grammar tip: Avoiding the misusage of singular and plural nouns in sentences
A common yet easy to make mistake that ESL students sometimes do as beginners is to mix up singular and plural nouns. Knowing when and when not to use the 's' at the end of nouns is key to having grammatically correct sentences. It should be made clear that the letter 's' should only be added to the end of a noun when there are more than one item, place, or thing being referenced in that sentence.
The key difference from one example would be 'You eat one cookie' and then 'You eat two cookies', with 's' only being added to the noun 'cookie' when there is more than one cookie being referenced. You can also use 'many, a few, a lot of' before the noun 'cookies.' Countable and uncountable nouns go hand in hand with singular and plural nouns as grammatical concepts.
'Countable' nouns are usually plural nouns meaning that these nouns are referencing more than one thing or item in number while 'Uncountable' nouns are usually singular in nature and are not able to reference multiple (more than one) persons, places, and things. Being able to use singular and plural nouns in written and/or spoken sentences is key because it will come up very often. If you make a small mistake with this concept of mixing up their usage, it should be corrected as soon as possible in order to not become another bad habit.
A key tactic in avoiding this common mistake is to study which nouns can be made plural with an -s and also if they are countable or not. By doing that, you will be able to avoid saying that there are ‘two sheeps’ when you mean to say that there are ‘two sheep’ since ‘sheep’ as a word is both singular and plural. ‘Sheep’ is also countable as a noun but you do not need to add the letter ‘-s’ to make it plural. ‘One sheep’ is singular and countable as a noun and then so it ‘two sheep’, which is now plural because of the word ‘two’ but that the ‘s’ does not need to be added since ‘sheep’ is an exception to that rule of adding the ‘s.’
Be sure to study different nouns to see if they are either countable or uncountable and also if there is a difference between how they are formed as a singular noun and if they are formed as a plural noun. Being able to avoid this mistake will be key in developing your English grammar proficiency.
Grammar tip: How do we use ‘this’ and ‘that’ correctly?
‘This’ and ‘That’ are two important pronouns that we use in English to identify specific people, places, and things that are related to us in some way. However, they are distinct in their usage in that they are not used within the same kind of sentences and are usually kept separately. The main thing that separates these two pronouns of ‘This’ and ‘That’ is distance.
What do I mean by ‘this’ and ‘that’ being separated by distance? Well, it’s actually quite practical when you look at it. ‘This’ refers to people, objects, things, etc. that are close to us in their distance or are actually in our position. You could always refer to ‘this’ in a situation or an event that you are apart of. Look at the examples below to see what I mean when I say that ‘this’ refers to things that are close to us in terms of distance:
This is my pen.
This is your birthday party.
This is the first day of his presidency.
This desk is right next to me.
This test is going to be so difficult.
Now that we know that ‘this’ refers to people and objects close to us in distance, we can assume that ‘that’ is the word which refers to the exact opposite with people and objects being far away from us in distance, relevance, or general importance. Let’s take a look at the examples below to see how ‘that’ is different from ‘this’ in its sentence usage:
That train is leaving the station right now.
That is my watch.
That jury decision was not fair.
That birthday party last night was a lot of fun.
That professor will be really difficult next semester.
‘This’ and ‘That’ are both very important pronouns to know how and when to use. They are not ‘personal pronouns’ so they may not come up as often in your written or spoken sentences. However, if you are able to use both of these impersonal pronouns correctly, your English grammar will be much improved as a result and you’ll be more confident in terms of your proficiency in the English language in a number of areas. That is the truth!
GRAMMAR TIP: THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AND, OR, BUT (CONJUNCTIONS)
The average student of the English language will know that 'conjunctions' are a key basic part of speech that is commonly used in many different types of sentences. Conjunctions, in a sense, is the connector word of the sentence and is able to bring two different parts or clauses of a sentence together quite seamlessly. There are multiple conjunctions to use but the three most important ones are 'and, but, or.'
