skip to main content
Search: Keyword:
Tim Eaton Staff Photo

Parental Resources 

Language Arts Resource For Parents

[Below you will find a wide range of grammar rules along with examples and non-examples.]




A complete subject is the part of a sentence that tells whom or what the sentence is about.


A complete predicate tells what the subject does.  The complete predicate starts with the verb.


A clause has a subject and a predicate.


An independent clause can stand by itself. It is a complete sentence.


A dependent clause cannot stand by itself.  It needs more information. It starts with words like because, before, when, if, since, until.


When a dependent clause comes at the beginning of a sentence, it is followed by a comma.


Example:  Since it is raining, we cannot go outside to play.


A fragment is a group of words that lacks a subject or a predicate.


Example: Two tiny dogs


A run-on is two or more complete sentences run together.


Example: I love short stories I am also fond of poems.

Correction: I love short stories. I am also fond of poems.


A compound sentence contains two simple sentences joined by a comma and a conjunction, such as and, or, but.   


Example: I wore my Braves hat, and I carried a pennant.


A complex sentence contains an independent clause, which can stand alone, and a dependent clause, which cannot stand alone.   


Example: When the team took the field, fans rose to their feet.  


Common Nouns and Proper Nouns

The names of particular persons, places, and things are proper nouns. Capitalize the first word and each important word of a proper noun. All other nouns are common nouns. They are not capitalized.


Regular and Irregular Plural Nouns

Plural nouns name more than one person, place, or thing.


Add -s to form the plural of most nouns.

picture/pictures    wing/wings    pattern/patterns


Add -es to nouns ending in ch, sh, x, z, s, and ss.

bunch/bunches      wish/wishes       

box/boxes             class/classes


If a noun ends in a vowel and y, add -s.

day/days                boy/boys


If a noun ends in a consonant and y, change to and add -es.

city/cities                lady/ladies


Some nouns have irregular plural forms. They change spelling.

man/men                  mouse/mice           goose/geese

foot/feet                    child/children          tooth/teeth


For most nouns that end in or fe, change f to and add -es.

leaf/leaves                 knife/knives            calf/calves


Some nouns have the same singular and plural form.

sheep    deer    moose        headquarters    series


Possessive Nouns              


Possessive nouns show ownership. 


There is a difference between making a noun plural and possessive.  To make a noun plural means to make it stand for more than one.  To make a noun possessive means to make it show ownership.


Singular possessive nouns show that one person, place, or thing has or owns something. Add an apostrophe and -s to form singular possessive nouns. 


dog                     dog's bone

cat                      cat's fur

girl                      girl's dress


Plural possessive nouns show that more than one person, place, or thing has or owns something. Add an apostrophe to a plural noun ending in -s to form the possessive. If the plural noun does  not end in -s, add an apostrophe and -s.


dogs                     dogs' bones

cats                      cats' fur

girls                      girls' dresses


men                       men's hats

children                 children's toys

geese's                  geese's feathers


Action and Linking Verbs


A complete sentence has a subject and a predicate. The main word in the predicate is a verb. An action verb tells what the subject does.


The river floods the town.


Action verbs can tell about actions that are physical (walk, carry) or mental (forget, understand).


A linking verb links, or joins, the subject to a word or words in the predicate. It tells what the subject is or is like.


The townspeople are afraid.


Forms of the verb be (am, is, are, was, were) are often used as linking verbs.


These words also can be linking verbs:  become, seem, appear, feel, taste, smell, and look. (I feel hungry. The pie smells delicious.) However, some of them can also be used as action verbs. (Feel this fabric. The dog smells many scents.)


Main Verbs and Helping Verbs


Verbs that are made up of more than one word are verb phrases. In a verb phrase, the main verb names the action. Some common helping verbs are has, have, had, am is, are, was, were, be, been, do, does, did, can, could, will, would, and should.


The main verb is always the last word in a verb phrase.

(Animals are losing habitats.)


There may be more than one helping verb in a verb phrase.

(We should have saved more wetland habitats.)


