English Grammar: A Complete Guide

english grammar

Written by Anna Jurman


English Grammar: A Complete Guide

English Grammar Reference

Grammar is the backbone of any language, providing the structure and rules that govern how we communicate. Whether you’re a student, a professional, or someone seeking to improve their language skills, understanding English grammar is essential for effective communication.

Throughout this journey, we’ll provide explanations, examples, and practical tips to help you grasp the intricacies of English grammar.


An apostrophe is a punctuation mark (‘) that serves multiple purposes in English grammar. Here are the two primary uses of apostrophes:

  • Contraction: Apostrophes are used to indicate the omission of letters in contracted words. When two words are combined, an apostrophe is placed in the position where the omitted letters would be. For example:
    • “can’t” (cannot): The apostrophe replaces the letter “no” in “cannot.”
    • “I’m” (I am): The apostrophe replaces the letter “a” in “am.”
  • Possession: Apostrophes are also used to indicate possession or ownership. When something belongs to someone or something else, an apostrophe followed by an “s” (‘s) is added to the noun. For example:
    • “John’s book”: The book belongs to John.
    • “The cat’s toy”: The toy belongs to the cat.

It’s important to note that apostrophes are not used to indicate plural forms. Plurals are typically formed by adding an “s” or “es” to the end of a word, without an apostrophe. For example:

  • “Apples”: The plural of “apple.”
  • “Cats”: The plural of “cat.”


An article is a type of determiner that introduces and specifies a noun. Articles indicate the definiteness or indefiniteness of a noun and can be categorised into three types: definite article, indefinite article, and zero article.

  • Definite Article (the): “The” is used to refer to a specific noun that is already known or has been mentioned before. It implies that the noun is unique or identifiable within a particular context. For example:
    • “The cat is on the roof.” (referring to a specific cat)
  • Indefinite Article (a/an): “A” is used before singular countable nouns when the noun is non-specific or refers to any one of a group. “An” is used before words that begin with a vowel sound. For example:
    • “I saw a cat in the street.” (referring to any cat)
    • “She is an actress.” (referring to any actress)
  • Zero Article: The zero article is used when there is no article before a noun. It indicates that the noun is either a general concept, a plural noun, or an uncountable noun. For example:
    • “Dogs are loyal animals.” (referring to dogs in general)
    • “I drink coffee every morning.” (referring to coffee as a general concept)


Capitalisation in grammar refers to the use of capital letters at the beginning of words or sentences.

Here are the main guidelines for capitalisation:

  • Capitalising the first letter of a sentence: The first letter of a sentence, regardless of the word, should always be capitalised. For example: “The sun is shining.”
  • Proper nouns: Capitalise the first letter of proper nouns, which are specific names of people, places, organisations, and unique entities. For example: “John, London, Apple Inc.”
  • Titles and headings: Capitalise the first letter of each major word in titles and headings, including articles, conjunctions, and prepositions of four or more letters. For example: “The Lord of the Rings.”
  • Days of the week and months: Capitalise the names of days of the week and months. For example: “Monday, July.”
  • Nationalities, languages, and religions: Capitalise the names of nationalities, languages, and religions. For example: “French, English, Christianity.”
  • Important events and historical periods: Capitalise the names of significant events and historical periods. For example: “World War II, Renaissance.”
  • Capitalising proper adjectives: Proper adjectives, which are derived from proper nouns, are also capitalised. For example: “Italian cuisine.”

It’s important to note that common nouns, unless part of a title or heading, are generally not capitalised. Additionally, capitalisation is not used for emphasis or to express significance.


In grammar, a clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate and functions as a unit within a sentence. Clauses can be divided into two main types: independent clauses and dependent clauses.

  • Independent Clauses: An independent clause can stand alone as a complete sentence because it expresses a complete thought. It contains a subject and a predicate and does not rely on other clauses to convey its meaning. Examples of independent clauses include:
    • “She went to the store.”
    • “I love to read.”
  • Dependent Clauses: A dependent clause, also known as a subordinate clause, cannot stand alone as a sentence because it does not express a complete thought. It relies on an independent clause to make sense. Dependent clauses often begin with subordinating conjunctions or relative pronouns. Examples of dependent clauses include:
    • “When he arrives” (starting with the subordinating conjunction “when”)
    • “Who lives next door” (starting with the relative pronoun “who”)

Dependent clauses usually function as adverbial clauses, adjective clauses, or noun clauses within a sentence. They provide additional information or modify the meaning of an independent clause. When a dependent clause is combined with an independent clause, it forms a complex sentence.

Examples of complex sentences with dependent clauses:

  • “I will go to the park when the rain stops.” (adverbial clause)
  • “The book that I borrowed from the library is really interesting.” (adjective clause)
  • “I don’t know what to do.” (noun clause)

Identifying independent and dependent clauses helps in analysing sentence structure and determining the relationships between different parts of a sentence.


