English Grammar - Learn the rules of English grammar

English Grammar

A basic review of English grammar. If you are teaching English as a second language, my free ESL lesson plans are available to download. If you are learning English, check out English vocabulary for my recordings as well as Yabla and FluentU for language learning through videos and subtitles. If you want to learn even more English, I suggest the English courses at Udemy. You may also find Why English is Easy helpful (also available for Spanish speakers and for Russian speakers).

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Articles and Demonstratives

Short descriptive words used before nouns.  Technically, they function as adjectives.
Indefinite articles:  a or an
Definite articles:  the
Demonstrative adjectives: this, that, these, those


Person, place, thing or idea usually preceded by articles or
demonstratives.  Nouns can be proper or common.  In the English
language, all proper nouns are capitalized (such as John, Houston, and
Eaton Centre).  Nouns can be used in certain cases depending on their
function in the sentence.  The four main cases are:
Nominative (subject):  The dog is running.  She has to go now.
Accusative (direct object):  I love you.  They feed the animals.
Dative (indirect object):  Give the ball to me./Give me the ball.  I bought this for him./I bought him this.
Genitive (possessive):  That is Michael’s house.  William is the prince of Wales.


Words that describe the attributes of nouns, such as beauty, color, age, goodness and size. In English, adjectives precede the noun they describe. Examples of adjectives include: pretty, red, old, nice, large.
Comparative Form:  This form adds either -er to the adjective or more before the adjective to show comparisons.  He is taller than Susie.  I think I am more intelligent than
my brother.
Superlative Form:  This form adds either -est to the adjective or most before the adjective to show superiority.  She is the smartest student in the class.  This is the most
painting I’ve ever seen.
Possessive adjectives:  These show personal possession before a noun; my, your, his, her, its, our, their.


Words that substitute for nouns to prevent redundancy. The demonstrative pronouns are the same as the demonstrative adjectives except they are followed by a verb and not a noun.
Personal pronouns:  These show whether a person is represented as speaking, being spoken to, or spoken of; I, me, you, he, him, she, her, it, we, us, they, them.
Possessive pronouns:  These show possession; mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs.
Relative pronouns:  These relate to an antecedent, or a preceding noun or phrase; who, whose, whom, that, which, what.
Interrogative pronouns:  These are used in asking questions; who, which, what.
Indefinite pronouns:  These forms refer to no one person or thing in particular; each, every, either, neither, all, any, few, some, several, one, other, another, none, both, such.


Words that express action or emotion. Verbs can be conjugated in many tenses of past, present, and future. The six forms that verbs are conjugated into are first, second, and third person singular and plural. Some examples of verbs include: run, laugh, write, think.
Transitive verbs:  Verbs which have direct objects (no prepositions are needed to connect verb and object); He sees the house.  We believe you.
Intransitive verbs:  Verbs which do not have a direct object. This includes both intransitive verbs which take an indirect object (usually with a preposition), such as I spoke to him, and intransitive verbs which have no object at all, such as I aged slowly. Note that the same verb may be used in one context as a transitive verb (I read the green book), in another context as an intransitive verb with an indirect object (I read to my little sister), and in yet another context as an indirect verb with no object (I happily read all day).
Active voice:  When the subject is represented as acting; The boy loves his mother.
Passive voice:  When the subject is acted upon; The mother is loved by the boy.
Indicative mood:  Makes a direct statement or declaration, in the form of fact. The river flows westward.  The girl is very pretty.  He was bad today.  I will be ready tomorrow.
Imperative mood:  Expresses commands, requests, permission and always has the subject in the second person (you) which is understood. Be on time.  Talk to your mother.  Give me the book.
Subjunctive mood:  Indicates doubt, supposition, uncertainty and presumes or imagines an action or state. If he were here, he would know what to do.  It is necessary that you be on

Simple Past tense:
 I cried
Past Progressive (or Continuous): I was crying
Past Emphatic: I did cry
Present Perfect: I have cried
Present Perfect Progressive: I have been crying
Past Perfect: I had cried
Past Perfect Progressive : I had been crying

Simple Present tense:
 I love
Present Progressive: I am loving
Present Emphatic: I do love

Simple Future tense:  I will write
Future Perfect: I will have written
Future Perfect Progressive: I will have been writing