'And', the first highlighted conjunctions is meant to be used in sentences where are two or more people, places, or things being mentioned together. In the same sentence, you use 'and' in order to clarify that there are more than one or multiple 'people, places, or things' being referred to either directly or indirectly. Here are two examples below as to how best put the conjunction 'and' in a regular sentence:
1.) He is captain of the football team and president of the glee club.
2.) They went to both Berlin and Munich for the holidays.
'But' is different from 'and' as our 2nd conjunction in focus because it describes an exception in the sentence that has to be addressed in a clause within the sentence, which is usually the 2nd or last clause. Despite what the first part of the sentence has indicated, the 2nd clause will have contradicted it in some regard. In order to make this kind of sentence work, the conjunction 'but' has to be used to be considered grammatically correct.
1.) She was a nice lady but she has a bad habit of coming to our meetings late.
2.) We were going to go on a boat cruise tonight but the rainstorm caused the company to postpone it to next week.
'Or' is both different from 'but' or 'and' in that you have to often make a choice between two or more different options within the same sentence. The main reason to use 'or' is to highlight the idea of a choice being offered within the two or more clauses of the sentence. 'And' should be considered inclusive of your options and the fact that you don't have to make a choice. 'But' is to highlight an exception inherent in the choice of the action that you made and 'or' relates to the choice that must be made within the sentence for the action that you will take or could be taken.
1.) I could study for my final exam or I could go to the movies instead.
2.) There were two ice cream flavor choices: chocolate chip or peanut butter.
Remember to study these examples listed above for 'and, but, or' to get a better sense of how each of these three unique conjunctions are used. These three conjunctions are all similar in their aim of tying a regular sentence together but they are doing so for different purposes. Only by using these different conjunctions consistently for their unique uses will help you to become better at this English grammar topic.
grammar tip: Don't forget to use definite and indefinite Articles (a, an, the) in sentences
A key mistake that English learners make is to forget to use either definite and indefinite articles at the beginning of their written or spoken sentences. This is an easy mistake to make however it can become a bad habit unless you know why these definite and indefinite articles are to be used and for what purposes. 'a, an, the' are the articles for which I am referring to and they are three of the most used words in the entire English language.
In English, grammatical articles are a huge part of the spoken and written language whereas it isn't used at all or rarely such as in Japanese or in Russian. Let's take a closer look at what definite and indefinite articles are and how they are used specifically.
'the' - This word is a definite article and is used to refer to specific nouns that has a known or exact amount, quantity or defined entity.
'a' or 'an' - These two words are both indefinite articles and are used to refer to general nouns that have an unexact amount, quantity, or undefined entity.
To give you some examples, here are ways you can use these articles 'a, an' and then 'the' in sentences:
1.) The ten boys went to the movies together.
2.) An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
3.) A large number of people go to work every day.
4.) The end of the book was very satisfying to the reader.
There are a number of ways to improve your knowledge of definite and indefinite articles but the best way is to simply understand the reasoning behind these words being used in sentences. By knowing their uses, you'll better able to come up with examples of your own which you can put into use with your daily speaking or writing efforts in English. The main thing to keep in mind for this tip is that you will definitely run into definite and indefinite articles in English whether its 'a, an, the' because they must be used and they cannot be ignored by the non-native English learner.
grammar Tip: The correct uses for 'i' and 'me' in a sentence
If we are referring to someone in the third person in a sentence, how exactly do we phrase it the correct way? We know that in the English language that the basic structure of a regular sentence is subject + verb + object in that basic order but what happens when we have two different words 'me' and 'I' that can be used to refer to in the third person.
This is a grammatical concept that trips up even native English speakers so it's important to know the differentiation of how 'I' and 'me' are used in sentences. I'll give you an example below to highlight which one is to be used as another subject in the right grammatical sense.
'Jessica and me went for a run yesterday.' (Incorrect)
'Jessica and I went for a run yesterday.' (Correct)
Which of these sentences above is the correct version grammatically? If you said the first one, you would be wrong. It is in fact better to use 'I' as the other subject pronoun when it comes to referring to 'Jessica' as the subject and then the third person as 'I'. Many native English speakers may use 'me' as the second subject pronoun but that is grammatically incorrect. Instead of using 'I', a good alternative would be to use 'myself' instead of 'me' if you would need a second option to consider when it comes to using a personal pronoun as the second subject of the sentence.