In grammar, commas are punctuation marks used to indicate pauses or separations within a sentence. They serve various purposes in sentence structure, such as separating items in a list, setting off introductory or parenthetical phrases, indicating a pause in a sentence, and separating coordinate adjectives. Here are some common uses of commas in English grammar:

  1. Separating Items in a List: Commas are used to separate items in a series or list. For example:
    • “I bought apples, oranges, and bananas at the store.”
  2. Setting off Introductory or Parenthetical Phrases: Commas are used to separate introductory phrases or words that come at the beginning of a sentence. For example:
    • “In the morning, I like to go for a run.”
    • “However, I didn’t have enough time to finish the project.”
  3. Indicating a Pause: Commas can be used to indicate a pause or a natural break in a sentence. For example:
    • “She studied hard, and she earned excellent grades.”
  4. Separating Coordinate Adjectives: When two or more adjectives are used to modify the same noun and can be rearranged without changing the meaning, a comma is placed between them. For example:
    • “She wore a beautiful, elegant dress to the party.”
  5. Separating Clauses: Commas are used to separate independent clauses when they are joined by coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or, so, etc.). For example:
    • “I went to the store, and I bought some groceries.”

It’s important to note that proper comma usage is crucial for clarity, avoiding ambiguity, and maintaining correct sentence structure. Incorrect comma placement can lead to confusion or alter the intended meaning of a sentence. Understanding the rules and guidelines for comma usage helps to ensure effective communication in written English.


In grammar, a conjunction is a word or group of words that connects words, phrases, or clauses within a sentence. Conjunctions are used to show relationships between different elements in a sentence and to coordinate or join ideas together. They play a crucial role in sentence structure and help to create coherent and logical connections between words, phrases, and clauses.

Here are some common types of conjunctions:

  1. Coordinating Conjunctions: These conjunctions join words, phrases, or independent clauses of equal importance. The most common coordinating conjunctions are: and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet.
    • “I like apples and oranges.”
    • “He studied hard, but he didn’t pass the exam.”
  2. Subordinating Conjunctions: These conjunctions introduce dependent or subordinate clauses, which cannot stand alone as complete sentences. They establish a relationship of dependence between the subordinate clause and the main clause. Examples of subordinating conjunctions include: although, because, if, since, while, before, after, etc.
    • “She ate an apple because she was hungry.”
    • “Although it was raining, they still went for a walk.”
  3. Correlative Conjunctions: These conjunctions work in pairs to connect elements and show a relationship of balance or contrast. Common correlative conjunctions include: both…and, either…or, neither…nor, not only…but also.
    • “He is both intelligent and hardworking.”
    • “You can either stay at home or go to the party.”

Conjunctions are essential for combining ideas, coordinating thoughts, and creating more complex sentence structures. They help to establish logical relationships between different parts of a sentence and ensure that the meaning is clear and cohesive.


Contractions in English are shortened forms of words or phrases created by combining two or more words and replacing some letters with an apostrophe (‘), typically to represent the omission of one or more letters. Contractions are commonly used in informal speech and writing to make the language more concise and conversational. They are often used in everyday communication but may be less formal in certain written contexts.

  • “I’m” (I am)
  • “You’re” (You are)
  • “He’s” (He is)
  • “She’s” (She is)
  • “It’s” (It is)
  • “We’re” (We are)
  • “They’re” (They are)
  • “Can’t” (Cannot)

It’s important to note that contractions are typically used in informal or casual contexts, such as in conversations, emails, or personal writing. In formal writing or in certain professional contexts, it is often preferred to use the full, uncontracted forms of words. However, contractions can add a sense of familiarity and naturalness to the language when used appropriately.


Ellipses, indicated by three consecutive dots (…) with spaces before and after, are a punctuation mark used to indicate the omission or trailing off of a word, phrase, or sentence in a text. They are commonly used to create a sense of suspense, hesitation, or to convey a trailing thought. For example “As she opened the door, she saw something that made her gasp… a figure in the shadows.”

It’s important to use ellipses sparingly and appropriately, as overuse can disrupt the flow of writing.


In grammar, the term “mood” refers to the form or manner in which a verb is used to express the speaker’s attitude, intention, or reality of a situation. In English grammar, there are three main moods: indicative, imperative, and subjunctive. Each mood serves a different purpose and conveys a different meaning.

  1. Indicative Mood: The indicative mood is used to make statements, ask questions, or express facts or opinions. It is the most commonly used mood in everyday language.
    • “She is reading a book.”
    • “Are you coming to the party?”
    • “I think it will rain tomorrow.”
  2. Imperative Mood: The imperative mood is used to give commands, make requests, or offer advice.
    • “Please close the door.”
    • “Eat your vegetables.”
    • “Let’s go to the park.”
  3. Subjunctive Mood: The subjunctive mood is used to express hypothetical or unreal conditions, desires, doubts, or recommendations.
    • “I suggest that he arrive early.”
    • “If I were you, I would take the job.”
    • “It’s important that she study for the exam.”

