Kaplan Grammar Power includes:
Complete review of sentence structure
Everything you need to know about nouns, verbs, pronouns, modifiers, and more
The key rules of punctuation
Helpful tips and strategies
Skill-honing exercises with answer key, glossary, and more
Chapter One: A Life SentenceRead aloud the following group of words:
He is a man who caresPerhaps you read it this way:
He is a man who cares.But you might also have read it this way:
He is a man. Who cares?Both versions are grammatically correct, both make sense, and both use the same words in the same order. However, they convey two very different messages. To communicate your thoughts in a clear, unambiguous way, you need to structure your words into sentences. Individual words are important, but meaning comes from sentences.
Practically Speaking You've been using sentences to communicate for most of your life, so obviously you know a lot about them even if you can't name or identify a single part of speech. That's okay. You're not reading about grammar so you can discuss participial phrases on your next date (at least, we sincerely hope not!). You're taking time out of your busy schedule to study grammar for only one reason: because it has practical value. The practical value of grammar resides in making sentences. That is its sole purpose. Communication -- both verbal and written -- is based on the sentence. That's why we're not going to spend the first 50 pages of this book teaching you the individual parts of speech. We're going to start right off with the real thing, what you use every day: the sentence. The place to practice swimming is in the water, not on the shore. So jump in; the water's fine. (You will need to learn a few terms as we go along, but we promise to keep them to a minimum.)
Plug In Sentences are made of subjects and verbs, some of which are part of a phrase or clause. In the following sentences, underline all subjects once and all verbs twice. 1. The phone is ringing.
2. Could you please answer it?
3. Don't tell anyone where I am!
4. Mom and Dad will not ground me; however, I will grind you up into little pieces in about two more minutes.
5. Having a little sister tries my patience.
Sentence Power What is a sentence? The sentence is our basic unit of communication. From it we build everything from news broadcasts to college application essays; from e-mail messages to research papers; from corporate memos to true-crime novels; from "Dear John" letters to instructions for taking medication. Plays and screenplays also grow from sentences (although, since they attempt to reproduce the spoken word, they do not always strive for grammatical correctness or completeness). Even poetry -- no matter how the lines appear on the printed page -- is carried, for the most part, on the backs of sentences. What makes the sentence so powerful? A sentence is powerful because it is the expression of a complete and independent thought. A sentence, standing all by itself, makes sense. Every sentence you write is like a minidrama or a very short story (the shortest story you can imagine): Someone (or something) does something (or is something). In other words: Something happens.
The boy smiles. The girl swam. We are leaving. That movie was terrible. They endured.In and of themselves, these may not be the kind of stories for which Nobel Prizes in Literature are awarded (although the last sentence comes from The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, who actually did win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949), but they each fulfill the basic requirements: Something happens. Someone (or something) does something (or is something). Subjects and Verbs You're already familiar with the basic elements of the sentence. You have an intuitive understanding of what goes where (most of the time). You can demonstrate this by writing an appropriate word in each space in the following sentences. 1. The ______________ fell off the shelf. 2. ______________ is my favorite food. 3. ______________ are running in the halls. 4. An old ______________ cannot always be repaired. The words you wrote are subjects. Now write an appropriate word in each space in the following sentences: 5. Andrew and Jeff ______________ with their father. 6. The teacher ______________ the room. 7. The boys ______________ less than the girls. 8. The key ______________. The words you wrote are verbs. To fulfill its storytelling requirement, a sentence must always have a subject and a verb, and it must be able to stand on its own. What Is a Subject? The subject is always some form of a noun. It is the actor in your drama. The actor doesn't have to be a person. It can also be a place, a thing, or an abstraction: The desk seems old. Running can be good for you. Bombay surprised me. The future remains a mystery. To laugh is to survive. The subject may consist of two or more separate actors. This is called a compound subject: Kevin and I fought constantly. Eating and sleeping were his favorite activities. Men, women, and children cried at this movie. Exercise 1 Warmed up? Try this exercise. In each of the following sentences, underline the subject(s) once. (See the answers at the end of this book.) 1. We ran for the bus. 2. The roses smell wonderful. 