'I' is the right pronoun to use when it comes to referring to more than one subject in the same sentence. 'Jessica' and 'I' in the above example both function as subject pronouns. However, 'me' functions as an object pronoun rather than as a subject pronoun making it grammatically incorrect to use.
A better usage for 'me' in that above example would be to change it around a bit and instead use it in this way:
'Jessica took me for a run yesterday.'
With this above example, 'Jessica' is clearly the subject of the sentence while 'me' functions as the object of the sentence with the verb 'took' (irregular verb - past tense) coming in between these two words as the main verb.
While this is not the most popular grammatical issue to come up, you would be surprised at how many native English speakers and/or English learners get it confused. However, if you're willing to remember this rule, your English grammar will improve a great deal by clearing up this common mistake.
Grammar tip: Can we use prepositions at the end of sentences?
If you have been studying English for a while, you are likely to be familiar with prepositions and how they can be used at the beginning and/or middle of any sentence. However, can we extend the use of prepositions to be at the last word of a sentence and under which circumstances can that be possible for us?
Indeed, there are a few instances where we can actually use preposition words to end a sentence. If you are creating a sentence that uses passive expressions, you should be able to end the sentence with a preposition word such as 'on, for.' Here are two examples of passive sentences where prepositions are the last word in the sentence.
1.) The tuxedo has not been paid for.
2.) I thought that your nightlight was on.
As you can see from these two examples above, preposition words can come at the end of sentences when it is a passive statement or assertion being made.
Preposition words can also come at the end of sentences where there are 'relative clauses' and where questions that include verbs which are being linked to adverbs. Here are a few examples of sentences where preposition words can also end these sentences / questions:
1.) Why did you put that there for?
2.) They must be reasoned with. Their financial commitment is key to the play going on.
As you can see from these examples above, prepositions at the end of sentences in English are still relevant today albeit rare. However, if you do see them being used, please make sure that the way these preposition words are being used at the end of a sentence are correct instead of misplaced. There are a few occasions where prepositions come at the end of a sentence but it does not come up very often except for when there's a passive statement or general question being posed.
Grammar tip: knowing the difference between its and it's (Contraction v. Possession)
Its and It's can be two very confusing words to master for the average English learner. However, in order to improve your grammar, knowing when and how to use both of these words will be crucial to bettering your proficiency in this area. The first word that I'll tackle is 'It's.'
The main function of 'It's' is that it is a contraction for either the words 'it is' or 'it has' and is to be used in informal situations with friends, family, or with acquaintances.
Here are some examples of how to use 'It's' in some sentences:
I think it's been a fun birthday party today. Thank you for hosting it.
It's been a long time since I've played some Rock and Roll.
As the saying goes, It's a small world.
*You will notice that two of those examples above show that the word 'been' comes after the contraction 'it's' so it is important to keep that in mind and that the two words often go together.*
When it comes to 'its', this word is not a contraction but rather a possessive pronoun. Its can modify a noun and is used to show ownership as well over an object or another thing.
Here are some examples of how to use 'Its' in a few sentences:
The kangaroo carried the cub in its pouch.
The Italian restaurant celebrated its twentieth anniversary recently.
The dog hurt its leg running after the ball.
As you can see from these examples, the main difference between it's and its is that it's uses an apostrophe while its does not. Its is also possessive in nature whereas it's does not claim possession over any other object or thing and is mainly a reference to an event or occurrence.
There are many contractions out there in the English language but a common mistake that can be made is when it comes to using 'it's and 'its' correctly in a regular sentence. If you follow the rules and examples laid out above, you will be in good shape when it comes to using these two words in the future.
