Some Basic Concepts

By definition, a sentence has the following properties: it contains a subject it contains a verb it expresses a complete thought E.g., the sentence "Japan prospers" has a subject: "Japan"; a verb: "prospers"; and it conveys a complete thought or idea that makes sense. Most sentences also have an object (receiver of the action); e.g., in the sentence "John kicked the ball," the object is "the ball."

Run-on Sentences (fused sentences)
Incorrect usage Correct usage I jogged everyday, for I wanted to get fit. I jogged everyday; I wanted to get fit. I jogged everyday. I wanted to get fit. Since I wanted to get fit, I jogged everyday. Trying to get fit, I jogged everyday. Explanation

I jogged everyday I wanted to get fit.

Run-on sentences occur when two main clauses have no punctuation between them.

Comma Faults (comma splices)
Incorrect usage Correct usage I jogged everyday, for I wanted to get fit. I jogged everyday; I wanted to get fit. I jogged everyday. I wanted to get fit. Since I wanted to get fit, I jogged everyday. Trying to get fit, I jogged everyday. Explanation

I jogged everyday, I wanted to get fit.

Comma faults occur when two main clauses are joined by only a comma.

Sentence Fragments

Incorrect usage Joe can balance a glass of water on his head. Without spilling a drop.

Correct usage Joe can balance a glass of water on his head without spilling a drop.

Explanation A sentence must have a subject and a verb.

Faulty Subordination
Incorrect usage I gazed out of the bus window, noticing a person getting mugged. Correct usage Gazing out of the bus window, I noticed a person getting mugged. Explanation Place what you want to emphasize in the main clause, not the subordinate clause. Here the mugging should be emphasized and so should be in the main clause.

Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement
Rule: The verb should agree with the subject in terms of number (singular or plural) and person (first, second, or third). Incorrect usage There is no books. Correct usage There are no books. Explanation The subject books is plural; therefore, the verb should be plural (i.e. are). The subject she is in the second person, and is singular; therefore, the verb should also be in the second person, and be singular (i.e.likes). "Harry" is singular, so the verb should be also. "Others" is plural, so the verb should be also. "Team" is singular, so the verb should be also. "Players" is plural, so the verb should be also. "Variety" is singular. Both are correct. The first is correct since "lot" is singular. The second is correct because it is gaining acceptance through popular use. "Wealth and beauty" is plural.

She like music. Neither Tom nor Harry were there. Neither Tom nor the others was there. All of the team were there. All the players was present. There are a variety of books.

She likes music. Neither Tom nor Harry was there. Neither Tom nor the others were there. All of the team was there. All the players were present. There is a variety of books. There is a lot of birds here or there are a lot of birds here.

Here is wealth and

Here are wealth and

beauty. She is one of the best doctors who has graduated from here. "I forget" or "I forgot".

beauty. She is one of the best doctors who have graduated from here. I've forgotten. "Doctors" is plural, so the verb should be also (i.e. "have"). Note that "I often forget" and "I forgot my umbrella yesterday" are correct.

Errors in Noun-Pronoun Agreement
Rule: Pronouns should agree with their nouns in terms of number (singular or plural), person (first, second, or third), and gender (masculine or feminine). Incorrect usage Did everyone remember their assignment? It was them who called. If I were him, I would go. It is me. Whom will succeed? Correct usage Did everyone remember his assignment? It was they who called. If I were he, I would go. It is I. Explanation Everyone is singular, so the pronoun should be as well. The nominative case (I, you, he, she, it, we, you, they, who) is used following some form of the verb to be. As above. As above. A simple rule-of-thumb is to use "who" when "he" would also make sense; and use "whom" when "him" would also make sense (e.g. "Him will succeed" does not sound right, while "he will succeed" does). As above. "You gave it to he" does not sound right, while "you gave it to him" does. Thus, use "whom". The objective case of pronoun (i.e. me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them, whom) is used as the object of a preposition, such as "to". The objective case of pronoun (i.e. me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them, whom) is used as the object of a verb. Try stretching the sentence out: "He is as busy as I am busy, not "he is as busy as me am busy."

Who will succeed?

Who did you give it Whom did you to? give it to? It belongs to he and It belongs to him I. and me. Sam hired he. He is as busy as me. He was in the same class as us. I trust Bob more than he. Sam hired him. He is as busy as I.

