Grammar Overview

What does “Grammar” refer to?

Grammar refers to the structure of a language: the parts of speech and their functions, their relationship to each other, word order in sentences, the parts of a sentence and how they are put together (sentence patterns). Here are some additional definitions to provide a brief introduction or helpful review.

Parts of Speech

Parts of Speech Poem

Every name is called a noun,

As field and fountain, street and town,

In place of the noun the pronoun stands

As he and she can clap their hands.

The adjective describes a thing,

As magic wand or bridal ring.

The verb means action, something done,

As read and write and jump and run.

How things are done the adverbs tell,

As quickly, slowly, badly, well.

The preposition shows relation,

As in the street or at the station.

Conjunctions join, in many ways,

Sentences, words, or phrase and phrase.

The interjection cries out, “Hark!

I need an exclamation mark!”

– Unknown author


Four Sentence Types

  • Declarative: I need my Batman cup in order to screw together this IKEA set.
  • Imperative: Go get my Batman cup.
  • Interrogative: Where did you put the screws?
  • Exclamatory: Holy crud, Batman!


Basic Sentence Patterns


S = Subject = Topic of the sentence

V = Verb = What is going on in the sentence – what the subject is doing/action

O = Object = It can be helpful to think of the object as the word or words that complete a sentence. Most sentences need to be completed, but there are some without an object, like the sentence: “I do.” This is still considered a complete sentence because it has a subject (I) and a verb (do), and therefore represents a complete thought. If we add an object, the sentence is more specific and informative: “I do dance.”

The Eight Basic Sentence Patterns

  1. The Simple Sentence. Subject + Verb + Object.
    • Kenneth is a screwball.
  2. The Compound Sentence. Subject + Verb + Object + Comma + Conjunction + Subject + Verb + Object.
    • He wouldn’t stop telling crude jokes, and Davis didn’t like that.
  3. The Introductory Sentence. Intro Phrase + Comma + Subject + Verb + Object.
    • Yesterday evening, Davis and Kenneth screwed in some light bulbs.
  4. The Interrupting Sentence. Subject + Comma + Interrupting Phrase + Comma + Verb + Object.
    • Kenneth, the dude from Indiana, brought some screwy-looking pizza.
      • An interrupting phrase is sometimes referred to as a “non-essential addition” because whatever is between the commas is not essential to the grammar of the sentence—if you removed it, the sentence would be complete without it.
  5. The Embedded Sentence. Subject + Who/That + Phrase + Verb + Object.
    • The pizza that was weird got tossed in the garbage.
  6. The Dependent clause sentence. Dependent clause marker word + Subject + Verb + Object + Comma + Subject + Verb + Object. OR Subject + Verb + Object + Dependent clause marker word + Subject + Verb + Object + Comma.
    • After they tossed the pizza, Kenneth and Davis saw the trash can was overflowing.
    • Kenneth and Davis saw the trash can was overflowing after they tossed the pizza.
  7. The Trailing Sentence. Subject + Verb + Object + Colon + List or Trailing Word.
    • The stinky garbage contained the following: the screwy pizza, two paper plates, and seven old light bulbs.
  8. The Complex Sentence. Subject + Verb + Object + Semi-Colon + Complex Conjunction + Comma + Subject + Verb + Object.
    • Davis took the garbage outside; however, he complained about it the whole time.


The Three Most Common Sentence Pattern Errors

  1. Fragment: An incomplete sentence, usually lacking either a subject or a verb, sometimes both.

    Example 1

    Fragment: Without his love. (missing both subject and verb)
    Correct: I was torn without his love.
  2. Run-on: Two or more SVO units fused together without punctuation.

    Example 2

    Run-on: He didn’t want to stay and well I guess that was okay, but I wanted him there and he couldn’t be so whatever.
    Correct: He didn’t want to stay, but I wanted him there. He couldn’t be, though.


  3. Comma Splice: A comma is spliced between two sentences, and it just needs to change into a period or semi-colon or an added conjunction and comma.

    Example 3

    Comma Splice: The doctor mentioned the heart condition, I couldn’t believe it.
    Correct: The doctor mentioned the heart condition; I couldn’t believe it.
    Correct: The doctor mentioned the heart condition, but I couldn’t believe it.


Dependent Clauses and Conjunctions

There are different kinds of dependent clauses (also called subordinate clauses) and conjunctions and using any of these words/phrases increases the complexity of your sentences and thoughts, making them more specific and informative.


The difference between a clause and a phrase is that a clause has a subject and a verb, while a phrase does not.

  • Clause: After she quickly dodged the speeding truck, Jean shouted at the reckless driver.
  • Phrase: Dodging quickly, Jean shouted at the reckless driver.

Adverb Clause Marker Words

Think of these marker words as signals that you need to decide whether or not you’ll need a comma to combine a dependent clause to an independent clause. If you begin a sentence with an adverb clause, you’ll need a comma before the subject of the independent clause. For example, see the previous sentence and number six in the Eight Basic Sentence Patterns list above.

After Though
Although If Unless
As In order that Until
As if Since When
Because So that Where
Before Than Whether
Even That While

Relative Pronouns

Think of relative pronouns as words that signal the writer is going to provide relevant information about the closest noun. For example, see the previous sentence or the examples below.


That Who Whose
Which Whom Where

Example 4

  1. Whenever I eat sushi, I’m reminded of Kenneth, whose weirdest habit was to put wasabi on pizza.
  2. I remember the first time I faced a pizza which Kenneth had doused with wasabi.
  3. It happened on a night when practically every light bulb in the house had blown out!
  4. Kenneth was already on my last nerve when he revealed the peculiar pizza.
  5. We had an argument, but after I took out the trash, where the pizza ended up, we talked things out.
  6. It is fun to reminisce about old friends with whom you have lost contact.

Conjunctive adverbs / complex conjunctions

Whenever you use a conjunctive adverb, you should make a mental note that you will probably need to use a comma. For example, when one of these words or phrases begins a sentence, you will almost always need a comma, as in this sentence. In addition, if you combine two independent clauses with a semi-colon, as in number eight in the Eight Basic Sentence Patterns list above, you will need a comma after the conjunctive adverb; otherwise, you will need to decide if you still need the comma on a case by case basis.

also consequently for example furthermore
however in addition in contrast in fact
instead likewise moreover nevertheless
otherwise still then therefore

Conjunctions (FANBOYS)

Conjunctions do not always need a comma because they depend on the function of the conjunction in the sentence. For example, see number two in the Eight Basic Sentence Patterns list above and the list below.

For But
And Or
Nor Yet

Example 5

  • Davis decided to move to Albuquerque to go to college, for his grandmother lived in Santa Fe.
  • His grandmother was happy to have him so nearby, yet she was unhappy when he told her that he wasn’t going to live with her.
  • She had a long list of chores, so he weeded the yard, cleaned out the garage, and painted the porch.
  • Davis was relieved for the semester to start, but his grandmother was disappointed.
  • He had not defrosted the freezer, nor had he ironed her sheets.
  • Luckily, Davis had to move to campus, and Grandma’s list would have to wait until winter break.



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Grammar Overview” by Leandra Binder is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and adapted work from the source below:



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