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 Foreign Language
Success Strategies

First Edition, Volume I: August 2006  

Part II- English Language Grammar Primer & Exercises


Active voice tells you that the subject of the sentence performs the action.
Example: Mr. Franklin called for a meeting this morning. (Mr. Franklin did the calling)

Auxiliary verbs can change voice, tense, and emphasis. Auxiliary verbs are forms of the verbs to have, to be, to do. Two auxiliary verbs will and shall indicate future tense.
Examples: Ursula has never been to Paris. (Has never been is the complete verb.)
Ursula will be walking on the beach. (Will be walking is the complete verb.)

Adjectives describe nouns, pronouns, and noun equivalents.
Example: Irving owns a large collie. (Large tells us what kind of collie it is.)

Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They answer these questions: how, where, when, and why.
Example: Irving owns a very large collie. (Very tells us how large the collie is.)

Case refers to the different forms of nouns, pronouns, and noun equivalents changed according to their function in the sentence. In English, the cases are: subjective, objective, possessive, reflexive, and intensive.

Clauses refer to a unit of connected speech or writing that contain both a subject and predicate. A clause can be a simple sentence or part of a larger sentence.
Example: He who laughs last didn’t get the joke. (independent clause, subordinate clause)

Common nouns identify a generic, non-specific person, group, place, thing, or idea.
Example: tables, cup, cat, grammar

Compound word is a word that is made up of two or more elements. Nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs may be compound.
Example: tablecloth, poverty-stricken, pick up, last night

Compound subjects consist of two or more head nouns that are combined with conjunctions to act as the subjects in a sentence.
Example: The pencil and paper are on top of the table.

Compound complex sentences contain at least two independent clauses and one dependent clause.
Example: They know how to conjugate verbs, but don’t know how to decline nouns where they should.

Complex sentences contain an independent clause and at least one dependent.
Example: I received the email that you sent me.

Complex/complete subjects are the simple subject plus all its modifiers, including prepositional phrases and relative pronouns.
Example: My old friend from high school whom you have not met is here.

Complements are words or phrases that complete a grammatical construction. Please see subjective and objective complement.

Direct objects are objects directly affected by the verb. They receive the main verb and answer what or whom.
Example: Captain Pugwash whipped Roger the cabin boy. (Roger was affected by the whipping.)

Indirect objects are objects that receive the direct object. They answer to or for whom.
Example: Captain Pugwash gave Roger the cabin boy a whipping.
(Roger was not given. A whipping was given. Roger received the whipping.)
Infinitive is the base form of a verb preceded by the word to. An infinitive may have its own direct object to create an infinitive phrase.
Example: To delay is to win the game. (To delay is an infinitive; to win the game is an infinitive phrase.)

Intransitive verbs do not require a direct object.
Example: Juliet was crying. (The thought is complete with subject and verb only.)

Linking verbs are intransitive; yet they enable subjective complements to rename a subject, or adjectives to describe the subject.
Example: Norene is a successful dentist. (Dentist and Norene refer to the same person.)
Example: Norene is beautiful. (Beautiful describes Norene.)

Modals indicate potentiality, advisability, necessity, possibility, etc., of a particular action occurring.
Examples: Roberta must invest in a new pair of boots. (Must invest is the complete verb phrase.)
Roberta might invest in a new pair of boots. (Might invest is the complete verb phrase.)

Nouns are names of persons, places, things, or ideas. Nouns may be common, proper, collective, or compound and either singular or plural. They may be preceded by articles, such a, an, and the.
Example: chairs, Nike’s, team, baseball

Noun equivalents are any other part of speech used as a noun.
Example: Bowling can be fun! (Bowling, normally a verb, is used as a subject in a noun role.)

Objective complements rename or describe the direct object and can be a noun or adjective.
Examples: The tabloids declared Sharon a menace to society. (Menace, a noun, renames Sharon.)
The tabloids called Gilbert annoying. (Annoying, an adjective, describes Gilbert.)

Participles are different forms of the present and past tense of a verb. Past participles end in –en, –ed, or are sometimes irregular. Past participles end in –ing. A participle can also function as a noun, adjective, or adverb. A present participle that is a noun equivalent is a gerund. A past participle with a direct object creates a participial phrase.
Examples: Building robots is difficult work. (Building robots is a gerund phrase.)
I own three used cars. (Used is an adjective describing cars.)

Passive voice tells you that the subject does not perform the action but rather is acted upon.
Example: Six people were fired this week by Mr. Franklin. (The six people didn’t do the firing.)

Predicates contain everything outside the complete subject. At a minimum, a predicate must contain a verb. Example: The battered old radio is playing our song quite loudly.

Phrases are groups of words that form a distinct part of a sentence, but do not contain both a subject and a predicate.
Example: I expertly trailed an old man to the churchyard. (verb phrase, noun phrase, prepositional phrase)

Prepositions describe the relationship of one word, phrase, or clause in a sentence with another and must always have an object.
Example: Donald shrieked like a teenage girl. (Donald’s shriek is related to the phrase a teenage girl by the preposition like. The object of the preposition is a teenage girl.)

Prepositional phrases contain both a preposition and an object of the preposition, and function as either an adjectival or adverbial modifier. The object of the preposition is a noun or noun phrase, but it cannot be the direct object or the subject of a sentence.
Example: Sometimes bananas with brown skin will attract fruit flies. (which bananas?)
Pronouns replace a noun in a sentence.
Example: Bob loves the Beatles. He thinks they rule. (He replaces Bob; they replaces Beatles.)

Proper nouns name particular persons, groups, places, or things, or ideas.
Example: The penguins are swimming in Lake Erie! (common noun, proper noun)
The topic for today’s seminar at UC Santa Cruz is Christianity during the Middle Ages.

Sentence refers to a unit of connected speech or writing that contains a subject and a predicate and makes a complete thought.
Example: The battered old radio is playing our song quite loudly.

Simple subject refers to the head noun that tells you what the sentence is about.
Example: The battered, old radio is playing our song quite loudly.

Subjective complements rename or describe the subject and can be nouns or adjectives.
Examples: Robert Waldo was the tallest man in the world. (Man renames Robert Waldo.)
Orson Welles was very famous. (Famous describes Orson Welles.)

Syntax is the study of how words are combined to form sentences.

Transitive verbs require a direct object to be complete.
Example: Mark ignored Helga. (Tells whom Mark ignored.)

Verbals are verb forms that do not function as verbs in a sentence, but rather as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.

Verb voice tells us whether the subject performed the action or not. Please see active and passive voice.

Verbs show action or existence and come in six forms: infinitive, base, present, past, present participle, and past participle.

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