Basic English Grammar for Dummies

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2015-09-15
  • Publisher: For Dummies
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The easy way to brush up on your English skills

Is it good or well? There, their, or they're? Some people don't have to think twice about using proper English, but for the rest of us it can get tricky and confusing. Whether you're writing or speaking, it's all too easy to fall prey to simple mistakes that will represent you in a less-than-desirable light—which can potentially cost you a job or put you in an embarrassing social situation. Avoiding complicated grammar rules, Basic English For Dummies sticks to the basics and makes it easy to get up and running on what you need to know to partake in successful everyday communication, no matter your audience or medium.

Inside, you'll find plenty of examples and exercises, guidance on how to structure sentences to make yourself easily understood, and so much more. In no time, you'll leave the 'me or I?' debate at the door and speak and write confidently and correctly. Plus, you'll expand your vocabulary, find the right tone and style you want to convey in your communication, and avoid common English language pitfalls.

  • Includes quizzes and self-tests
  • Provides guidance on composing letters, emails, texts, and phone calls
  • Explains in plain English how to improve your English skills
  • Gives you instruction and exercises on putting your skills to practice right away

If English is your first language, but you missed or have forgotten the nuances that were taught in school, Basic English For Dummies is your go-to guide. It is also ideal for those learning English as a second language.

Author Biography

Geraldine Woods is the author of more than 10 Dummies titles, including English Grammar For Dummies. She is a hugely experienced educator with a gift for helping students realize their potential and come to grips with even the hardest subjects. Her friendly style and good humor make learning easy.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