Grammar Tip: The need to memorize irregular verbs IN the Simple past tense
The simple past tense in English is pretty straightforward with the exception of when it comes to irregular verbs. Regular verbs when put into the simple past tense have to simply add the letter -d or the letters -ed to the end of the verb to make the change necessary. This is a really easy switch to make but it gets a bit more complicated when it comes to changing irregular verbs into the simple past tense.
Unfortunately, there is no rule or pattern to abide by in English grammar for the irregular verbs. There is no simple formula to always holds true to change irregular verbs from the simple present tense to the simple past tense. Because there is no 'magic bullet' here to master irregular verb changes, the best advice to be given is to really take your time and study the couple of hundred of irregular verbs that are out there. Only with serious effort and the ability to memorize the changes that need to be made will you be able to become proficient in using irregular verbs in the past tense.
Being able to hear people talk in English with normal conversation, listening to English language movies and music, and writing sentences with irregular verbs can also make a big difference in mastering this difficult grammar topic.
Here are some of the examples where irregular verbs are changed from the simple present tense to the simple past tense:
Break ---> Broke
Take ---> Took
Bring ---> Brought
Drink ---> Drunk
Go ---> Went
Eat ---> Ate
Feel ---> Felt
Think ---> Thought
Drive ---> Drove
Swim ---> Swam
These ten examples are just a few of the hundreds of irregular verbs that are out there. Do your best, take your time to study and memorize them and you'll be well on your way to becoming proficient in the simple past tense.
GRAMMAR TIP: Using commas and semicolons effectively
When it comes to putting two ideas together in an effective grammatical way, using commas and semicolons correctly is key. Instead of using 'and', 'but', among other conjunctions repetitively, it would be better to make constructive use of the comma (,) or the semicolon (;) instead in order to make the ideas flow better especially if they go together well.
Examples with Commas
1. Jack went to park with his dog, and I stayed home to drink tea.
2. I didn't go to the baseball game last night, nor did my girlfriend.
3. John earned a raise from his boss this Christmas, but I did not get anything.
Examples with Semicommas
1. Tina's cat sleeps a lot; it's very lazy and lethargic.
2. The band's music was a real hit at the party; everybody was dancing and grooving to the beat.
3. Alex and Jordan have to go food shopping every week; they eat out of house and home very quickly.
As you can see from the examples above, using the commas with the help of 'coordinating conjunctions', or using semicolons instead to connect ideas are effective in sentence creation. When you use a comma, it's likely that it will come before a coordinating conjunction to form the second part of the sentence. However, using a semicolon instead allows you to bypass the use of a conjunction and create a separate sentence that is directly related to the first sentence but which can begin with a new subject, verb, and object.
Grammar Tip: Knowing The Difference between 'will' and 'going to' for the future tense
The words 'will' and 'going to' are very commonly used to express oneself in the future tense. It's important however to know the difference in how they are used and under what circumstances should they be applied.
If you're making a quick decision about something or someone, you're going to use 'will' instead of the alternative of 'going to.' Also if you're offering to help or assist someone, then you would use 'will' as well. When it comes to making a promise or a threat, 'will' is what you should be using before the verb. Lastly, 'will' is also used when you want to refuse a gesture or a gift from somebody. The five instances of making a quick decision, offering something, making a promise and/or threat, and refusing a gesture or a gift will all use 'will' when it comes to the future tense.
1.) I will buy you dinner tomorrow night.
2.) He will help you get out of the car.
3.) She will promise us to watch the dog while we go out to brunch.
4.) If they don't stop marching, we will shut down the bridge to stop them.
5.) They won't help us if we are not willing to cooperate with them.
When it comes to using 'going to', the circumstances of usage are not as frequent when compared to using 'will' for the future tense. When 'going to' is placed in a sentence, it's often for discussing a prior plan that you have confirmed with friends, family, or other people in your life and is a definitive plan. When something is likely to happen and the result is inevitable based on the current evidence, you would also use 'going to' to describe the outcome. The last instance where you would use 'going to' over 'will' is when something imminent is about to happen and there's not much time left until it occurs such as an event.
