English Grammar For Dummies

English Grammar For Dummies

by Geraldine Woods


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Get the last word on English grammar

Grasping the intricacies of the English language doesn't need to be tricky, and this down-to-earth guide breaks everything down in ways that make sense—Revealing rules, tips, and tricks to eliminate confusion and gain clarity, English Grammar For Dummies gives you everything you need to communicate with confidence!

Good grammar lays the foundation for speaking and writing clearly. This easy-to-follow book will help you become a more articulate, effective communicator. Covering everything from the building blocks of a sentence to those pesky rules of punctuation, it offers the practical guidance you need to communicate in a way that would make any English teacher proud.

  • Improve your speaking skills
  • Clearly compose written communications
  • Get the latest techniques for continuous improvement
  • Write a winning college entrance exam or compelling business presentation

Stop worrying about the grammar police and become more confident with your words!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781119376590
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 05/01/2017
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 71,823
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Geraldine Woods has more than 35 years of teaching experience. She is the author of more than 50 books, including English Grammar Workbook For Dummies and Research Papers For Dummies.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Foolish Assumptions 1

Icons Used in This Book 2

Beyond the Book 3

Where to Go from Here 3

Part 1: Building a Firm Foundation: The Parts of the Sentence 5

Chapter 1: Using the Right Words at the Right Time 7

What This Year’s Sentence Is Wearing: Understanding Grammar and Style 8

Distinguishing Between the Three Englishes 9

Wanna get something to eat? Friendspeak 10

Do you feel like getting a sandwich? Conversational English 11

Will you accompany me to the dining room? Formal English 12

Thumbing Your Way to Better Grammar 13

Probing the Limits of Grammar-Checking Software 14

What’s Your Problem? Solutions to Your Grammar Gremlins 15

Chapter 2: Verbs: The Heart of the Sentence 17

Expressing Meaning with Verbs 17

Meeting the Families: Linking and Action Verbs 18

Linking verbs: The Giant Equal Sign 19

Forms of “to be” 19

Synonyms of “to be” 20

Savoring sensory verbs 21

Completing linking-verb sentences correctly 22

Lights! Camera! Action verb! 24

Calling the Help Line for Verbs 25

Timing is everything: Creating a time frame with helping verbs 25

Don’t ask! Questions and negative statements 25

Adding shades of meaning with helping verbs 27

Pop the Question: Locating the Verb 29

Chapter 3: Who’s Doing What? How to Find the Subject 33

Who’s Driving the Truck? Why the Subject Is Important 33

Teaming up: Subject and verb pairs 34

Compound subjects and verbs: Two for the price of one 34

Pop the Question: Locating the Subject–Verb Pairs 35

What’s a Nice Subject Like You Doing in a Place Like This? Unusual Word Order 37

Find That Subject! Detecting You-Understood 39

Searching for the Subject in Questions 40

Don’t Get Faked Out: Avoiding Fake Verbs and Subjects 40

Finding fake verbs 41

Watching out for “here“ and “there“ and other fake subjects 41

Choosing the correct verb for “here“ and “there“ sentences 42

Subjects Aren’t Just a Singular Sensation: Forming the Plural of Nouns 42

Regular plurals 43

The -IES and -YS have it 43

No knifes here: Irregular plurals 44

The brother-in-law rule: Hyphenated plurals 45

Chapter 4: When All Is Said and Done: Complete Sentences 47

Completing Sentences: The Essential Subjects and Verbs 48

Complete Thoughts, Complete Sentences 50

