Basic English Grammar – 10 Grammar Rules to Get You Started in English
Grammar is a central aspect to any language. English is no different. Although there are hundreds of grammar points to consider when learning English, there are also those grammar points which not only form the basis of everything else that you need to learn, but are also a solid beginning to becoming an accomplished English speaker.
Here are some of the most fundamental grammar rules in English:
Subject and object pronouns
There are seven distinct subject pronouns in English that must be made distinct from the object pronouns. These are:
I – me
you (singular and plural) – you
he – him
she – her
it – it
we – us
they – them
The subject pronouns conjugate with the verb. For example:
I am / I like / I don’t like / I have
She is / She likes / She doesn’t like / She has
We are / We like / We don’t like
And from there clauses and sentences are born.
The verb ‘to be’
The verb ‘to be’ is the outlier in English as it behaves differently from all other verbs. Firstly, there are three forms in the present tense, which is unique among all verbs:
You / We / They are
He / She / It is
Then, the verb ‘to be’ uses no auxiliary:
I am not tired.
I don’t like peas.
There are also a number of other ways in which the verb ‘to be’ behaves a little differently, such as the position of adverbs in the sentence.
I am always hungry.
I always eat a big breakfast
. Ialways asked a lot of questions when I was at school.
Not only is the verb ‘to be’ the most essential verb it is also unique among all verbs.
To make something plural in English, the vast majority of the time you simply add the letter ‘s’. Here are some examples:
pen – pens
time – times
friend – friends
Words that end in ‘y’ usually take the form ‘ies’. For example:
country – countries
lady – ladies
But there are exceptions:
tray – trays
Words that end in ‘o’ usually become ‘oes’. For example:
hero – heroes
potato – potatoes
tomato – tomatoes
But again, there are exceptions:
burrito – burritos
Words that end in ‘f’ or ‘fe’ will usually changes to ‘ves’. For example:
calves half– halves
Then there are words that actually change completely in the plural. There are not many of these, but they include some often-used words:
man – men
woman – women
children tooth– teeth
And then there are a few words that don’t change at all:
sheep – sheep
Alongside this concept of plural nouns you must learn the concept of uncountable nouns. These are nouns that cannot be pluralized (not usually for any logical reason, but because that is the habit). Here are some important examples of uncountable nouns:
It is important to know which words are uncountable because the grammar rules that apply are different.
Firstly, uncountable nouns always use the conjugation ‘is’ of the verb ‘to be’.
There is information about that.
There is advice you can follow.
Uncountable nouns cannot be used with ‘a’ or ‘an’, but instead would usually take the word ‘some’:
I can give you some information or some advice about that.
The word ‘much’ must be used with uncountable nouns, not ‘many’:
I don’t have much information or much advice to give you.
And of course, the ‘s’ can never be added:
The possessive ‘s’
English has a unique way of expressing possession – the combination of the apostrophe plus ‘s’. Here are some examples:
My friend’s car.
The team’s captain.
These types of possessives are usually used with anything related to people, living things, or groups that contain people or living things, such as the example of ‘team’ above. The following examples would not be used with the possessive ‘s’:
The airplane’s wing.
The kitchen’s door.
With words and names that already end in an ‘s’, usually just an apostrophe works. For example:
Auxiliaries in questions and negative sentences
All English verbs, with the exception of the verb ‘to be’, require an auxiliary in the present simple and past simple tenses when the sentence is in the negative form, or if you are forming a question. For example:
I like pizza.
I don’t like garlic
. Doyou like fish?
The auxiliaries in present simple change depending on the subject. For example:
She likes pizza.
She doesn’t like garlic
. Doesshe like fish?
In the past simple, the auxiliaries are always the same, regardless of the subject:
I played football.
I didn’t play basketball. She didn’t play basketball
. Didyou play tennis? Did she play tennis?
Forgetting the auxiliary is a really common mistake, but it is something to be avoided.
Forming the past tense (regular and irregular verbs)
With regular verbs, the past tense is formed simply by adding ‘ed’, or if the verb ends in a consonant + ‘y’, then the ‘y’ is replaced with ‘ied’. For example:
walk – walked
play – played
wanted study– studied
However, there are as many irregular verbs in English as there are regular verbs. The way that the past tense is formed is particular to each verb, and so can only be learnt by memorizing. Here are some examples:
go – went
speak – spoke
took buy– bought
Using ‘will’ in the future
The future simple tense is formed by using the auxiliary ‘will’ plus the infinitive of the verb. For example:
I will go to the park.
She will travel to Spain
. Theywill learn the language.
However, ‘will’ is in fact only used specifically in the future when we are being spontaneous, making an offer, or making a promise.
There are two other future forms that are more useful.
‘Going to’ for future is used to express intention. For example:
I’m going to go to New York next year. (In this case, there is probably no ticket, yet)
The present continuous tense is used in the future to talk about organized plans. For example:
I’m going to New York next year. (In this case, the flights are probably booked)
To make questions in the future, it is much more common to use ‘going to’ for future, or the present continuous for future, because the assumption is that there is an intention or plan. For example:
What are you going to do this weekend?
What are you doing this weekend?
What will you do this weekend?
Making the simple continuous tenses
The simple continuous tenses in English are used to speak about actions that are in progress at a particular moment. For example:
By July next year, I will be living in Sydney. – future simple continuous
I’m wearing a red jacket. – present
continuous Thistime yesterday I was swimming with dolphins. – past continuous
The simple continuous tenses all consist of the verb ‘to be’ and the ‘ing’ form of the verb.
In English, adjectives are placed before the noun, or after the verb ‘to be’. For example:
I have a red jacket.
My jacket is red.
If there is more than one adjective, and it precedes the noun, then a comma is used.
I have a small, red jacket.
When there is more than one adjective, there is a general order that is followed.
I have a beautiful, small, red, leather jacket. (opinion, size, color, material)