Helping verbs such as is and are show that action is happening in the present.

(Forests are cut down for wood.)


Was and were show that action happened in the past.

(Once millions of acres of forest were standing in this area.)


Will shows that action is happening in the future.

(Trees will disappear if we don't conserve them.)


Subject-Verb Agreement


The subject and verb in a sentence must agree, or work together. A singular subject needs a singular verb. A plural subject needs a plural verb.


Use these rules for verbs that tell about the present time.


If the subject is a singular noun or he, she, or it, add -s or -es to most verbs.

A horse runsA dog chases the horse. It barkloudly.


If the subject is a plural noun or I, you, we, or they, do not add -s or -es to the verb.

Horses run. Dogs chase the horseThey bark loudly.


For the verb be, use am and is to agree with singular subjects and are to agree with plural subjects.

I am afraid. Paul is fearless. The armies are here. We are surprised.



Past, Present, and Future Tenses


The tense of a verb shows when something happens. Verbs in the present tense show action that happens now.  Most present tense singular verbs end with -s or -es. Most present tense plural verbs do not end with -s or -es.


The king enters the hall. His subjects bow.


Verbs in the past tense show action that has already happened. Most verbs in the past tense end in -ed.


Long ago, a fairy enchanted the princess.


Verbs in the future tense show action that will happen.  Add will (or shall) to most verbs to show the future tense.


She will sleep tonight.


Some regular verbs change spelling when -ed is added.

For verbs ending in e, drop the e and add -ed:  liked, loved.

For verbs ending in a consonant and y, change the y to i, and add -ed: hurried, carried.


For most one-syllable verbs that end in one vowel followed by one consonant, double the consonant and add -ed:  stopped, napped.


Irregular verbs change spelling to form the past tense:  are/were, become/became, bring/brought, eat/ate,  fly/flew, give/gave, have/had, is/was, meet/met, sing/sang, take/took, tell/told, write/wrote


Principal Parts of Regular Verbs


A verb's tenses are made from four basic forms. These basic forms are called the verb's principal parts.


Present          Present Participle           Past               Past Participle


stop                (is, are) stopping               stopped           (has, have, had) stopped


ask                  (is, are) asking                 asked              (has, have, had) asked


A regular verb forms its past and past participle by adding -ed to the present form.


  • The present and the past form can be used by themselves as verbs.


  • The present participle and the past participle are always used with a helping verb.


Principal Parts of Irregular Verbs


Usually you add -ed to a verb to show past tense.  Irregular verbs do not follow this rule. Instead of having -ed forms to show past tense, irregular verbs usually change to other words.


Present                 Present Participle                 Past                     Past Participle 

                                 (is, are)                                                          (has, have, had)

become                 becoming                            became                  become

begin                     beginning                            began                     begun

buy                        buying                                bought                    bought

do                          doing                                  did                          done

freeze                     freezing                              froze                       frozen

go                           going                                 went                       gone

is/are                      being                                  was/were                been

know                       knowing                              knew                      known

make                       making                               made                      made

see                          seeing                                saw                        seen

think                        thinking                               thought                   thought

write                        writing                                 wrote                       written



Troublesome Verbs


Some pairs of verbs are confusing because they have similar meanings or because they look alike.


Word           Meaning                  Present         Past         Past Participle


lay               put, place                lay                laid           (has, have, had) laid


lie                rest, recline             lie                 lay             (has, have, had) lain


set               put something          set               set             (has, have, had) set



sit                sit down                   sit                sat             (has, have, had) sat


let                allow                        let                let              (has, have, had) let


leave            go away                    leave            left              (has, have, had) left



Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases


A preposition begins a group of words called a prepositional phrase. The noun or pronoun

that follows the preposition is called the object of the preposition. Prepositional phrases provide details about the rest of the sentence.