3. January and February were the worst months of the year. 4. You frightened me. 5. To hear his voice gives me pleasure. To Find the Subject. If you have trouble locating the subject, picture the drama in your mind. If you still aren't sure who the star of the sentence is, ask yourself what the action is. Once you see the action taking place, work backward and ask who or what is performing that action. That will be the subject. What Is a Verb? A verb is a word that shows action. It indicates what the subject does or is or feels. A single verb may be composed of more than one word: Jill was running. Negatives are not part of the verb: I will not buy that paper. When a subject performs two or more separate actions, you have a compound verb: Joyce hacked and slashed her way out of the forest. To Check Your Verb Choice. If you're not sure about your choice for the verb, try putting I, you, he, she, it, or they before it and see if you get a sentence. If any one of those words fits, you've picked a verb. For example, Being in pain isolates you. Is being the verb? Use the test: "I being." "You being." "He being." "She being." "It being." "They being." None of these is a sentence; therefore, being cannot be the verb. What other possible choice is there? Isolates. Try it out: "I isolates." No. "You isolates." No. "He isolates." BINGO! Therefore, isolates is a verb. (And, in case you're interested, that makes being the subject.) Exercise 2 In each of the following sentences, underline the verb(s) twice. 1. He screamed at his younger sister. 2. Terry has been trying to buy a house. 3. Darryl sings in the chorus and plays on the football team. 4. We are not going to the party. 5. The painting lay in the closet gathering dust. Four Types of Sentences Sentences can be classified according to purpose. 1. You can make a statement (declarative sentence). I like my job. 2. You can ask a question (interrogative sentence). Is Abigail your sister? 3. You can give a command (imperative sentence). Sign the register. What is the subject of this sentence? Hmmm...if you're baffled, try to picture the scene in your mind. The speaker is commanding someone to "sign the register." A command is an order given directly to someone. Therefore, the speaker is really saying, "You sign the register." The unwritten subject of a command is referred to as the implied or understood you. 4. You can express surprise or strong emotion (exclamatory sentence). What a day I had! Although most sentences you write are declarative, it's good to know all four types so you can recognize them and use them to add variety to your work. Word Order In statements, commands, and exclamations, the subject usually comes before the verb. The crowd was on its feet. Stop right there. (You stop right there.) How thrilled I am to see you! In questions, the verb -- or part of the verb -- usually comes first. Is Jason at home? (Jason is...) May I see him? (I may see...) When you speak, this is not necessarily the case. "I'm supposed to call him?" you might ask. But speech is different from writing: You can use your voice to create the questioning inflection, so you can take a declarative sentence and simply add the question mark with your voice. In formal writing, most questions start with a verb: "Am I supposed to call him?" Here are some other variations on word order: You reverse normal subject-verb order when you begin a sentence with there, here, or it, as in the following examples. There are difficult choices in front of her. (choices are) Here comes the judge. (judge comes) There are many opportunities for you in this company. (opportunities are) It was terrible weather for rollerblading. (weather was) There will be another train in a few minutes. (train will be) There is no reason for you to make this mistake ever again. (reason is) There and here are never the subject; when you place them at the beginning of a sentence, the verb will follow and then the subject. It can be the subject of a sentence, but only when it is taking the place of a specific noun. You may choose to reverse normal subject-verb order to influence the rhythm of a sentence, to create suspense, or to add emphasis: Under the eaves was a nest of starlings. Faster and faster ran the girl. Thundering toward us strode the giant. By putting the subject (actor) at or near the end of the sentence, you delay some revelation to the reader. If you have a reason for doing this, it can be an effective variation. If you don't have a reason for doing this, it can sound pretentious. ("To the professor's office go I.") The worst sin for a writer -- apart from being unclear -- is sounding pretentious! Exercise 3 Pace yourself! In each of the following sentences, underline the subject(s) once and the verb(s) twice. Then, in the blank, identify the type of sentence: statement, question, command, exclamation. (Hint: A sentence can serve more than one purpose: "Don't hit her!" is both a command and an exclamation.) 