Joining Forces: Combining Sentences Correctly 53

Connecting with coordinate conjunctions 53

Attaching thoughts: Semicolons 55

Boss and Employee: Joining Ideas of Unequal Ranks 55

Choosing Subordinate Conjunctions 56

Using Pronouns to Combine Sentences 58

Understanding Fragments 59

Placing fragments in the right context 60

Steering clear of inappropriate fragments 61

Reaching the End of the Line: Endmarks 62

Chapter 5: Handling Complements 65

Getting a Piece of the Action: Complements for Action Verbs 66

Receiving the action: Direct objects 66

Rare, but sometimes there: Indirect objects 68

No bias here: Objective complements 69

Completing the Equation: Subject Complements 69

Pop the Question: Locating the Complement 71

Pop the Question: Finding the Indirect Object 72

Pronouns as Objects and Subject Complements 74

Part 2: Clearing Up Confusing Grammar Points 75

Chapter 6: Relax! Understanding Verb Tense 77

Simplifying Matters: The Simple Tenses 78

Present tense 78

Past tense 79

Future tense 80

Using the Simple Tenses Correctly 82

Present and present progressive 82

Past and past progressive 82

Future and future progressive 83

Not Picture Perfect: Understanding the Perfect Tenses 84

Present perfect and present perfect progressive 84

Past perfect and past perfect progressive 85

Future perfect and future perfect progressive 86

Using the Perfect Tenses Correctly 88

Case 1: Beginning in the past and continuing in the present 88

Case 2: Events at two different times in the past 89

Case 3: More than two past events, all at different times 90

Case 4: Two events in the future 92

Reporting Information: Verbs Tell the Story 93

Summarized speech 93

Eternal truths 95

The historical present 95

The Rebels: Dealing with Irregular Verbs 96

To be, to have, to do 96

Irregular past forms and participles 99

Chapter 7: Nodding Your Head: All About Agreement 103

Agreeing Not to Disagree 103

Making Subjects and Verbs Agree 104

The unchangeables 104

The changeables 105

Matching Subjects and Verbs in Some Tricky Situations 108

Compound subjects 108

Locating subjects and ignoring distractions 109

Reaching an Agreement with Pronouns 110

Choosing subject pronouns 111

Matching pronouns to their antecedents 112

Agreeing in Tricky Situations 114

Five puzzling pronouns 115

Each and every 116

Either and neither: Alone or with partners 116

Politics and other irregular subjects 118

The ones, the things, and the bodies 119

Who, which, and that 120

Dealing Sensitively with Pronoun Gender 121

Chapter 8: Pronouns and Their Cases 125

Me Like Tarzan: Choosing Subject Pronouns 125

Compounding interest: Pairs of subjects 126

Attracting appositives 128

Picking pronouns for comparisons 129

Using Pronouns as Direct and Indirect Objects 130

Are You Talking to I? Prepositions and Pronouns 131

Attaching Objects to Verbals 133

Knowing the Difference Between Who and Whom 134

Pronouns of Possession: No Exorcist Needed 136

Dealing with Pronouns and “-Ing“ Nouns 137

Chapter 9: Small Words, Big Trouble: Prepositions 139

Proposing Relationships: Prepositions 139

The Objects of My Affection: Prepositional Phrases and Their Objects 140

Pop the question: Questions that identify the objects of the prepositions 142

Why pay attention to prepositions? 143

A Good Part of Speech to End a Sentence With? 144

Chapter 10: Two Real Really Good Parts of Speech: Adjectives and Adverbs 147

Clarifying Meaning with Descriptions 147

Adding Adjectives 148

Adjectives describing nouns 149

Adjectives describing pronouns 149

Attaching adjectives to linking verbs 150

Articles: Not just for magazines 150

Pop the question: Identifying adjectives 151

Stalking the Common Adverb 153

Pop the question: Finding the adverb 153

Adverbs describing adjectives and other adverbs 155

