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The Top 10 Most Important English Grammar Rules

There are times when grammar rules are broken for the sake of artistic expression; however, some grammar rules are not meant to be broken. Below is my list of the Top 10 English grammar rules you absolutely have to know.

  1. A complete sentence involves a noun and a verb.
    “He runs.” It is a short sentence, but it is a complete sentence.

  2. Know your punctuation marks.
    • A period is used to end a sentence.
    • A question mark used to express a sentence is asking a question: How am I?
    • A comma is used to add, pause, and separate words.
    • An apostrophe shows possession and is found in contractions.
    • An exclamation mark is used to express strong feeling!
    • A hyphen links words together: state-of-the-art
    • Quotation marks are a form of citation and shows who is talking or making a statement: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. ” - Maya Angelou
    • A colon is the pause between two phrases. “Here is my list: apples, oranges, and bananas.”
    • A semi-colon can connect two sentences and or detailed lists: I am here to stay; yet, I also want to leave.

  3. Learn at least a few basic prepositions that express location, movement, or time.
    • Location: above, behind, below, beside, between, by, in, inside, near, on, over, through
    • Movement: against, along, down, from, into, off, on, onto, out of, toward, up, upon
    • Time: after, before, by, during, from, on, since, through, to, until, upon

  4. Avoid sentence fragments at all cost.
    Incomplete sentences are incomplete thoughts. Come to think of it, what if I.

  5. Tenses come in many forms. Learn past, present, and future first.
    Past, present, and future are not the only verb tenses in English grammar, however. After you master those, you need to learn the rest. There are simple, continuous, perfect continuous and perfect tenses for past, present, and future. Also, there are conditional, gerunds, infinitives, present participle verb tenses. Save all these for later and get help from someone who knows, but learn them when you are ready.

  6. To capitalize or not to capitalize?
    Capitalize the first word in a sentence, proper adjectives, and proper nouns as well as the first word, last word, proper adjectives, and proper nouns in titles of articles, art, books, and magazines (unless the author or artist chooses to use artistic expression).

  7. Prepositions connect words, but they should not end a sentence.
    The reason I had to leave the party early was because. (See how prepositions leave you wanting more?)

  8. Is it there, their, or they’re?
    • There can be an adverb or a pronoun. There is the car.
    • Their is a possessive adjective. It is their car.
    • They’re is a contraction of they +are. They’re driving the car.

  9. Learn when to use contractions.
    Even though I’m is a contraction, it cannot be used to shorten I am every time: This is who I am. not This is who I’m.

  10. There are exceptions to the rules.
    The mnemonic I before E except after C will help you spell certain words; however, this rule does not apply to some words like ancient, science, or society. Learn the rules of the English language, then learn the exceptions.

In addition to grammar, it is also important to know the building blocks of how English sounds:
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