Is English Grammar Greek to you?

Ugh!  Grammar.  I know how you feel.  Right now, you’re probably asking yourself, “Do I really want to read this?  Where’s the fun, humor and self-satisfaction within Grammar?”  Well, I can tell you that I’m going to make this as much fun as possible and help at the same time.  So…

Let me help!

You see, even in a sentence as simple as the one above there’s a verb “let”, a pronoun “me”, and another verb “help.”

One thing that you can’t get mixed up with in relation to verbs are these tricky things called “verbals.”  They typically look like a verb but take the form of a noun within a sentence.  Check this sentence out!

  • “She really enjoys running and biking.”

Oh snap, right away you think of how fit she must be.  Or maybe that’s just me and you’re already getting fed up with my writing style.  We’re talking about grammar here!  Anyway, check out “running” and “biking.”  They look like verbs but in all actuality they’re actually a type of verbal called a gerund.  Gerunds always have an -ing ending and have the feel of action but serve only as the object or subject within a sentence.  So even though they look like verbs, they’re always nouns. But wait, there’s two more types of verbals!  Oh no!

Participles are the verbals that either have an -ing or -ed ending and are always adjectives. They typically will give extra meaning to a noun or a pronoun.  Take for example this action from Friday the 13th:

  • “Raising the axe above his head, the slasher walked menacingly toward the door.”
Take this Non-User of Grammar!

Take this Non-User of Grammar!

Raising is part of the phrase that adds information about slasher, the subject of the sentence.  Hence, the role of raising is to modify the noun.  The last verbal we should discuss, I mean enjoy, is the awesomeness that is the Infinitive.

Infinitives are verbals that are formed by to plus the present tense of a verb, (at least in most cases.)  They’re one of my favorites because of how easy they are to identify.  Take this example from my favorite genre of films; horror:

  • “The slasher needs to kill.”
Look out Arsenio!  Jason is using Grammar!

Look out Arsenio! Jason is using Grammar!

In this sentence to kill is a noun, the object of the verb needs. That’s mostly all about gerund but there’s still more to come and I promise I’ll stop talking about horror movies. 🙂

One of the rules in grammar I’ve always had a misconception about was the use of an apostrophe when making a noun possessive.  I don’t know about you but I’ve known many people who’re possessive over the years so if you were to write about them, this would be a great tool to know.

If a singular noun doesn’t end in s, add ‘s.  This example is for my Jewish girlfriend:

  • the owner’s dreidel
  • Yaicha’s beautiful hair

See, the apostrophe has the s after it.  Of course, in English, there’s always exceptions!  Argh, always with the exceptions!

If a singular common noun ends in s, add ‘s unless the next word begins with s.  (This includes words with s and sh sounds.)  Oh, tricky!  I never learned that before!

  • that is Yaicha’s menora

but

  • see the bass’ scales

See where the apostrophe went?  Crazy, huh?  What to talk about next… I suppose we could talk about us.  Or I could talk about you.  Or he could talk about she.  Yeah, you guessed it, let’s talk about the sexiest type of pronouns out there; Personal Pronouns.  😉

The most common pronoun type, the personal pronoun, usually comes in three distinct cases: Subjective, Objective, and Possessive.  Yeah, you thought we could get away from possessiveness but apparently humans are selfish so we need this in grammar.  Check this out:

  • The word “I” is subjective while “me” is objective and “my/mine” is possessive.

These are words you hear children use a lot when they have something they don’t want to share.  Those are also that same reasons why I don’t want to have children, aside from the pooping, peeing, and sleepless nights attributed to one.

Indefinite pronouns are less humorous but needed just as much as personal pronouns.  Words like some, none, all, and most are some examples.  Take this example unofficially overheard from a sleazeball in South Beach:

  • “Both of those hookers are overpriced.”
Guess what it cant clean?  The mess that is my career!

Guess what it can't clean? The mess that is my career!

That phrase just goes to show that there’s no such thing as moral or immoral writing, just good or bad writing.

Relative and interrogative pronouns are ones that are usually easy to recognize but are tough to use properly.  Take these for example:

  • Who or whom, did the police arrest?  Answer: Whom.  (Hopefully it was the sleazeball.)

or

  • The police officers that stopped his car were shocked by his drunken rant.

“That” should actually be “who” since we’re talking about the police.  The poor police who had to arrest a drunken sleazeball that bought a cheap hooker.

One of the last pronouns is called a Demonstrative.  These pronouns are what others call “pointers.”  They include that, this, those, and these.  For example:

  • This is an episode of TMZ you do not want to miss.

This refers to a specific TV show.  A show in which you eventually see a drunken sleazeball in a beaten up state.

Cue the Price is Right FAIL music...

Cue the Price is Right FAIL music...

Speaking of getting assaulted…

Have you ever been tased?  I haven’t and I hope you haven’t either but let’s consider this sentence as an example for our next subject to talk about; Adjectives!

  • The student didn’t cooperate and was tased by the police.

Kind of boring right?  Let’s add some adjectives to spice things up a little!

  • The drunken college student didn’t cooperate and was tased by the vigilant police.

The adjectives painted a fuller picture about the student and the police.  What are some words that can paint a better description on getting tased?  (You’re thinking of how someone getting tased looks like now aren’t you?  Just youtube taser videos, there’s a ton of them out there.)

Limiting adjectives sets boundaries and limits meaning within a sentence.  For example:

  • The courtroom had to wait 3 days before the jury arrived at a verdict.