It’s worth noting that the subjunctive mood is not as commonly used in modern English as it once was, and its usage is often dependent on specific grammatical constructions or formal contexts.

In addition to these main moods, there are also other specialised moods such as conditional mood (used to express conditions or possibilities) and emphatic mood (used to emphasise a statement).

It’s important to understand the mood of a verb as it helps to convey the intended meaning and tone of a sentence. The mood can change the way we interpret a statement or command, and it adds nuance and clarity to our communication.

Grammatical Category

Grammatical category, also known as grammatical classification or part of speech, refers to the classification of words into different categories based on their syntactic and morphological properties. These categories help us understand how words function in sentences and how they relate to other words.

Here are the main grammatical categories and examples of words belonging to each category:

  • Noun: A word that represents a person, place, thing, or idea. Examples: cat, city, book, love
  • Pronoun: A word used in place of a noun to avoid repetition. Examples: he, she, it, they, I, you
  • Verb: A word that expresses an action, occurrence, or state of being. Examples: run, sing, eat, sleep, is, was
  • Adjective: A word that describes or modifies a noun or pronoun. Examples: happy, tall, beautiful, blue, interesting
  • Adverb: A word that describes or modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Examples: quickly, very, well, often, loudly
  • Preposition: A word that shows the relationship between a noun (or pronoun) and other words in a sentence. Examples: in, on, at, by, under
  • Conjunction: A word that connects words, phrases, or clauses. Examples: and, but, or, so, because
  • Interjection: A word or phrase used to express strong emotion or sudden interruption. Examples: wow, oh, oops, hurray

These categories provide a framework for understanding the structure and function of words in sentences, allowing us to analyse and construct meaningful and grammatically correct sentences.


A participle is a verb form that can function as an adjective or used to create verb tenses or aspects. Participles are formed by adding suffixes to the base form of a verb. There are two main types of participles: present participles and past participles.

  • Present Participle: The present participle is formed by adding “-ing” to the base form of the verb. Example: The running water sounded soothing.
  • Past Participle: The past participle is usually formed by adding “-ed,” “-d,” “-t,” “-en,” or “-n” to the base form of the verb, although irregular verbs have their own unique forms. Examples: The broken vase lay on the floor. The written report was submitted on time. The taken photographs captured the beauty of the landscape.

Participles can be used as adjectives to describe nouns or pronouns:

Example: The crying baby was comforted by her mother. The exhausted athletes collapsed at the finish line.

Participles can also be used to form verb tenses or aspects:

Example: She has finished her homework. They were watching a movie when I arrived.

Participles are versatile grammatical forms that add descriptive details and contribute to the structure of sentences.

Subject and Predicates

The subject is the part of the sentence that performs the action or is being described, while the predicate contains the verb and provides information about the subject. The subject tells us who or what the sentence is about, while the predicate provides information about the subject and what it is doing or experiencing.

Here are their meanings and examples:

  1. Subject: The subject is the noun, pronoun, or noun phrase that indicates who or what the sentence is about. It is typically the doer of the action in the sentence. Example: Sarah is reading a book. In this sentence, “Sarah” is the subject as she is the one performing the action of reading.
  2. Predicate: The predicate includes the verb and any other words or phrases that provide information about the subject or describe the action being performed. Example: The cat is sleeping on the mat. In this sentence, “is sleeping on the mat” is the predicate, with “is sleeping” being the verb and “on the mat” providing additional information about where the cat is sleeping.

Sometimes the predicate can consist of just the verb: Example: He sings. In this sentence, “sings” is the verb, and it serves as the entire predicate.

Preposition and prepositional phrases

A preposition is a word that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun (the object of the preposition) and other words in a sentence. Prepositions typically indicate location, time, direction, manner, or possession. Here are some examples of prepositions and their usage in sentences:

  • In: She is sitting in the park.
  • On: The book is on the table.
  • Under: The cat is hiding under the bed.
  • At: We will meet at the restaurant.

A prepositional phrase is a group of words that includes a preposition, its object, and any modifiers of the object. The entire phrase acts as an adverb or adjective, providing additional information about the subject or object in the sentence.

Example of a prepositional phrase acting as an adverb: She walked to the park with her friends.

The prepositional phrase “to the park” modifies the verb “walked” and tells us where she walked.

Example of a prepositional phrase acting as an adjective: The house with the red door is for sale.

The prepositional phrase “with the red door” modifies the noun “house” and describes its characteristic.

Prepositions and prepositional phrases are important in providing details about location, time, and relationships between objects or actions in sentences.