Animation is created from careful drawings.   (preposition)


Animation is created from careful drawings.  (preposition phrase)


 Animation is created from careful drawings. (object of the preposition)


Common Prepositions


about                   around                 by                into               over               until

above                   at                        down            near              through          up

across                  before                 for                of                  to                  with

after                     below                  from             on                 toward           

against                 between              in                 onto              under



Subject and Object Pronouns


When a pronoun is used as the subject of a sentence, it is called a subject pronoun.

I, you, he, she, it, we, and they are subject pronouns.


Pronouns that are used after action verbs or as objects of prepositions are called object pronouns.

Me, you, him, her, it, us, and them are object pronouns.




You may be asked to identify the correct pronoun in a phrase such as Jane and I or Terry and her.  Decide whether the subject pronoun or object pronoun is correct by saying the sentence with just the pronoun and not the rest of the phrase. 

                      Example:  Jane and   (I     me)    climbed the mountain.

                                      I climbed the mountain.     (yes)

                                      Me climbed the mountain.  (no)

                                      Jane and I climbed the mountain.


                                      Jane showed Terry and (she   her) our pictures.

                                      Jane showed her our pictures.  (yes)

                                      Jane showed  she our pictures. (no)

                                      Jane showed her our pictures.


Pronouns and Antecedents


A pronoun takes the place of a noun or nouns.


An antecedent, or referent, is the noun or nouns to which the pronoun refers.


Each pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number and gender.



          Sam is happy because he made the team.


           Sam - antecedent  (singular, male)


           he - pronoun (singular, male)





When the antecedent of a pronoun is the pronoun everyone, everybody, or everything, use a singular pronoun to agree with the referent.



            No: Everyone did their best.


            Yes: Everyone did his best.   (or Everyone did her best.)




Possessive Pronouns


Possessive pronouns show who or what owns, or possesses, something.  My, mine, yours, her, hers, his, its, our, ours, their, and theirs are possessive pronouns.


          Use my, your, her, our, and their before nouns.

                    This is my cat.  It was her dog.  They fed their fish.


           Use mine, yours, hers, ours, and theirs alone.

                      The cat is mine.  The dog was hers.  The fish are theirs.


            His and its can be used both before nouns and alone.

                        He found his dog.  The dog is his.

                        The dog hurt its paw.  The paw is its.


             Do not use an apostrophe with a possessive noun.



             Although possessive nouns use an apostrophe (Jean's dog), possessive pronouns

             never do (her dog).


                          NO: A dog loves it's owner.

                          YES:  A dog loves its owner.


                           NO:  That dog is her's.

                           YES: That dog is hers.


Indefinite and Reflexive Pronouns


Indefinite pronouns may not refer to specific words.  They do not always have definite antecedents:  Has anyone met the new kid?


Some common indefinite pronouns are listed below:


Singular Indefinite Pronouns                         Plural Indefinite Pronouns


someone, somebody, anyone,                       few, several, both, others, many, all, some

anybody, everyone, everybody,

something, no one, either, each


            Use singular verb forms with singular indefinite pronouns and plural verb forms with

            plural indefinite pronouns:

            Everyone gets a cookie.  Few turn it down.


Reflexive Pronouns reflect the action of the verb back on the subject.  Reflexive pronouns

end in -self or -selves:  We introduced ourselves to her.


Singular Reflexive Pronouns                            Plural Reflexive Pronouns


himself, herself, myself, itself                                ourselves, yourselves, themselves




Using Who and Whom


People sometimes confuse the pronouns who and whom when they write.  Who is a subject

form.  It is used as a subject of a sentence of clause.

          Who made this mess?

           I saw a performer who could do four back flips. (Who is the subject in the dependent

           clause who could do four back flips.)

Whom is an object form.  It is used as the object of a preposition or as a direct object.

           To whom did you send a letter?

           Whom will you ask?

In the first example, whom is the object of the preposition.  In the second example, whom

            is a direct object.

            The subject (you) often does not come first in a question.  Don't be fooled if the

                     subject does not come first.

             To understand why Whom is used in the second sentence, change the word order

                      so that the subject comes first.  (Whom will you ask?  becomes You will

                      ask whom?)  This makes it easier to see that whom is a direct object.