The number 3 tells us specifically how many days they had to wait to find out the verdict on the college student.

One of the most tricky adjectives for me is the Predicate Adjective.  This is an adjective that follows a linking verb.  It modifies the subject, which can be either a noun or a pronoun.

  • He is happy about the jury’s decision.

The predicate adjective, happy, describes the condition of the subject.  I’d be happy too, were I in his shoes and after getting tased.  Ouch!  Next, we’re going to touch upon a delightful subject called Adverbs.

Adverbs can do many things within a sentence and many of them end in -ly.  Be warned, don’t always rely on that knowledge alone.  Adverbs can modify a verb, modify an adjective, modify another adverb, introduce a sentence, and connect two clauses.  Since most of the easy ones end in -ly, I’m going to give you an example of introducing a sentence:

  • Why do rednecks fall in love?
Love is a battlefield.  Battlefield on the senses!!!

Love is a battlefield. Battlefield on the senses!!!

Why is the adverb that modifies the verb fall.

So, why do rednecks fall in love?  Check back in a later blog to see some reasons I’ve found.  On another note, let’s talk about Conjunctions!

I feel like I should just embed a Youtube video of the Schoolhouse Rock song, “Conjunction Junction,” but I’ll hold back in high hopes that I can get something more from this blog for myself as well as in teaching you.  There’s a quote out there somewhere that states something like, “You never fully learn the subject until you teach it.”  I probably butchered that but yeah…  Conjunctions!

Conjunctions basically keep the rhythm of a sentence and also creates needed transitions of thought.  There’s three types of conjunctions; Coordinating, Subordinating, and Correlative.

Coordinating conjunctions can link two independent clauses, which could stand alone in separate sentences but can also link simple words and phrases.  My fabulous grammar instructor once told be an anagram called “FANBOYS.”  For, and, nor, but, or, yet, so are the most common coordinating conjunctions.  Let me tell  you a secret though, my book says the word “so” is a subordinating conjunction. I’m so confused now!  Oh well, I’m sure 90% of the world’s population wouldn’t get it anyway.

Subordinating conjunctions are used to join clauses of unequal weight.  Some words include, after, since, through, before, and as if.  Be careful with “as if” though; you can’t use it like Valley Girls in Clueless do.  Or can you?  I shouldn’t have admitted to having seen that movie.  Check out this example:

  • It looks as if it will be sunny today.
  • It looks like sun today.

Correlative conjunctions operate in pairs because they pair words, phrases and clauses to provide balance.

  • He not only had his cake but also ate it too.

Not only & but also are just a small amount of correlative conjunctions out there.  If you still don’t get it, check out the video from Schoolhouse Rock!  Oh yeah!  I had to put it in here!

I know by now you’re probably thinking, “Man, this guy is still talking about Grammar?  He thinks he’s funny too.  If he only knew…”  Well, I know I’m not George Carlin or John Stewart but still, stay with me.

Prepositions work with nouns and pronouns to create phrases and to link the phrases to the rest of the sentence.  Here’s an example:

  • This blog means a lot to you and me.

“To you and me” is the prepositional phrase in that sentence.  I know, it probably means more to me than you because I’m getting the grade but at least you’re getting an entertaining way to read grammar so it isn’t all bad, right?

One of the big no-nos that has been instilled in most of us since a young age is using the phrase you and me.  Typically, if it’s between us, it’s always “you and me” not “you and I.”  So, the correct way to shape this would be:

  • Between you and me, this beer is kind of strong.
Its Whos Thirsty? not Whose Thirsty?

It's "Who's Thirsty?" not "Whose Thirsty?"

Mmm… Beer.  Oh, sorry, I’m back.  Okay, now it’s on the the creative stuff!  Let’s talk about the difference in passive voice and active voice.

Passive voice robs the sentence of it’s life.  Essentially, it’s like a depressed sentence before Prozac came along.  It just stumbles listlessly while hitting the points but not making a spark.  Basically, it has no friends.  I’m sorry, that’s mean.  I apologize but still, look at this sentence:

  • The arguing of the drunken college neighbors could be heard over the oncoming police sirens.

Now check out the sentence in active voice.

  • The oncoming police sirens stood no chance in comparison to the roaring arguments the drunken college neighbors produced.

Boy, I don’t know what’s more awesome, that active sentence construction or the fact that it’s happening outside my house right now.  College: I guess it’s all about learning.  I often wonder if my neighbors smell like Summer’s Eve.

The last thing I want to discuss with you is the difference between a Good and Bad sentence.  After reading this blog, I hope you’ve gained some wisdom in the rules of English grammar and that your sentence construction will be better afterward.  Here’s a sentence that I was presented in a quiz for my Grammar class that is written poorly:

  • A photo was taken by the reporter of the man that stole her purse with an old polaroid camera.

Right away, you can tell it needs some better wording and punctuation but look at how it is without.  Doesn’t it seem that the purse contains a polaroid camera?  I mean, they are portable and can fit in purses.  Plus, wouldn’t that specify what purse was stolen better?  In all actuality, the reporter just used a crappy camera to take a picture.  A polaroid camera.  Pssshh, that’s what a bad sentence can do.  Literally cause a train wreck on paper.  Check out this revision:

  • The amateur reporter took a photo with a crappy, old Polaroid camera of the man who stole her purse.

Well, that’s about it.  Thank you very much for reading my blog and I look forward to hearing any comments you have on it.  I will leave you with this quote:

“If ignorance is bliss, then knock the smile off my face.” -Zach de la Rocha