with it.

No one questions the importance of language. It's very different with grammar.

Grammar is not merely a set of rules to memorize and follow so that you can speak correctly and write better. Grammar is really an analysis of language. Like a technical manual, a guide to English grammar goes beyond the surface to show you the essential parts of our language, how they relate to one another, and how they fit together into sentences. Just as knowledge about the operation of one combustion engine illustrates the principle behind all combustion engines, so a study of grammar teaches you the basic construction of all sentences. Even as they grow more complicated, they still operate on the same principle.

Using language is like driving a car. When you drive, you think about the road, the traffic, and your destination. As you drive along, you don't have to remind your hands to steer or your foot to press the proper pedal. If you did, you'd freeze at the steering wheel. There is too much going on at once.

To a driver, operating a car becomes automatic. It is much the same with language. When you talk, you don't think in terms of grammar. You think about ideas, about what you want to say. Your mind is not on the process but on the goal you want to reach with your words.

You can be a good driver without being able to name the parts of an engine and explain how they work, but knowledge of a car's mechanical system helps you judge its performance and anticipate its response. An engineer can diagram the mechanical system of an automobile to show its parts and their relationship to one another. (See Figure 1-1.)

In the same way, a grammatical diagram shows the parts of a sentence and their relationship to each other. (See Figure 1-2.) Both diagrams serve a similar purpose. When you check the diagram of a sentence, you discover the relationship of its parts, and their function becomes clearer.

Understanding the system that makes English work-its grammar-can help you spot and label problems in your speech and writing, then learn to eliminate them.
A study of grammar provides an inside understanding of language. You learn what the parts of speech are designed to do and why. This discovery enables you to cut through to the core words of a sentence and thus become a more effective reader.
In this way, knowledge of grammar gives you greater control of your language when you read, speak, and write.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 2 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2014

    Large parts of this book are helpful and make sense. However, th

    Large parts of this book are helpful and make sense. However, the book also states that there are only six coordinating conjunctions, and says that "we" and "they" are both subject pronouns and object pronouns. Neither of these things are true, and I didn't bother to read any further in this book. If you're going to write a grammar book, you have to know your grammar. The reviewer who gave the book five stars misspelled and capitalized four words incorrectly in his or her review, and is probably now doing a lot of other things wrong, too, as a result of using this book. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2002

    Excellent breakdown

    From reading this book from the Pierce County Library,(Tacoma WA) this is definately a good book for writers referance on how a sentence works. I Highly Recommend it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)