Grammar is very important when it comes to writing and speaking a language. In simple terms, grammar can be defined as the set of rules that govern how sentences, words, and phrases should be composed.
Now, there are many rules of grammar and that can be daunting for people who are learning the language. However, all these rules can be categorized into five basic principles, which are relatively easier to understand.
We will check out what these fundamental rules are and how they can be applied with practical examples.
5 Fundamental Principles of Grammar
These are the most foundational rules and using them correctly will make your written and spoken English coherent and clear.
Punctuation is one of the most important parts of grammar. It is quite easy to see in written form. However, when speaking, it is characterized by pauses and intonation.
It consists of a series of marks of different shapes and sizes. Each mark has a different function. The most common punctuation marks are as follows:
- Period: “.”
- Commas “,”
- Semi-colon: “;”
- Colon: “:”
- Question mark: “?”
- Inverted Comma: “
A period marks the end of a sentence. A comma connects two separate but related clauses. Colons are used to define something, and semi-colons are used to join two independent clauses with each other.
Question marks at the end of a sentence turn it into an interrogative, and inverted commas are used to either show quotes or stress some words.
Punctuation is the part of grammar that gives people the most trouble. Even the most experienced writers can miss commas, or use them in the wrong place.
A good way to ensure that punctuation mistakes are removed from your writing is to utilize a grammar checker. Grammar checkers are online tools that can detect and rectify grammatical errors in a write-up.
People learning English should try to use a grammar checker as it will not only show them their mistakes but also provide explanations as to why they (the mistakes) are pointed out in the first place.
This is another important principle of English grammar. The order in which words are used can drastically change the meaning of a sentence. For clear and precise communication, it is necessary that words should be used in the correct order.
A simple example of this is as follows:
Incorrect Word Order:
The donkey is leading a farmer.
Correct Word Order:
The farmer is leading a donkey.
In the first sentence, the meaning is distorted and it implies that a donkey is being followed by a farmer. However, in the second sentence, we can understand that a farmer is leading a donkey, which is a very common occurrence.
So, as you can see, simply changing the order of words in one sentence is enough to completely change its meaning.
Determiners are parts of speech that are used together with nouns. They are most commonly used with common nouns rather than proper nouns. In the English language, nouns are unable to stand on their own, unless some context is provided.
In a conversation that has nothing to do with animals, if a person suddenly says “Deer” out of nowhere, then it would not make much sense to his listeners. But if the person says “A deer over there…” that would provide some context.
So, as you can see, determiners are used to provide context for common nouns. Some common determiners used in day-to-day life are; “which”, “what”, “my”, “your”, and “how many/much”.
Some common examples of using determiners in a sentence are given below:
“That shop over there.”
“Your dog is pretty.”
“Whose car are you taking?”
“That’s his wife.”
Connectors are super important as they are used to relate different words, sentences, phrases, and clauses to each other. Connectors are also called “link words” and “conjunctions.”
Connecters can display three types of relationships between the parts of the text that they are connecting. The relationships are called:
A coordinating connector joins two units that are of equal grammatical importance. The most common examples are connecting two nouns, two adjectives, or two independent clauses.
Common coordinating connectors are “but”, “for”, “and”, “yet”, “or”, etc., etc.
An example of a coordinating connector is shown below:
“He enjoys working out and eating well.”
Working and eating are verbs, thus they are of equal standing and the coordinating connector used is “and”.
A subordinating connector joins a dependent and an independent clause together. In this case, the relationship between the parts of the text that are being joined is unequal.
A dependent clause cannot exist on its own and it needs an independent clause to have some meaning. An independent clause on the other hand can stand on its own and still have meaning. So, the dependent clause is subordinate to the independent clause.
Commonly used subordinating conjunctions are: “if”, “although”, “who”, “when”, “because”, etc., etc.
An example of subordinating conjunction in action is given below:
“He is a contractor who lives in Chicago.”
“Lives in Chicago” is the subordinate clause here, as it makes no sense on its own. “He is a contractor” makes perfect sense even without the rest of the sentence, so it is an independent clause.
Correlative conjunctions connect two words or phrases together in a single sentence. The words that are related using correlative conjunctions are often of the same kind and category.
That may have been a bit confusing, but once you see an example, you will be able to understand.
Common correlative connectors are: “and”, “or”, “either” and “both”.
An example of a correlative connector in action is given below:
“You are allowed to choose either the black hat or the grey hat.”
“Or” highlights the relationship between two hats of different colours in this single sentence since they are both similar objects.
Tense and Aspect
Tense and aspect apply to verbs.
Tenses basically show if an action was done in the past, is being done in the present or will take place in the future. In simple terms, they allow you to indicate the time of a particular action.
Aspect shows whether the action is only a single instant action, a repeated action, or an ongoing action. Tense and aspect collectively provide a more specific context to a verb.
Verbs are the only parts of speech that have meanings on their own. For example, if someone said ‘eat’, anyone would understand what that means.
However, with tense and aspect, they can be utilized in a greater capacity. Verbs also have different forms that relate to different tenses, e.g., “eat” is the present form, but “ate” is the past form.
Some examples of tenses and aspects in action are given below:
“I am a teacher” (present)
“I was a teacher” (past)
“I will be a teacher” (future)
Learning these five principles of grammar is essential in improving your English writing and speaking skills. There are many rules of grammar but all of them can be tackled effectively when these five primary rules are mastered.
We checked out all of the basic rules and we also saw examples for each of them. This article should be enough to get a rudimentary understanding of these rules. For more advanced learning, you can check out more online resources and consult books about grammar.