1. Make my day. ______________ 2. Would you excuse me? ______________ 3. Please come here. ______________ 4. Stop right there! ______________ 5. There is no joy in Mudville. ______________ Clauses and Phrases If you learn to recognize clauses and phrases, you can avoid (or correct) the most common errors in sentence structure. You can also create more varied and interesting sentences. What Are Clauses? A clause is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb. There are two types of clauses: Santa and Mrs. (Okay, okay.) Actually, as all Marx Brothers fans know, there's also the infamous "Sanity Clause." (Oh, okay!) Seriously, the two types of clauses are independent and dependent clauses. An independent clause (also known as a main clause) is a group of words that contains both a subject and a verb and can stand on its own. Sound familiar? It should: This is how we defined a sentence. Therefore, you can conclude that a sentence is always composed of at least one independent clause. The ocean roared. Allison woke up. An independent clause can stand by itself, join with another independent clause, or have a dependent clause attached to it. A dependent clause (also known as a subordinate clause or, during the Christmas season, as Santa's helper...) has a subject and a verb but cannot stand on its own. Why not? Because it has something extra, a word added at the beginning that destroys its independence. Any independent clause can be made dependent by placing one of the following words in front of it: after if, even if when, whenever although, though in order that where, wherever as, as if since whether because that, so that which, whichever before unless while even though until who, whom how what, whatever whose Try it for yourself. Take the following independent clause (sentence): Rosie called her mother. Add a word from the list: Before Rosie called her mother. Even though Rosie called her mother. Since Rosie called her mother. Because Rosie called her mother. These are no longer independent clauses. Each has a subject and a verb, but they no longer make sense by themselves. The reader is left wondering, "Before Rosie called her mother, what happened?" or "Even though Rosie called her mother, what happened?" "Since Rosie called her mother, what happened?" "Because Rosie called her mother, what happened?" Dependent clauses cannot stand on their own. The stage has been set, but no drama has unfolded! What Are Phrases? A phrase is a group of related words that does not have a subject and a verb. It might have one or the other, or it might have neither, but it doesn't have both. (If it had both, it would be a clause.) Here are some examples: on the table the funniest girl tall, dark, and handsome faster than a speeding bullet which makes funny noises to sing out loud outrunning the competition who was so kind The most common type of phrase is the prepositional phrase. A preposition is a word used to show the relationship between two things, usually a relationship of place or time: The dish is on the table. She crawled under the picket fence. He sits across from me. The tree grew between the two houses. She waited for her trip to Mexico. A prepositional phrase consists of a preposition and a noun or pronoun, called the object of the preposition. The noun may have some modifying words around it. Take a moment to look over the following list of prepositions: about beside of above between off across by on among during onto around except over at for through before from to behind in toward below inside under beneath into with There are three things you need to know about prepositional phrases. 1. The subject of a sentence is NEVER in a prepositional phrase. From now on, when you need to find the subjects and verbs in a sentence, the first thing you should do is draw a line through every prepositional phrase. This helps if you have a long sentence, as in this example: From the back of the freezing room in the old school, Cher, under three sweaters, sneezed into the tissue in her right hand. Now cross out all the prepositional phrases: From the back of the freezing room in the old school, Cher, under three sweaters, sneezed into the tissue in her right hand. What you have left is the subject and the verb: Cher sneezed. This strategy also helps if you have a short sentence: The box of cookies was delicious. Which is the subject: box or cookies? The rule says the subject is NEVER in a prepositional phrase; therefore, you have to cross out of cookies: The box of cookies was delicious. (box is the subject) Crossing out prepositional phrases will help you find the essential parts of any sentence. 2. A prepositional phrase, like any other phrase, cannot stand alone. 