Choosing Between Adjectives and Adverbs 156

Sorting out “good“ and “well“ 157

Dealing with “bad“ and “badly“ 158

Adjectives and adverbs that look the same 159

Creating Comparisons with Adjectives and Adverbs 160

Ending it with -er or giving it more to adjectives 160

Creating comparisons with adverbs 163

Breaking the Rules: Irregular Comparisons 164

Good, bad, well 164

Little, many, much 165

Part 3: Conventional Wisdom: Punctuation and Capitalization 167

Chapter 11: Punctuation Law That Should Be Repealed: Apostrophes 169

The Pen of My Aunt or My Aunt’s Pen? Using Apostrophes to Show Possession 170

Ownership for singles 170

Sharing the wealth: Plural possessives 171

Possession with Proper Nouns 174

Ownership with Hyphenated Words 175

Possessive Nouns That End in S 176

Common Apostrophe Errors with Pronouns 177

Shortened Words for Busy People: Contractions 179

You Coulda Made a Contraction Mistake 180

Chapter 12: Quotations: More Rules Than the Internal Revenue Service 183

And I Quote 184

Punctuating Quotations 185

Quotations with speaker tags 185

Quotations without speaker tags 189

Quotations with question marks 190

Quotations with exclamation points 191

Quotations with semicolons 192

Quotations inside quotations 192

Who Said That? Identifying Speaker Changes 194

Germ-Free Quotations: Using Sanitizing Quotation Marks 195

Punctuating Titles: When to Use Quotation Marks 196

Chapter 13: The Pause That Refreshes: Commas 199

Distinguishing Items: Commas in Series 200

Using “Comma Sense“ to Add Information to Your Sentence 202

Separating a list of descriptions 202

Essential or extra? Commas tell the tale 204

Commas with appositive influence 207

You Talkin’ to Me? Direct Address 208

Using Commas in Addresses and Dates 209

Addressing addresses 209

Punctuating dates 211

Getting Started: The Introductory Comma 212

Words not connected to the meaning of the sentence 212

Phrases and clauses 212

Punctuating Independently 213

Chapter 14: Useful Little Marks: Dashes, Hyphens, and Colons 215

Inserting Information with Dashes 215

Long dashes 216

Short dashes 216

H-y-p-h-e-n-a-t-i-n-g Made Easy 217

Understanding the great divide 217

Using hyphens for compound words 218

Placing hyphens in numbers 219

Utilizing the well-placed hyphen 220

Creating a Stopping Point: Colons 220

Addressing a business letter or email 220

Introducing lists 221

Introducing long quotations 222

Chapter 15: CAPITAL LETTERS 225

Knowing What’s Up with Uppercase 225

Capitalizing (or Not) References to People 227

Sorting out titles 227

Writing about family relationships 228

Tackling race and ethnicity 230

Capitalizing Geography: Directions, Places, and Languages 230

Directions and areas of a country 231

Capitalizing geographic features 231

Marking Seasons and Other Times 232

Schooling: Courses, Years, and Subjects 232

Writing Capitals in Titles 233

Headline style 233

Sentence style 235

Concerning Historic Capitals: Events and Eras 235

?4U: Cn U AbbreV8? 236

Chapter 16: Rules of Thumb: Adapting Grammar to Electronic Media 239

Thumb Wrestling with Grammar: Texts, Tweets, and Instant Messages 240

Choosing formal or informal language 240

Getting creative within character limits 243

Making a text and checking it twice 245

Emailing Your Way to Good Grammar 246

The heading 246

The greeting 247

The body 247

The closing 248

Handling Grammar on the Internet 248

Blogging for fun and (sometimes) profit 248

Navigating social networks 249

PowerPoint to the People 250

Writing titles 251

Biting the bulleted list 252

Part 4: Polishing Without Wax: The Finer Points of Grammar and Style 255

Chapter 17: Fine-Tuning Verbs 257

Giving Voice to Verbs 257

Actively Seeking a Better Voice 258

Getting Your Verbs in the Proper Mood 260

Stating the facts: Indicative 261

Commanding your attention: Imperative 261