Whom is rarely used in speaking, so we have trouble deciding when it sounds correct.

When you find who or whom in a subordinate clause, make the clause into a separate

sentence.  Then change who or whom into a personal pronoun such as she or her

If she sounds correct, use who.  If her sounds correct, use whom.



Contractions and Negatives


A contraction is a shortened form of two words.  An apostrophe is used to show where one or more letters have been left out.  Some contractions are made by combining pronouns and verbs:  I + will = I'll; she + is = she's.  Other contractions are formed by joining a verb and not:  do = not = don't; are + not = aren't.

            Won't and can't are formed in special ways (can + not = can't; will + not = won't).


Negatives are words that mean "no" or "not":  no, not, never, none, nothing.  Contractions with n't are negatives, too.  To make a negative statement, use only one negative word.

             No    Don't never get in his way.  There wasn't nobody here.

             Yes   Don't ever get in his way.  There wasn't anybody here.


              Use positive words, not negatives, in a sentence with not:


              Negative            Positive             Negative             Positive

              nobody              anybody,           nothing               anything,

                                        somebody                                    something


               no one               anyone,             nowhere            anywhere,

                                         someone                                      somewhere


               none                  any, all, some     never                 ever, always



It's is a contraction of it is.  You're is a contraction of you are.  It's and you're are often confused with the possessive pronouns its and your.


                No:   Its too bad the bird lost it's mate.

                Yes:  It's too bad the bird lost its mate.


                No:  Your kind to share you're time with us.

                Yes:  You're kind to share your time with us.



Adjectives and Articles


An adjective describes a noun or pronoun.  It tells what kind, which one, or how many.


The articles a, an, and the appear before nouns or other adjectives.


An adjective formed from a proper noun is a proper adjectiveProper adjectives are capitalized.




Adjectives usually are placed before a noun or pronoun.  However, they can appear after a linking verb.  Then they are called predicate adjectives.


                 Before Noun:  a white iceberg


                 After Verb:  The iceberg is white.



Comparative and Superlative Adjectives


Comparative adjectives are used to compare two people, places, things, or groups.  Add -er to most short adjectives to make their comparative forms.  Use more with longer adjectives.  Superlative adjectives are used to compare three or more people, places, things, or groups.  Add

-est to most short adjectives to make their superlatives forms.  Use most with longer adjectives.


Adjective                                     Comparative (2)                       Superlative (3 or more)

strange                                         stranger                                    strangest

terrible                                          more terrible                              most terrible


        Adjectives such as good and bad have irregular comparative and superlative forms:         

                   good                            better                                       best

                    bad                             worse                                       worst


         Never use more or most with -er and -est.

                    NO         NO        NO    more angrier       NO   NO    NO  most remarkablest

                    YES       YES      YES   angrier              YES      YES    most remarkable







Commas can clarify meaning and tell readers when to pause.


     Put a comma after every item in a series but the last.

                 Poets pay attention to the sounds, meanings, and emotions of words.

                 The audience applauded, cheered, and stood up.


     When you speak or write to someone, you may use the person's name or title. 

           This noun of direct address is set off with a comma, or two commas if it is in             

           the middle of a sentence.

                  Will you read some more, Mr. Berry?

                  I'd love to, children, if you aren't tired of sitting.


      Appositives are noun phrases that describe another noun.  They are set off by


                   Ted Kooser, a wonderful poet, lives in Nebraska.


       Put a comma after an introductory word or phrase, such as yes, no, well,

              of course, or in fact.

                     No, I haven't read the new book.  As usual, I'm too busy.



Quotations and Quotation Marks


        A direct quotation gives a person's exact words and is enclosed in quotation marks

        ("   ").  Direct quotations begin with capital letters and end with proper punctuation.

        End punctuation is inside the closing quotation marks.  Words that tell who is speaking

        are set off from the quotation by punctuation.


                   When the quotation comes last in a sentence, set it off with a comma.

