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Lesson 2: A Review on Grammar & Composition

In this lesson, we’ll be taking a look at basic grammar and composition.


  • To define important terms within the realm of English grammar and composition
  • To review grammar rules

In this lesson we’re going to be back-tracking a little before we get on with our lesson on how to compose good English papers or essays, we’ll first be looking at the very basics of the English language: grammar and composition. We’ll be taking a look at the different terms which we may have forgotten over the years or which we might not be familiar with. We’re also going to be taking up the different units of the English language so that we can effectively utilize them in our compositions. Outlined below are the different things we’ll be reviewing about English grammar and composition.

I. Definition of Terms

A noun refers to a word that represents are person, place, thing, event or time. Nouns answer the question what. There are two main kinds of nouns—proper nouns which refer to specific objects and common nouns which refer to more generic subject matter. The latter is written with the first letter capitalized whereas the latter is written in small caps, unless it is the first word of a sentence in which case the first letter is also capitalized.

For example:

  1. Flowers are her favorite thing in the world.
  2. There were a dozen flowers on the table.
  3. She really wanted Tulips for Valentine’s Day.

A verb refers to a word that denotes action or a state of being. There are different kinds of verbs, according to their function. Be verbs refer to verbs which express a state of being, linking verbs are verbs which glue together otherwise incoherent statements and action verbs are those which reflect action or movement. Verbs are usually written in small caps unless they are the first word of the sentence.

For example:

  1. She is my kind of girl.
  2. She likes eating chocolates.
  3. She said she was going to be there yesterday.
  4. Run to the market and get me some meat.

An adjective refers to a word which describes a noun. These are usually written in small caps, unless they are the first word of the sentence. This answers the question how.

For example:

  1. Beautiful as ever, she still remains humble.
  2. The coffee was delicious.
  3. If you want, you can have my share of the expensive tarts.

An adverb is a kind of word which describes either a verb, an adjective or an adverb. These are also written in small caps, unless they are the first word of the sentence in which case their first letter is capitalized.

For example:

  1. She runs fast.
  2. He easily defeated his opponent in the ring.
  3. They very easily defeated the competition.

II. Basic Components

English compositions (and any compositions, at that) are made up of different units of words. In this part of this lesson we’ll be studying the different materials with which we’ll be working one we start writing.

A phrase is a half-formed thought which forms part of a sentence. It cannot stand on its own but may form either the subject or predicate of the sentence.

For example:

  1. Jenny wants to
  2. He said he
  3. If I didn’t

A sentence is the basic unit of speech because it contains (at least) one complete train of thought. The subject of a sentence is what the sentence’s main focus is about. The predicate is what is being said about the subject.

These two can interchange based on whether one uses the active voice or the passive voice. In the former, the subject is the person or do-er of the verb, whereas in the latter the verb is the subject and the person involved is the predicate. Below are a couple of examples—those which are written in boldface are in active voice.

For example:

  1. Andrea ate the pie.
  2. The pie was eaten by Andrea.
  3. Zadie Smith wrote the book White Teeth.
  4. The book White Teeth was written by Zadie Smith.
  5. Samantha likes ice cream.

A paragraph is a group of sentences which have been put together because they share a common relevance or logical connection to one another. It is convention that the first sentence of every paragraph is indented. These will be demonstrated below—if you’ll notice, the paragraphs are divided based on what they’re talking about: the first paragraph describes the cat sitting outside, and the second describes playing with the cat and wanting to keep it.

For example:

The other day, I was looking out of the window and there was a cute cat sitting on the porch. It was a gray tabby with blue eyes and it was meowing softly. Its coat was shiny and it had a red collar which lead me to suspect that it wasn’t a stray. When the bells of the ice cream truck started tolling, it jumped into my bedroom window.

The cat and I became friends. It was a sweet cat and very gentle—I gave it a ball of yarn and it started playing. Before I knew it, I’d taken all my mom’s knitting thread and the cat had strewn it all over the room. We were having so much fun—I wondered if I could keep the cute little kitty.

III. Subject-Verb Agreement

Contrary to popular belief, subject-verb agreement is fairly simple: the verb must coincide with the subject. If the subject is written in plural, the verb must be written in plural—if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural. Next is the key thing to remember: plural verbs don’t have an “s” at the end, whereas plural nouns usually have an “s” at the end. Below are a couple of examples of sentences. Those typed in boldface are correct.

For example:

  1. She eats with him.
  2. They eat together.
  3. They eats on the picnic tables.
  4. Jenny wants a new car.
  5. Her brothers gets it.
  6. He get a burger after work.

In this lesson, we were able to very quickly review our English grammar and composition. We were able to define the common terms and conventions of the English language. We were also able to refresh our memories as to the different types of words which we’re going to encounter when writing.

Next we’ll be discussing the essay in general. We’ll look at the different steps which take place in the essay as a process and we’ll see what steps we can take to be able to write good essays. This will serve as an introduction into the next part of this class which deals with how to write English compositions.




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