3. In general, try not to end a sentence with a preposition. In olden days (that is, more than 20 years ago), standard usage dictated that you should never end a sentence with a preposition. Well, the guardians of the House of English have relaxed somewhat. (We told you Fido wasn't biting anymore.) Today, standard usage encourages you not to end a sentence with a preposition because it can sound awkward, especially in academic, business, or formal writing. For example: A preposition is not something you usually want to end a sentence with. But there are exceptions. Fine: What's he good for? Not: For what is he good? (sounds stilted) Fine: What is that used for? Not: For what is that used? (sounds too formal) Fine: What do you keep your dirty laundry in? (sounds nosy, perhaps, but natural) Not: In what do you keep your dirty laundry? (sounds nosy and snooty) Remember, adjust your writing -- as you would your clothing -- so that it's appropriate for the occasion. Don't be intimidated by long sentences. No matter how long or complicated a sentence is, it can always be reduced to its core: a subject and a verb. By weeding out the dependent clauses and prepositional phrases, you can find what is essential in any sentence. Conversely, you can develop your own sentences by starting with a core and adding information. Earlier in the chapter, we gave you this sentence: The boy smiles. (Who or what is the actor? Boy. What does he do? He smiles.) Let's expand the sentence: The boy who lives on the corner smiles. (Who or what is the actor? It's still the boy, but now we know which boy. What does he do? He smiles.) Let's expand the sentence some more: The tall, extremely handsome boy who lives on the corner smiles. (Who or what is the actor? It's still the boy, no matter how handsome he is. What does he do? He smiles.) Let's expand the sentence one more time: The tall, extremely handsome boy who lives on the corner smiles at me when I walk by. (Who or what is the actor? It's still the boy. What does he do? He still smiles, bless his little heart.) Exercise 4 Keep breathing! In this exercise, you'll be finding subjects and verbs. In each sentence, underline the subject(s) once and the verb(s) twice. In these sentences, the verb shows what the subject does: 1. Margot and Tony demanded a refund from the clerk who had lost their reservation. 2. I traveled through India. 3. When I go to my brother's house, his dog always jumps up and licks me on the face. 4. Sit down and make yourself at home. 5. Does Ruby yell at everyone? In these sentences, the verb shows what the subject is or feels. 6. There were two reasons for Anna's resignation. 7. David is alone and seems sad today. 8. Ellen and Chris are my friends. 9. She does not appear sorry for what she did. 10. Where is everyone? Common Sentence Problems Now that you're familiar with the basic word groups (independent clauses, dependent clauses, and phrases) that make up sentences, let's see how problems arise. The most frequent problems in sentence structure are fragments and run-ons. Fragments A fragment is a piece of something. A sentence fragment is a piece of a sentence, either a phrase or a dependent clause. Avoid using fragments in any kind of academic, business, or professional writing -- and in most other kinds of nonfiction writing as well. However, when you read novels, plays, screenplays, or poetry, you'll notice that fragments do appear, particularly when authors write dialogue or try to reproduce the natural rhythms of human thought. Unintended fragments occur most often in the following situations: When you use dependent clauses: Rashid offered to buy the books. Since he was going to the bookstore. Before you sit down. Would you get me a cup of coffee? When you use -ing and to phrases: Jerry refused to give up the twenty-dollar bill. Insisting it was his. Jasmine left a note on the kitchen counter. To remind her husband to feed the cat. When you supply additional details (often beginning with words like also, including, in addition, such as, for example, especially, and except): Everybody criticized my screenplay. Except the actor in the leading role. Sam liked to try new foods. For example, sushi and pickled plums. When you supply additional actions: The doctor carefully examined my nose and throat. Then looked inside my ears. I had been playing tennis with my neighbor for several months. And decided to invite him over for dinner. To Fix a Sentence Fragment. A fragment can be corrected by (1) attaching it to a sentence that comes before or after it, (2) adding a subject or verb to the fragment, and/or (3) changing the form of the verb to create a separate sentence. Exercise 5 Go the distance! In the following fragments, either the subject or the verb or both are missing. First, state what is missing. Then, rewrite the fragment so that it becomes a complete sentence. Add capital letters and punctuation as needed. 