                               Jamie asked, "What was the Hindenburg?"


                    When the quotation comes first in a sentence, a comma, question mark, or

                    exclamation mark sets off the quotation.

                                 "It was a dirigible," replied May.  "It was enormous!" she added.


                     When the quotation is interrupted by words that tell who is speaking, use two

                      sets of quotation marks.  Notice that words telling who is speaking are

                      followed by punctuation.  Use a comma if the second part of the quotation does

                      not begin a new sentence.

                                    "Dirigibles were lighter than air," he added, "because they were

                                      filled with hydrogen."


                       Use end punctuation and a capital letter if the second part of the quotation

                       does begin a new sentence.

                                     "Isn't hydrogen flammable?" asked Jamie.  "What kept it from




Other Kinds of Punctuation


            A colon (:) is used to separate hours and minutes in expressions of time.  It is also

            used after the salutation in a business letter.   It also can be used to introduce a list of

            list of items. 

                       3:45 A.M.

                       Dear Mr. Smith:

                       I like the following vegetables:  green beans, collards, carrots, corn, and okra.


             A hyphen (-) is used in some compound words.  Two common uses are numbers from

             twenty-one to ninety-nine and compound words that are thought of as one word.

                         old-time music      best-known book    forty-nine


              A semicolon (;) can be used to join two independent clauses instead of a comma

              and a conjunction.

                           Jazz is a mixture of different types of music; New Orleans was its birthplace.


               Italics or underlining is used for titles of books, newspapers, magazines, TV

               series, movies, plays, and works of art.       Because you cannot write italics,    

               underline titles in your writing.

                            the Chicago Tribune (newspaper)          Time for Kids (magazine)

                   or       the Chicago Tribune                            Time for Kids


              Quotation Marks are used around the title of a short story, song, short poem,

              magazine or newspaper article, and a chapter of a book.

                              "Trees" (poem)         "My Country 'tis of Thee" (song)

                               "Jack and the Beanstalk" (short story)

                               "Japan Rocked by Earthquake and Tsunami"  (newspaper article)


               A dash (____) sets off information or a comment that interrupts the flow of a


                           Jazz had developed many styles _____ bebop and Dixieland, for

                           example______ by the 1940s.





Adverbs tell more about verbs.  They explain how, when, or where actions happen.  Many adverbs that tell how end in -lyAdverbs can appear before or after the verbs they describe.


     How     The time passed slowly.  The dog waited patiently.

     When   Travelers seldom stopped.  Yesterday the stage came.

     Where   Settlers moved westward.  They built a town here


Some adverbs tell more about an adjective or another adverb.

     Mining towns sprang up very quickly.   They were terribly noisy.


Comparative adverbs compare two actions.  Add -er to form a comparative adverb.

Superlative adverbs compare three or more actions.  Add -est to form a superlative adverb.

If an adverb ends in -ly, use more or most instead of -er or -est.


Comparative Adverb        Miners worked harder than storekeepers.

Superlative Adverb          Farmers worked hardest of all.

                                            They depended most completely on the land and weather.


The adverbs well and badly have special comparative and superlative forms: well, better,

               best; badly, worse, worst.






Adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases are modifiers, words or groups of words that tell

more about, or modify, other words.  Adjectives modify nouns and pronounsAdverbs modify

verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs


        As Adjective  The towel with green stripes is mine.

        As Adverb  A crab ran under a rock.


To avoid confusion, place modifiers close to the words they modifyAdjective phrases usually

come right after the word they modify.  Adverb phrases may appear right after a verb or at

the beginning of a sentence.


Meaning can be unclear if a modifier is misplaced.

        No    The girl set out a picnic in a red bathing suit.      

       Yes    The girl in a red bathing suit set out a picnic.


The position of only in a sentence can also affect meaning.  Place only directly before

the word it modifies.

        Example   Only he ate oysters. (Nobody else ate them.)

                         He only ate oysters. (He didn't do anything except eat.)

                         He ate only oysters.  (He ate nothing else.)

Page Bottom