Discovering the possibilities: Subjunctive 262

Using subjunctives with “were“ 262

Forming subjunctives with “had“ 264

Adding Meaning with Strong Verbs 265

“There is“ a problem with boring verbs 265

Does your writing “have“ a problem? 265

Don’t just “say“ and “walk“ away 266

Chapter 18: No Santas but Plenty of Clauses 269

Understanding the Basics of Clause and Effect 269

Getting the goods on subordinate and independent clauses 271

Knowing the three legal jobs for subordinate clauses 273

Untangling subordinate and independent clauses 275

Deciding when to untangle clauses 276

Putting your subordinate clauses in the right place 278

Choosing content for your subordinate clauses 279

Chapter 19: Spicing Up Sentence Patterns 281

Getting Verbal 281

Appreciating gerunds 282

Working with infinitives 283

Participating with a participle 284

Choosing the Correct Tense 286

Simultaneous events 286

Different times 287

Sprucing Up Boring Sentences with Clauses and Verbals 289

The clause that refreshes 290

Verbally speaking 291

Mixing It Up: Changing Sentence Patterns 292

Scrambling word order 293

Going long or cutting it short 293

Chapter 20: Staying on Track: Parallelism 295

Constructing Balanced Sentences 295

Shifting Grammar into Gear: Avoiding Stalled Sentences 299

Steering clear of a tense situation 299

Keeping your voice steady 301

Knowing the right person 303

Seeing Double: Conjunction Pairs 305

Avoiding Lopsided Comparisons 308

Chapter 21: Meaning What You Say: Clarity 311

On Location: Placing Descriptions Correctly 311

Misplaced descriptions 312

Just hanging out: Danglers 314

Avoiding confusing descriptions 317

Finding the Subject When Words Are Missing from the Sentence 318

Comparatively Speaking: Incomplete and Illogical Comparisons 320

Missing and presumed wrong 320

Illogical comparisons 322

Steering Clear of Vague Pronouns 326

Matching pronouns to antecedents 326

One pronoun, one idea 327

Chapter 22: Grammar Devils 331

Deleting Double Negatives 331

Scoring D Minus 334

Distinguishing Between Word Twins and Triplets 335

Three terrible twos 335

Goldilocks and the three there’s 335

Your and you’re: A problem 336

The owl rule: Who’s, whose 336

It’s an its problem 336

Close, But Not Close Enough: Words That Resemble Each Other 337

Continually (continuously?) making mistakes 337

Are you affected? Or effected? Do you sit or set? 338

Woulda, coulda, shoulda 339

You gotta problem with grammar? 340

Accepting the difference 340

Hanged or hung up on grammar 341

The farther or further of our country 341

Roaming Descriptions 342

Placing “even“ 342

Placing “almost“ and “nearly“ 343

Placing “only“ and “just“ 343

Pairs of Trouble: Complicated Verbs 344

Rise and raise 344

Lie and lay 345

Lose and loose 346

Two Not for the Price of One 346

Four for the Road: Other Common Errors 347

Me, myself, and I 348

In the group: Between/among 348

Being that I like grammar 349

Try and figure these out: Verbs and infinitives 349

Part 5: The Part of Tens 351

Chapter 23: Ten Ways to Improve Your Proofreading 353

Reread 353

Wait a While 354

Read It Aloud 354

Check the Commas 354

Swap with a Friend 355

Let the Computer Program Help 355

Check the Verbs 355

Check the Pronouns 355

Know Your Typing Style 356

The Usual Suspects 356

Chapter 24: Relax Already! Grammar Rules You Can Stop Worrying About 357

To Not Split an Infinitive 357

A Good Part of Speech to End a Sentence With 358

What Can or May I Do? 358

Formal Greetings in Emails and Texts 358

Addresses and Dates in Electronic Communication 359

Periods and Commas in Some Electronic Messages 359

The Jury Are Out on This Rule 359

That? Who? 360

Who/Whom Is Correct? 360

Hopefully This Rule Has Faded 360

Index 361

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