About This Book 1

Foolish Assumptions 2

Icons Used in This Book 2

Beyond the Book 3

Where to Go From Here 3

Part I: Getting Started with Basic English Grammar 5

Chapter 1: Getting a Grip on Grammar 7

Getting to Know the Elements of Proper English 7

Building Language, Block by Block: Parts of Speech 8

Making Sentences 10

Action or being words 11

Subjects 12

Complements and descriptions 14

Small but Important: Punctuating, Capitalizing, and Spelling 14

Punctuation 15

Capitalization 16

Spelling 17

Facing Everyday Writing Tasks 18

Chapter 2: Language in Action 21

Adjusting Language to Suit Your Audience 21

Friendspeak 22

Conversational English 23

Standard English 24

Getting Help from Spelling and Grammar Checkers 26

Recognizing Your Grammar Profile 28

Part II: The Parts of Speech 31

Chapter 3: People to See, Places to Go, Things to Remember: Recognizing Nouns 33

Identifying Nouns 33

Naming people with nouns 34

Naming places with nouns 35

Naming things with nouns 36

Naming ideas and emotions with nouns 37

Sorting Out Singular and Plural Nouns 39

Adding the letters “S” or “ES” to form plurals 39

Creating plurals of words that end with the letter “Y” 40

Plurals that break the rules 42

Attaching “This,” “These,” and Other Words to Nouns 43

Chapter 4: Practicing Pronouns 47

Replacing Nouns with Pronouns 47

Pronouns for the speaker or writer 48

Pronouns that speak to others 50

Pronouns that speak about other people or things 51

Avoiding errors with two common pronouns 52

Solving the Case of Pronouns 54

Subject pronouns 54

Object pronouns 57

Sorting subject and object pronouns 58

Forming Possessive Pronouns 62

Chapter 5: Doing and Being Words: Verbs 65

Searching Out Verbs 65

Asking Questions to Find the Verb 66

Telling Time with Verbs 68

Present tense 68

Past tense 69

Future tense 71

Recognizing Forms of Some Important Verbs 72

The verb “be” 72

The verb “do” 73

The verb “have” 75

Getting Assistance from Helping Verbs 76

Asking questions with helping verbs 76

Creating negative statements with helping verbs 78

Expressing duty, ability, and possibility with helping verbs 80

Chapter 6: Describing with Adjectives and Adverbs 83

Adding Detail with Adjectives 83

How to find adjectives 85

Where to find adjectives 86

Writing Well with Adverbs 89

Adding information to verbs 89

Adding meaning to descriptions 91

Choosing between Adjectives and Adverbs 93

Placing “a” and “an” in the Proper Place 96

Making Comparisons with Adjectives and Adverbs 97

Single-word comparisons 97

Two-word comparisons 98

Irregular comparisons 99

Chapter 7: Little Things Mean a Lot: Prepositions 101

Recognizing Prepositions 101

Locating items and actions with prepositions 102

Telling time with prepositions 103

Discussing other relationships with prepositions 104

Identifying Objects of Prepositions 105

Finding objects through meaning 106

Locating objects with questions 107

Choosing Pronouns as Objects of Prepositions 109

Placing Prepositional Phrases in the Proper Place 110

Chapter 8: Joining and Commenting: Conjunctions and Interjections 113

Linking Ideas with Conjunctions 113

Adding meaning with conjunctions 114

Connecting equals 114

Paired conjunctions 116

Joining unequal ideas 118

Punctuating sentences with conjunctions 120

Identifying Interjections 123

Part III: Creating Correct Sentences.127

Chapter 9: Making Progress: Verbs Ending in –ing 129

Keeping Time with –ing Verb Forms ........129

Present progressive 130

Past progressive 131

Future progressive 132

Choosing between Simple and Progressive Tenses 133

Present 133

Past 135

Future 137

Some Help with Spelling –ing Verb Forms 138

Chapter 10: Revisiting the Past: The Perfect Tenses 141

Building a Bridge between the Present and the Past: Present Perfect Tense 141

Present perfect forms 142

When to use present perfect tense .144

Placing Events in Order with Past Perfect Tense 145

Past perfect forms 146

When to use past perfect tense 147

Breaking the Rules: Irregular Past Forms 150

Glancing at the Future Perfect Tense 152

Chapter 11: Searching for Subjects 155

Locating the Subject of a Sentence 155

Statement subjects 156

Question subjects 160

Command subjects 161

Matching Subjects and Verbs Properly 162

Sorting out subjects and verbs in common situations 163

Tackling tougher sentences 164

Dealing with Tricky Subjects 166

Singular subjects that look like plurals 166

Subjects in sentences with “here” and “there” 168

Changeable subjects 169

Chapter 12: Adding Meaning with Complements 171

Surveying Complements 171

Taking action: Objects 172

Finishing the thought: Subject complements 174

Popping the Question to Identify Objects and Subject Complements 176

Locating subject complements 180

Choosing the Proper Complement Pronoun 182

Chapter 13: Finishing the Job: Writing Complete Sentences 185

Halfway Is Not Enough: Expressing a Complete Thought 185

Cooking Up a Complete Sentence: The Essential Subject–Verb Pair 188

Not flying solo: Verb forms ending in –ing 188

Help wanted: Past verb forms that cannot stand alone 190

Do not be alone 191

Ending Sentences with Proper Punctuation 193

Changing the Rules for Texting 195

Dropping words 195

Skipping punctuation 196

Part IV: Punctuation and Capitalization 199

Chapter 14: Small Punctuation Mark, Big Trouble: Apostrophes 201

Possessed: Using Apostrophes to Show Ownership 201

Apostrophes and ownership 202

Forming singular possessives 204

Forming regular plural possessives 205

Forming irregular plural possessives 207

Shortening Words with Apostrophes 208

Avoiding Common Apostrophe Mistakes 211

Apostrophes in plurals 211

Possessive pronouns 212

Expanding contractions 213

Chapter 15: Pausing for a Rest: Commas 215

The Sound of Silence: Why Commas Matter 215

Making a List with Commas 217

Placing Commas before Conjunctions 221

Punctuating two connected, complete sentences 221

Punctuating other elements of a sentence 222

Placing Commas after Introductory Words 223

Single words and short phrases 224

Longer introductory elements 224

Introductory phrases containing verbs 225

Introductory subject–verb statements 226

Talking to People: Commas in Direct Address 228

Chapter 16: Who Said What: Quotation Marks 231

Telling the Truth with Quotation Marks 231

Quoting or Paraphrasing: Which Is Better? 232

Signaling exact words 233

Paraphrasing 234

Identifying the Source of a Quotation 236

Adding Punctuation to Quotations 238

Quotations with speaker tags 238

Quotations without speaker tags 241

Identifying Titles with Quotation Marks 242

Chapter 17: Big or Small? When to Write Capital Letters 245

Knowing the (Capital) ABCs of Capital Letters 245

Setting Up Sentences with Capital Letters 246

Naming Names 248

Who are you? Names for people 248

Where are you? Names for places 249

What’s that? Names of things 250

Mr. Mayor or mr. mayor: Capitalizing Titles 251

Titles appearing before a name 252

Titles appearing after a name 252

Titles appearing alone 254

Mom or mom? Capitalizing Family Relationships 255

Capitalizing Creative Works 256

Capitalizing Abbreviations 259

Part V: Grammar in Action 261

Chapter 18: Writing with Electronic Media 263

The Unbreakable Rule: Communicating Clearly in Texts, Instant Messages, and Tweets 263

Omitting words 264

Writing Proper Emails 268

Exploring email structure 269

Writing for Websites and Social Media 273

Chapter 19: Presentation Slides and Bulleted Lists 275

Ladies and Gentlemen, May I Present . . . Slides! 275

The title 277

The introduction 279

Writing Bullet Points 281

Matching bullets 281

Capitalizing and punctuating bullet points 284

Chapter 20: Writing at School and on the Job 287

A Is for Accomplished: Writing at School 287

Essays and research papers 287

Science lab reports 292

Get to Work: Writing on the Job 295

Letters 295

Memos 298

Emails and other electronic media 299

Part VI: Common Errors 301

Chapter 21: Spelling Your Way to Perfection 303

Following the Rules of English Spelling 303

I before E 304

Double letters 305

Dropping the silent E 306

Mastering Spelling Demons 308

How does the word end? 308

One or two? 310

Which vowel? 310

Checking the Dictionary for Spelling Help 311

Chapter 22: Tricky Word Traps 313

Same Sounds, Different Spelling: Sorting Out Word Pairs 313

Homonyms 314

Similar, but not alike: Other word pairs 318

Together or Apart? One- and Two-Word Expressions 320

Staying Away from Improper Expressions 322

Chapter 23: Avoiding Common Mistakes 325

Writing Clear Descriptions 325

Descriptions attached to the wrong word 326

Descriptions and missing words 328

Writing Clear Pronouns 329

No! No! Understanding Double Negatives 332

Part VII: The Part of Tens 335

Chapter 24: Ten Easy Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills 337

Listening 337

Reading 338

Writing 338

Rewriting 338

Recognizing Your Weak Spots 339

Asking for Help 339

Proofreading 340

Making Friends with a Dictionary 340

Using Spelling and Grammar Checkers 340

Solving Puzzles and Playing Games 341

Chapter 25: Ten Mistakes to Avoid 343

Substituting “Me” for “I” 343

Switching Verb Tenses 344

Adding Apostrophes to Plurals 344

Confusing “An” and “A” 345

Forgetting Endmarks 345

Pairing “You” with the Wrong Verb 345

Connecting Sentences with a Comma 346

Omitting Capital Letters 346

Using Half a Verb 347

Being Unclear 347

Index 349

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