Basic Grammar Rules for Beginners: An Ultimate Guide

For English learners to be able to speak clearly, they need to fully understand the basic grammar rules that govern the language. Without rules, we can’t talk to each other the right way.

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    Definition of a Sentence

    A sentence comprises a subject and a predicate and expresses a complete thought. A sentence begins and finishes with a capital letter and a punctuation mark, respectively.

    Sentence:The hairdresser made 50 wigs. Subject: ‘The hairdresser’ Predicate: ‘made 50 wigs’.

    That brings us to the question of sentence structure.

    What Is Sentence Structure?

    A sentence structure is a grammatically complete statement in the form of a verb (to do), subject (someone or something that is being pointed to), and object (something that is being done to).

    In the English language, sentences can be either simple or complex. Every sentence in English begins with a verb, followed by any other words that contribute to the sentence’s meaning. It is essential to be able to construct phrases that sound natural.

    The three components of an English sentence are the subject, the verb, and the object. Without these three components, the statement would not be complete.

    Subject

    A subject is the first person, place, or thing that is mentioned (the actor). It can also be a formal noun, such as “the president”, or less formal but still important, such as “the Pope”.

    Example of first person or thing:

    • Stacy goes to church every Sunday.
    • Water is good for your health.

    Predicate

    The predicate is a word or phrase that completes a sentence. The predicate contains a verb and informs the reader about the subject. Example: Janet walks to school. In this sentence ‘Janet’ is the subject and ‘walks to school’ is the predicate. A simple predicate is made up of only one word: a verb. Example: Janet slept. In this sentence the predicate ‘slept’ consists of just one word.

    Object

    The person or thing that is affected by what the subject does. Example: The rabbit ate a nut.

    Clause

    Clauses are the parts that make up a sentence. Like sentences, clauses have a subject and a predicate. Example: My siblings are going to church, and they will be home late. This is a complete sentence composed of two clauses.

    Phrase

    A phrase is a group of words that doesn’t have a subject and a predicate. Inside of clauses, phrases act like parts of speech. They can be used as nouns, adjectives, adverbs, etc. See the examples of phrases underlined below:

    • The sun is shining.
    • This game is over.
    • The weather is beautiful.

    4. PARTS OF SPEECH

    In addition to the basic rules of sentence structure, it is beneficial for learners to study the parts of speech.

    Noun

    A noun is a name of a person, animal, place, thing, quality, idea, activity, or feeling. Nouns may be either singular or plural. Examples of nouns: Jerry, people, London, plates, kindness

    Pronoun

    A pronoun is a term that stands in for a noun, such as “I”, “you”, ‘her’, ‘us’, ‘they’ etc.”

    Verb

    A verb is a term that describes an action, condition, or event, such as ‘talk‘, ‘happen‘, ‘love‘. A verb can either be dynamic or stative. Dynamic verbs (actions): walk, sleep, drink, read, write, etc. Stative verbs (ideas, feelings, and states of being): be, feel, touch, see, hear, love, hate, etc. A verb can be a main verb or an auxiliary or helping verb such as “have” or “will.” Verbs can also alter form to indicate the past, present, or future.

    Adjective

    A noun or a pronoun is described, identified, qualified, or given further information by an adjective.

    Examples: ugly, heavy, rough, beautiful.

    Adverb

    An adverb modifies a verb by describing how, how often, where, or how we do something. Examples:ferociously, carefully, well, sometimes, hardly

    Articles and Determiners

    Articles and determiners are words that go before a noun to indicate quantity or what the noun refers to. Examples:

    ‘A’, ‘that’, ‘one’, ‘my’, ‘your’, ‘some’, ‘many’ etc.

    Preposition

    A preposition is a word that connects a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to another component of the sentence.

    They can also indicate time, direction, motion, purpose, or ownership. Prepositions are frequently used with nouns to indicate place.

    Examples:

    ‘In’, ‘of’, ‘above’, ‘to’.

    Conjunction

    Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases, or clauses. When we use conjunctions, we don’t have to make as many short sentences. Typical conjunctions are “and”, “yet”, and “nor.”

    Interjection

    An exclamation is used to express a strong emotional response. Examples: 

    Ah! Ouch! Hurray! Alas! Gosh!

    Three Things to Remember About Basic Grammar Rules

    1. Take Note of Homophones

    Homophonic words sound the same but mean different things, even if they are spelled differently. This can make things confusing, and unfortunately, English has a lot of these words.

    Examples:

    • Here and hear
    • I and eye
    • Break and brake

    2. Remember the question-word order

    The structure of questions differs from the structure of affirmatives. Therefore, you must remember to alter the word order or add the auxiliary ‘do’. There are four question construction types in English.

    Verb “to be”

    When using the verb “to be” in a question, switch the subject and verb. For example, Are you a driver?

    Adding the auxiliary “do” to other verbs make it a question. For example, “Do they camp here?”

    Modal verbs

    To turn a modal verb into a question, switch the subject and the verb. For example, “Can he drive the car?”

    Auxiliary verbs

    When a sentence has an auxiliary verb, like “have” in the present perfect, switch the subject and the auxiliary verb. For example: “Have you seen my bracelet?”

    3. Never Employ Two Negatives

    There are typically two methods to describe a negative concept in English. For example, “The house is empty” can be alternatively written as:

    • There is nothing in the house. 
    • There isn’t anything in the house.

    Nothing and anything have identical meaning. However, nothing is used with an affirmative verb while anything is used with a negative verb.

    To Wrap Up

    Learning the grammar rules is one of the most difficult aspects of learning a new language.

    While English grammar may seem quite straightforward compared to other languages, a minor error can easily alter your intended meaning.

    If you are willing to make the effort, however, the rewards should be well worth it.

    Basic Grammar Rules for Beginners: An Ultimate Guide

    Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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