1.) I'm going out dancing with my best friends tonight at the Salsa club in Havana.
2.) New England is likely going to win this football game. They're up by 21 points at halftime.
3.) The race is going to start immediately after the gun fires in the air.
The one instance where 'will' and 'going to' overlap with each other in terms of usage deals with making predictions that are likely to happen in the future. In this regard, both 'going to' and 'will' are equal and both create the same kind of meaning in the sentence.
1.) I think it's going to rain tomorrow evening in Seattle.
2.) I think it will rain tomorrow evening in Seattle.
As you can see in this example above, there is no discernible difference between these two sentences in terms of meaning even though they use 'going to' or 'will' interchangeably without any issues. If a student of the English language is to master the future tense in grammar, he or she will need to know the differences and similarities between the phrases 'will' and 'going to.' They can be applied in a number of different ways so it's important to study the examples above and also think about their reasons for being used in the future tense.
Grammar tip: adding -D or -ed to words in the present tense to make the simple past tense form (Regular)
An important grammar rule to keep in mind with the simple past tense is how to form it correctly. We use the past tense for a variety of reasons and the most common kind of past tense usage is the 'simple past tense.' Out of the four past tense forms, the simple past tense is easiest to form and the easiest to use.
For regular simple past tense words, all you have to do is add the letter 'd' or the letters 'ed' together to the end of the word in question to form this grammar tense.
Work --> Worked
Dance --> Danced
Call --> Called
Play --> Played
I worked overtime this week to make some extra money at my job.
She danced salsa every Saturday evening at Club Havana.
We called the doctor's office to make an appointment but nobody picked up the phone.
They played against the New York Yankees in the 2000 MLB World Series.
Whether you're referring to a one-time event or something that has occurred multiple times in the past, you're going to need to know the basics of the simple past tense. The regular form of the simple past tense is the easiest to grasp based on the simplicity of adding -d or -ed to the end of any verb. However, you should not confuse the regular simple past tense with the irregular form of the simple past tense which is a lot more complicated and requires memorization on behalf of the student.
Grammar TIp: Remember the 'You' exception with the verb 'to be'
The first verb that most English students learn first is the verb 'to be.' It is a pretty easy verb to remember and to conjugate with the subject words as well. The one trick that beginner students often don't get at first usually is how to match the particular subject pronoun of 'you.' This subject pronoun is singular in its' meaning only for one person or thing. However, 'you' does not go with the word 'is' in the simple present tense form of 'to be' or for the word 'was' in the simple past tense form of the 'to be' verb.
I know it can be confusing for English language learners to be confused by this fact but it is a grammar rule and it must be observed in order to have correct grammar. The best way to avoid this pitfall is through consistent usage and memorization of the 'you' subject pronoun and how it fits with the 'to be' verb. I've listed below the singular and plural subject pronoun chart along with the 'to be' verb so that students will know how to match the subject + the verb together properly.
Singular Pronouns + 'To be' (Past Tense) Plural Pronouns + 'To be'
I was They were
He / She was We were
Singular Pronouns + 'To be' (Present Tense) Plural Pronouns + 'To be'
I am They are
He is / She is We are
As you can see from the two charts above, 'you' is the only singular pronoun that has a plural form of 'to be' so it fits more with 'they, we' than it does with 'I, he/she, it.' I call this grammar rule the 'you' exception so it's important as an English student to study this rule because it's not going to change and it's a key part of basic English grammar. Unfortunately, 'you was' or 'you is' do not go together in the same sentence and is grammatically incorrect. A native English speaker would know what you are saying but you would sound a bit funny to them putting 'you' and 'is' together.
Here are some examples of how to use the 'you' subject pronoun and the verb 'to be' together:
1. You are my best friend.
2. You were very late to the dinner party.
3. You are a really kind person.
4. You were thinking about going to graduate school.
There are hundreds of examples that can make this rule seem easy to remember but just take the time to study the charts above, write some sentences using 'you' and the plural form of 'to be' down on a piece of paper and eventually it will start to become normal for you. You won't need to worry about 'is' and 'was' when it comes to starting a sentence with 'you.'
