Grammar Rules II
On dashes, on parentheses!
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The internet is a scary place for grammar; it's chock-full of grammar villains: comma splices, fragments, misplaced modifiers. So that's why we've designed a few handy introductory courses and stuck them on the internet.
In the first course (Grammar Rules I), you were acquainted with the grammar heroes of the grammar world. In this course (Grammar Rules II: The Return), we get deeper into the wild world of grammar as we meet verbals, participles, active and passive voice, ellipses, and more. We like to think of these as a few tools for your grammar hero utility belt.
This course is the second of a three part series on grammar. Designed to fulfill all of the 8th grade Common Core Language standards, this course builds upon introductory knowledge to help both middle school students and older students develop more complex grammar skills and begin to write with style.
The complete list of topics covered includes:
- Verbals (gerunds, participles, and infinitives)
- Active and passive voice
- Mood (indicative, interrogative, conditional, subjunctive, etc.)
- Verb choice and consistency
- Comma, dash, and ellipsis use
- Writing for sense and style
Unit 1. Grammar Rules II
This course takes off the training wheels and exposes students to intermediate English grammar concepts, including verbals, voice, mood, verb consistency, and "pausing punctuation."
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 1: Grammar Knowledge Bombs Away
Wizards and Gerunds and Needy Clauses, oh my! This review has a lot to cover, and at first it might look intimidating, but in reality, this is almost all going to be stuff you know anyway, so don't sweat it. It's like walking: you know how to walk (or perhaps roll), but if a bizarre stranger for some reason felt the need to tell you about every muscle movement required to do actually do it, it would seem impossible. What we're saying is, don't sweat the muscle movements here—focus on walking (or rolling) to the store for that afternoon smoothie you're so fond of.
Walking and smoothies aside, though, you never know when you might stumble upon that one little light bulb moment among all of the drabness, like when that same bizarre stranger for some reason mentions socks (as one does), and then you're all, "Oh! They go under the shoes! That makes so more sense now!" Review sessions like this one right here are goldmines for those little moments. Also, we won't tell anyone about the socks. That part was tricky for us, too.
For some, this review would be intimidating like aiming a firehose at a thimble. But not for you, young Padawan. No, for you, this will be but another wisdom-thimble in the vast ocean that is your knowledge, so let's not waste any more time.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1: This Should Sound Familiar
We're aware that your powers of knowledge retention are mind-numbing to say the least. We're in awe, basically, of that big wrinkly noggin of yours, so we're confident that all of this stuff will sound familiar. It never hurts to review a thing or two now and again, though, so here. Have this short review.
The Abbreviated Everything You Need to Know About Grammar, by Shmoop
An independent clause doesn't need you or anyone else to make it a complete sentence. It expresses its own complete thought, thank you very much. Dependent clauses, on the other hand, need an independent clause to complete them. They're clingy, probably due to a traumatic past breakup.
Independent Clause: the coconut dangled dangerously
Dependent Clause: until the death ray could be destroyed
Subjects and verbs have to agree on everything, buy each other best friend necklaces, and wear matching outfits…by which we mean they have to reflect the same gender and number. Singular subject + singular verb, and plural subject + plural verb. Every time.
This matches: The giraffes, the tallest of which is Thor, run wildly through the streets after too much candy.
But not this: The giraffes, the tallest of which is Thor, runs wildly through the streets after too much candy.
The primary job of a verb tense is to tell when and for how long an action happened. There are a lot of them:
Present tense indicates an action that is happening right now, or happens frequently, like a habit or a twitch.
Formula: base form (the infinitive without the "to")
Example: The wizard chants.
Past tense indicates an action that took place entirely in the past. It's over now, and we have to move on.
Formula: past tense form
Example: The wizard chanted yesterday.
Future tense indicates an action that will take place at some point in the future, provided our plan succeeds. Muahahaha! (Just kidding…it will happen.)
Formula: will + base form
Example: The wizard will chant tomorrow.
Present perfect tense indicates an action that started in the past but that may possibly continue into the present.
Formula: has/have + past participle verb form
Example: The wizard has chanted the curse, but I'm not sure if he's finished yet.
Past perfect tense indicates an action that occurred in the past and finished before another past action. It's in the "really, really past."
Formula: had + past participle verb form
Example: The wizard had chanted daily before he finally bought an app that chants for him.
Future perfect tense indicates that an action will be completed by a definite time in the future, but it hasn't started yet, so chill out, okay?
Formula: will have + past participle verb form
Example: The wizard will have chanted by Thursday.
Present Progressive tense indicates that an action is still occurring as we speak.
Formula: simple present tense of "be" + base form + ing.
Example: The wizard is chanting as we write this.
Past Progressive tense indicates that an action occurred in the past for a while, but is over now. Sad panda.