He was in the same Try stretching the sentence out: "He was in the same class as class as we. we were in." I trust Bob more than him. Try stretching the sentence out: "I trust Bob more than I trust him."

Now skate without me helping you.

Now skate without my helping you.

Use the possessive case of the pronoun (i.e. my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their, whose) in sentences like this.

Dangling Modifiers
Rule: Avoid dangling modifiers (i.e. adjectives or adverbs that do not refer to the noun or pronoun they are intended to refer to). Incorrect usage While walking in the garden, Bob arrived. After watching the movie, pizza was eaten. Correct usage Explanation

The modifying phrase "while walking in the garden" While I was walking in does not refer to a particular noun or pronoun (i.e. it the garden, Bob arrived. dangles). After watching the movie, we ate pizza. As above.

Misplaced Modifiers
Incorrect usage I could almost run all the way up the hill. I only want one. Correct usage I could run almost all the way up the hill. I want only one. Explanation The first sentence does not mean what it is intended to mean. The modifier "almost" is misplaced. Same as above.

"Were"to be used in the Subjunctive Mood
Rule: Use "were" in the subjunctive mood, i.e. when expressing a wish, regret, or a condition that does not exist. Incorrect usage If I was taller, I would be richer. He treats him as if he is a child. Correct usage If I were taller, I would be richer. He treats him as if he were a child. Explanation This sentence is in the subjunctive mood. As above.

That, Which, and Who

Incorrect usage This is the book which he wrote.

Correct usage This is the book that he wrote.

Explanation When commas are not used, use "that". When commas are used, use "which". For persons, use "who". Do not use "who" for animals. For persons, use "who", even when commas are used.

This book, that is written by Bob, This book, which is written by is clear and concise. Bob, is clear and concise. He is the person that wrote the book. The President, which is an avid golfer, was on the course. He is the person who wrote the book. The President, who is an avid golfer, was on the course.

Note: Often the above pronouns can be omitted making a sentence more concise. Thus: This is the book he wrote. ("That" is implied.) This book, written by Bob, is clear and concise. He wrote the book. The President, an avid golfer, was on the course.

Faulty Parallelism
Incorrect usage He has wealth, reputation, and is powerful. Not only did the horse lose, but the leg of the jockey was broken. Correct usage Explanation

He has wealth, reputation, and Similar ideas should be expressed in power. grammatically similar ways. Not only did the horse lose, but the jockey broke his leg. Similar ideas should be expressed in grammatically similar ways.

Mixed Constructions
Incorrect usage He wondered whether she got his message? Correct usage He wondered whether she got his message. Explanation Don't mix a statement with a question. Don't mix two different sentence constructions.

The reason is because I don't have The reason is that I don't have enough money. enough money.

Split Infinitives
Incorrect usage Correct usage Explanation

I need to mentally prepare.

I need to prepare mentally.

"To prepare" is an infinitive. Splitting infinitves with other words tends to be awkward.

Commas
Incorrect usage I have apples, oranges, peanut butter and jam. The dog was wet cold and smelly. Captain Smith is a seasoned, naval officer. You stand in line, and I'll find a table. Correct usage I have apples, oranges, peanut butter, and jam. The dog was wet, cold, and smelly. Captain Smith is a seasoned naval officer. You stand in line and I'll find a table. Explanation Use a comma before the last item in a series to avoid any confusion. Use commas to separate adjectives that could be joined with "and." You could say that "the dog was wet and cold and smelly." Don't use commas to separate adjectives that could not be joined with "and." It would be ridiculous to say that "Captain Smith is a seasoned and naval officer." Don't use a comma to set off clauses that are short or have the same subject. However, always use a comma before "for", "so," and "yet" to avoid confusion.

Semicolons
Incorrect usage The house is old, however, it is sound. Correct usage Explanation

The house is old; however, it is Use a semicolon with a conjunctive adverb (e.g. nevertheless, sound. however, otherwise, consequently, thus, therefore, The house is old; it meanwhile, moreover, furthermore). is, however, sound

Apostrophes
Correct usage Tom Jones' car broke down. Tom Jones's car broke down. Tom Williams' car broke down. Tom Williams's car broke down. Explanation Since there is disagreement on which is correct, both are acceptable. Same as above.

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