Conditional: I would speak
Past Conditional: I would have spoken

Auxiliary verbs:  The “helper” verbs are used before infinitives (can, could, may, will, would, should, must, might) or participles (have).  Have is also used in the compound tenses (you have seen, they had been.)
Participles:  Present and past participles are derived from the verb and act as a verb form, adjective or noun.  Present participles are formed by adding -ing to the verb, while past participles are formed by adding -ed to regular verbs.  Present participles imply a continuance of action, state or being.  She is reading the book.  Past participles imply the completion of an action, state or being.  I have loved.  Participles can also act as adjectives when placed before nouns.  He is a reading man.
Gerunds:  Gerunds are also formed by adding -ing to the verb, but they function as a verbal noun and are normally preceded by articles or demonstratives.  The singing was excellent.


Simple Past and Present tenses of Regular and Irregular Verbs
to be (irregular)
I am we are I was we were
you are you are you were you were
he, she, it is they are he, she, it was they were
to have (irregular)
I have we have I had we had
you have you have you had you had
he, she, it has they have he, she, it had they had
to play (regular)
I play we play I played we played
you play you play you played you played
he, she, it plays they play he, she, it played they played



Words that describe a verb, an adjective, or even another adverb. Simply put, an adverb is to a verb what an adjective is to a noun. Most adverbs in English end in -ly. Examples of adverbs include: quickly, happily, loudly, often, sometimes, never.


Words that connect two words, phrases or sentences. Coordinating conjunctions connect two independent clauses (sentences that can stand alone) together, while subordinating conjunctions combine a subordinate to a principal element in the sentence.  Examples of coordinating conjunctions include: and, or, nor but, for. Examples of subordinating
conjunctions include: after, although, as, as if, as much as, as though, because, before, how, if, in order that, provided, since, than, that, though, unless, until, when, where, while.


Short words that show the relationship between the objects which the words express. Nouns and pronouns most often follow prepositions. Examples of prepositions include: about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at before, behind, below, beneath, beside(s), between, beyond, but, by, concerning, down, during except, for, from, in(to), like,
of, off, on, over, past, since, through(out), toward, under(neath), until, unto, up, with, within, without.


Sentences are made up of two parts – subjects and predicates.  Simply put, the predicate is the verb and everything that follows it, while the subject is whatever comes before the verb.
Independent Clause:  A subject and predicate that can stand on its own as a sentence.
Dependent or Subordinate Clause:  Part of a sentence that cannot stand on its own, usually introduced by a subordinating conjunction.
Phrase: Consists of two or more words expressing some relation of ideas, but does not contain a subject and a verb and most often found after prepositions.

Spelling Rules

Rule 1: Use i before e, except after c or when pronounced as a, as in neighbor or weigh. Exceptions: either, foreign, forfeit, height, leisure, neither, ancient, efficient.

Rule 2: Form the plurals of nouns and the -s forms of verbs ending in y in these ways:
a. When a noun or verb ends in a consonant + y, change the y to i and add -es.
b. When a word ends in a vowel + y, just add -s.
c. When a proper noun ends in y, add -s.

Rule 3: Do the following when adding a suffix (ending) to a word that ends in a silent e:
a. If the suffix begins with a vowel, drop the silent e; if the suffix begins with a consonant, keep the final e
b. If the word ends in ce or ge, keep the silent e when it is needed to maintain the soft sound of c or g.

Rule 4: When adding a suffix that begins with a vowel, sometimes you must double the consonant.
a. When a one-syllable word ends with a consonant preceded by a single vowel, double the consonant. This only applies, however, when the suffix begins with a vowel.
b. When a word of two or more syllables ends in a single consonant preceded by a single vowel, and when the final syllable is accented, double the consonant when adding a suffix.
c. When a word of two or more syllables does not have the accent on the final syllable, the consonant should not be doubled.

Rule 5: To form noun plurals and the third-person singular form of present tense verbs:
a. In most cases, add -s.
b. When the word ends in -s, -sh, -ch, -x or -z, add -es instead.

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Dr. Jennifer Wagner

PhD in Applied Linguistics, ESL/French teacher, author of two French books, and helping others to learn languages online at ielanguages.com.