1. trying to look out the window subject and verb (missing part) Rewrite: 2. a lot of cockroaches Rewrite: 3. and seems like a nice person Rewrite: 4. is nervous about the exam Rewrite: 5. one by one Rewrite: 6. in spite of all my efforts Rewrite: 7. after seeing the doctor Rewrite: Rule Breaker The following poem, "Harlem," was written by Langston Hughes. What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore -- And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over -- like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags Like a heavy load. Or does it explode? Now read the poem as it would appear in paragraph form: What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore -- and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over -- like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? This poem contains -- gasp! -- sentence fragments. Circle them. What is missing in each case: subject, verb, or both? Why do you think Hughes broke the rule for complete sentences? Is there a pattern to his rule breaking? Change the fragments to complete sentences according to the rules of standard English. Is the poem more or less effective? Why? When you're in a rebellious mood and feel like breaking some rules, try writing a poem. It's a great way to experiment with sentence structure. To Self-Check for Fragments. Check for fragments in anything you write by reading the piece aloud from the last sentence to the first. That way you can't fool yourself by automatically attaching a fragment to the sentence on either side of it, the way you might if you read the piece from beginning to end. Run-Ons A run-on sentence is one in which two independent clauses are run together without adequate signals (punctuation or a combination of a word and punctuation) to notify the reader that one thought has ended and another has begun. Writing a run-on sentence is like going through a red light. You know you're supposed to make a stop, but you don't. Run-ons are divided into two categories: A fused sentence is one in which two independent clauses are run together with nothing -- no word, no punctuation -- separating them. (This is like speeding straight through the red light without even a pause.) The movie is good the book is better. The girls played baseball the boys went swimming. A comma-splice sentence is one in which two independent clauses are held together by placing a comma between them. A comma by itself is not strong enough to join two independent clauses. (This is like slowing down to see if anyone is watching and then going through the red light; it's a slight pause, but you're still breaking the law. Also, this is a rule that is broken often on the grammar road. Watch out for it. Don't be the one to get a ticket!) The movie is good, the book is better. The girls played baseball, the boys went swimming. To Fix a Run-On Sentence. You can correct run-on sentences in one of three ways: Make the two independent clauses into two separate sentences. The movie is good. The book is better. The girls played baseball. The boys went swimming. Connect the two independent clauses with a comma and one of the following connecting words: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. The movie is good, but the book is better. The girls played baseball, and the boys went swimming. The girls played baseball, but the boys went swimming. The girls played baseball, so the boys went swimming. (Notice that your choice of a joining word gives a slightly different emphasis to each of the corrected sentences.) Separate the two independent clauses with a semicolon. (Sometimes, one of the following connecting words may be used after the semicolon: therefore, thus, however, nevertheless, also, furthermore. If you use one of these connecting words in this way, it must be followed by a comma.) The movie is good; the book is better. The movie is good; however, the book is better. The girls played baseball; the boys went swimming. The girls played baseball; however, the boys went swimming. Exercise 6 The following sentences have a variety of errors. First, state what the problem is (fragment, fused sentence, comma-splice sentence) in the space provided. Then do whatever is necessary to correct the sentence. 1. ______________ After we woke up. 2. ______________ That cute boy wearing the green sweater. 3. ______________ I'm not going shopping, they never have what I want anyway. 4. ______________ She brought her boyfriend flowers, candy wasn't good for him. 5. ______________ He works hard on his papers he wants to get all A's. 6. ______________ The dress doesn't fit, I'll buy it anyway. 7. ______________ Sunshine is good for you too much sun is bad for you.
Table of ContentsPower Up! Getting Charged Up about Grammar
Chapter 1: A Life Sentence
Chapter 2: I'll Have Noun of It
Chapter 3: The Verb Circus: Under the Big Tense
Chapter 4: We're on the Case: In Search of the Elusive Pronoun
Chapter 5: Which Witch is Which? Using Modifiers to Describe, Distinguish, and Explain
Chapter 6: Punctuation and Other Vital Issues: From Capital-ism to Colon-ialism
Chapter 7: Some Pleasures (and Perils) of English: Idioms and Troublesome Word Pairs
Chapter 8: Prose and Cons: Some Tips for Strong, Clear Writing
Appendix A: Answer Key
Appendix B: Glossary of Terms
Appendix C: Principal Parts of Irregular Verbs (With a Special Feature on Lay and Lie)
Appendix D: Power Sources
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