GRAMMar TIP: Using subject and object pronouns together
As discussed in the previous grammar tip, it's important for all English learners to follow the 'subject + verb + object' (SVO) rule. This is especially the case when it comes to putting subject and object pronouns together.
Object pronouns are a type of personal pronoun and can be used as the direct or indirect object of a particular verb. The formula of SVO remains the same, but there is a direct relationship between the subject pronouns and the object pronouns.
Subject and object pronouns are almost the same in that they can be singular or plural, masculine or feminine, or gender neutral. When the gender is known, the object pronoun reflects that based off of what the subject pronoun is. If you're dealing with an object, animal, or thing, then the gender neutral form of 'it' is used as an object pronoun.
Here's a list of the subject pronouns and object pronouns that go together in a sentence:
I --> Me
You --> You (singular or plural use)
He --> Him
She --> Her
It --> It
We --> Us
They --> Them
'You' and 'It' don't change as subject or object pronouns even when their meaning is singular or plural. It's important to remember that you can guess which subject or object pronoun should be used in your sentence based on what the other one is. As an English student, you have to be able to understand the correlation between the subject and object pronouns.
Here are some examples of subject and object pronouns being used together in a sentence:
1. She likes her pocket book. She wants to buy the same one.
2. They were with them when we all left the movie theater.
You can also mix and match the different subject and object pronouns together in a sentence when referring to people, objects, things, etc.
1. He wants her to be his girlfriend.
2. They bought us tickets to tonight's Yankees - Astros ALCS game.
3. You know me better than anyone else in the world.
When learning about subject and object pronouns, it's almost like putting a puzzle together. You have to know where exactly to put the pieces in order to write a grammatically correct sentence.
Grammar Tip: Remember subject + Verb + Object for Correct Sentence Structure
It is important to remember that the grammatical structure in English can be different than your native language.
When you're trying to begin forming sentences in English, remember that Subject + Verb + Object = Correct sentence. You should always try to be aware of the SVO rule and formula before you start to write basic sentences.
The subject (I, He, You) always comes first in English followed by the verb (to be, to do, to like) and ends with the object (person, place, or thing). Once you have the SVO down, you'll be able to start writing correct sentences, paragraphs and even essays as your English proficiency starts to increase.
It's important to take the time to memorize the subject words, a good amount of verbs, and different objects so you'll have the vocabulary necessary in order to create complete sentences. Without the S, the V, and/or the O, your sentence(s) will not make grammatical sense. Listed below are some examples that use the SVO rule in the correct order to form complete sentences.
1. I washed the dog.
2. He plays baseball.
3. She dances ballet.
4. You created a TV show.
5. They went to the movies.
6. We are friends.
Remember, the subject always comes first in any English sentence followed by the verb and then the object. As you can see above, all of these example sentences follow the SVO rule.
Here's a breakdown below of one of our previous example sentences and to see which word fits with the SVO rule:
He --> Subject
To play (plays) --> Verb
Baseball --> Object
By becoming comfortable with the SVO rule for English, your grammar comprehension will improve quite a bit and you'll become more proficient overall!
Grammar TIP: Good vs. Well
Good is an adjective while Well is used to answer 'how' questions as an adverb. When it comes to performing a job, completing some homework, or finishing up a project, we need to differentiate when to use good and when to use well.
We did a good job on the Science project.
'Good' is the adjective that describes the noun, which is 'job.'
He did well on his Science Project. He earned an 'A' from his professor.
'Well' is the adverb that describes how the science project was performed.
When it comes to describing someone's health or physical state, you should use 'well.' However, when it comes to a person's emotional state, you should use 'good' instead.
Lastly, you can use 'good' or 'well' when it comes to any of the five senses such as hearing, taste, touch, smell, sight. These kind of active sentences often can be used with either 'good' or 'well' but use your own discretion when creating an active sentence and figure out if 'good' or 'well' sounds better to use either verbally or expressed in the written form.