Formula: past simple tense of "be" + base form + ing.
Example: The wizard was chanting all day yesterday.
Future Progressive tense indicates that an action will be occurring for a while, but hasn't started yet.
Formula: "will be" + base verb + ing
Example: The wizard will be chanting all day tomorrow.
Pronouns step in and take the place of tired-out nouns whenever they can't bear to repeat themselves even one more time. We feel that our extreme appreciation for pronouns is best illustrated through An Example. So here you go:
The Flash said that The Flash wanted to perform a duet at the concert, but The Flash couldn't sign up without The Flash's best friend to be The Flash's partner.
This sentence is awkward and slightly sad. It also makes us twitch a little. This is better:
The Flash said that he wanted to perform a duet at the concert, but he couldn't sign up without his best friend to be his partner.
FYI: The noun to which a pronoun refers is called its antecedent. In our sentences above, "The Flash" is the antecedent of both "he" and "his." Remember this word. Remember it.
Subject pronouns take the place of a subject. They are: I, you, he, she, it, we, they.
Object pronouns take the place of a named object (the thing that is receiving the action of the verb. They are: me, you, him, her, it, us, them.
Possessive pronouns take the place of a possessive noun. (When used as adjectives, like "MY rabid squirrel," these become possessive adjectives…which kind of count as pronouns even though they are technically adjectives. Like pronouns, possessive adjectives also have to agree.) They are: mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs.
Modifiers like adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases exist solely to gussy up nearby nouns or verbs into their descriptive finest. And to bake us little cakes upon demand. They always want to be as near to the thing they are modifying as possible, but they can sometimes get misplaced and modify the wrong thing, like this:
The leprechaun dropped his bag of gold after I sang to him for twenty minutes into the gutter.
Accurately placed modifier:
The leprechaun dropped his bag of gold into the gutter after I sang to him for twenty minutes.
Without any hesitation, the vase went through the window.
Without any hesitation, Bruce Banner threw the vase through the window.
The four basic sentence types are simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. The best writers use a variety of them all, and never leave fragments behind as collateral damage. That's just rude.
Simple sentences consist of only one independent clause, and that's it. This is a one-clause show. To you, this means that there will be one subject being discussed and one verb doing an action, like this:
I opted for the utility vest.
But we can also combine two independent clauses together to make compound sentences, like this:
I opted for the utility vest, and Batman went for the belt.
If we want to add a little spice into our sentences, we can add one dependent clause to one independent clause. That particular smushing together of sentences is better known as a complex sentence. It looks like this:
Because radioactivity is not an excuse for bad fashion choices, I opted for the utility vest.
I opted for the utility vest because radioactivity is not an excuse for bad fashion choices.
Compound Complex Sentences
A compound complex sentence is a sentence made up of at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause, like this:
I opted for the utility vest because radioactivity is not an excuse for bad fashion choices, and Batman went for the belt.
Commas and Comma Splices
All this complex sentencing we've got going on means that we've got to be extra aware of what are commas are doing. A correctly place comma is a wonderful thing, but an incorrectly place comma, including comma splices, ruins beautiful sentences.
Here's the deal with comma splices: they typically happen when we know two independent clauses sort of go together, but we aren't sure how to actually punctuate it correctly. The usual solution is to Frankenstein-style mash them together with only a poor little comma between them, as if that were somehow enough. It isn't. It is never enough. Comma splices look like this:
The knight trembled with fear, his agoraphobia was well-known.
But this comma is not enough, because two independent clauses cannot be joined by only a comma. Instead, they need a coordinating conjunction to back them up (one of the FANBOYS).
Other stuff to keep in your back pocket (or your utility vest):
Restrictive clauses/appositives narrow down information about a noun.
Nonrestrictive clauses/appositives merely add extra, tangential information about a noun and require commas on either side to notify us of that fact. We mostly don't hate them.
Restrictive clause (no commas): The school that raises the most money will win the field day.
Nonrestrictive clause (commas): Manuel, who usually does a good job, is the pitcher in today's game.
Apostrophes cannot ever make anything plural. Ever. They can only make things possessive or contracted, like this:
Apostrophes with possession:
The marmoset's claws are terrifying
That platypus' fedora is charming.
Apostrophes with contractions:
We're = we are
I'm = I am
Shouldn't = should not
That's = that is
I'd = I would
Let's = let us
Who's = who is
It's = it is
Wordiness happens when you use too many words or the passive voice to say the same thing repetitively in different ways. It hurts readers' brains and hearts, and so should be abolished like pop quizzes right after lunch break on Mondays.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.1: It's like 7th Grade All Over Again
Here's your chance to give us the what-for on all that sexy grammar knowledge you've got floating around in that head of yours. Go ahead! Make our day. (No, really). Feel free to use the reading to help.