Plural agreement

Plural agreement in grammar refers to the agreement between a subject and a verb, pronoun, or adjective in the plural form. When using plural subjects, it is important for the related words in the sentence to be in agreement, indicating that they are referring to multiple entities. For example:

  • The dogs bark loudly.
  • The children play in the park.

In these examples, the plural subjects “dogs” and “children” are matched with the corresponding plural verbs “bark” and “play”.


Pronouns are a category of words in grammar that are used as substitutes for nouns. They help avoid repetition and make sentences more concise. Pronouns can refer to people, objects, places, ideas, and more. Here are some examples of pronouns and their usage:

  1. Personal Pronouns:
    • I, you, he, she, it, we, they Example: She is going to the store.
  2. Possessive Pronouns:
    • mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs Example: This book is mine.
  3. Reflexive Pronouns:
    • myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, themselves Example: I hurt myself while running.
  4. Demonstrative Pronouns:
    • this, that, these, those Example: These are my shoes.
  5. Interrogative Pronouns:
    • who, whom, whose, which, what Example: Who is coming to the party?
  6. Relative Pronouns:
    • who, whom, whose, which, that Example: The book that I read was interesting.
  7. Indefinite Pronouns:
    • all, some, any, none, everyone, somebody, nobody Example: Somebody left their umbrella behind.

Pronouns play a crucial role in communication by allowing us to refer to people, objects, or ideas without repeating the same nouns. They contribute to sentence structure, clarity, and efficiency in written and spoken language.


Punctuation refers to the marks and symbols used in writing to aid in the organisation, clarity, and interpretation of sentences and texts. Punctuation marks serve various purposes, such as indicating pauses, separating ideas, indicating emphasis, and clarifying meaning. Here are some common punctuation marks and their examples:

  • Period (.) – Used to end a declarative sentence. Example: I went to the store.
  • Question Mark (?) – Used to end a direct question. Example: Did you finish your homework?
  • Exclamation Mark (!) – Used to indicate strong emotion or emphasis. Example: What a beautiful day!
  • Comma (,) – Used to separate items in a list, separate clauses, or indicate pauses. Example: I bought apples, oranges, and bananas.
  • Semicolon (;) – Used to separate independent clauses that are closely related. Example: She loves to read; her favourite genre is fantasy.
  • Colon (:) – Used to introduce a list or provide further explanation. Example: Please bring the following items: a pen, notebook, and calculator.
  • Quotation Marks (” “) – Used to enclose direct speech or indicate titles of shorter works. Example: He said, “I will be there soon.”
  • Apostrophe (‘) – Used to indicate possession or contraction. Example: John’s car is blue. (possession) It’s raining outside. (contraction of “it is”)
  • Dash (—) – Used to indicate a sudden break or interruption in a sentence. Example: She couldn’t believe what she saw—her favourite singer on stage.
  • Parentheses ( ) – Used to enclose additional information or clarify a point. Example: The event (scheduled for next week) has been postponed.

Punctuation marks are essential for conveying meaning, structure, and clarity in written language. By using them correctly, you can enhance the readability and understanding of your writing.


Syntax refers to the arrangement and structure of words and phrases to form coherent sentences in a language. It involves the rules and patterns that govern sentence formation, including word order, sentence structure, and the relationship between different elements of a sentence. Here are some examples of syntax:

  1. Word Order:
    • English typically follows a subject-verb-object (SVO) word order: Example: She (subject) eats (verb) an apple (object).
  2. Sentence Structure:
    • Simple Sentence: It consists of a single independent clause. Example: The cat is sleeping.
    • Compound Sentence: It consists of two or more independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction. Example: I like coffee, and she prefers tea.
    • Complex Sentence: It consists of an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. Example: After I finished my homework, I went to bed.
    • Compound-Complex Sentence: It consists of two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses. Example: I studied for the test, but I still didn’t get a good grade because I didn’t prepare enough.
  3. Agreement:
    • Subject-Verb Agreement: The verb agrees with the subject in terms of number and person. Example: She plays the piano. (Singular subject – third person) They play soccer. (Plural subject – third person)
    • Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement: The pronoun agrees with its antecedent in terms of number and gender. Example: The girl lost her book. (Singular antecedent – feminine) The boys lost their books. (Plural antecedent)
  4. Phrases and Clauses:
    • Noun Phrase: It functions as the subject or object of a sentence. Example: The tall building is a landmark.
    • Verb Phrase: It consists of a main verb and its accompanying helping verbs or modifiers. Example: She will be studying all night.
    • Dependent Clause: It cannot stand alone as a sentence and relies on an independent clause for meaning. Example: Although it was raining, they went for a walk.

Syntax plays a crucial role in language comprehension and effective communication. By following the rules of syntax, we can construct sentences and convey meaning in a structured and coherent manner.

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