Grammar and Punctuation

• Directions that are names
(North, South, East, and West when used as sections of the country, but not as compass directions)

The Patels have moved to the Southwest.
Jim’s house is two miles north of Otterbein.

• Titles preceding names, but not title that follow names
She worked as the assistant to Mayor Hanolovi.

To be an adjective
An adjective always follows a form of the verb to be when it modifies the noun before the verb.

• The names of God, specific deities, religious figures, and holy books
God the Father
the Bible
the Greek gods

Exception: Do not capitalize the non-specific use of the word "god."

An adjective always follows a sense verb or a verb of appearance
Likewise, an adjective always follows a sense verb or a verb of appearance — feel, taste, smell, sound, look, appear, and seem — when it modifies the noun before the verb.

• Periods and events
(but not century numbers)

Victorian Era
Great Depression

• The first word in a sentence that is a direct quote
example: Emerson once said, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

• Members of national, political, racial, social, civic, and athletic groups

The first words of a sentence

example: When he tells a joke, he sometimes forgets the punch line.

The Ellipsis
An ellipsis (plural: ellipses) is a punctuation mark made up of three dots (…).

1. Use an ellipsis in dialogue to show hesitation.
"Yes, I know there were fourteen cookies, but…I…oh, fine. I ate them all!"

2. Use an ellipsis to show a sentence that trails off, unfinished. There should be no additional ending punctuation mark.
Margaret put a hand to her trembling lips. "I saw his cat, Mr. Winkle, stalking that poor, innocent bird. There was a squawk and a cloud of feathers, and…"
James's mouth fell open. "Are you suggesting that Mr. Winkle…"

3. Use an ellipsis to show where a word or words have been removed from a quotation.
According to Farmer Joe: "The UFO flew over my farm and landed right in the middle of my corn…It was quite a sight, let me tell you." (The ellipsis indicates that words were removed from Farmer Joe's original quote.)

If an ellipsis comes at the end of a quotation, make sure to add the ending punctuation mark.
Congressman Bubba Licious introduced the bill today, saying, "If passed, this law will make sure that every citizen of this great nation will have equal access to chewing gun, no matter their financial standing, gender, religion…."

"A" goes before all words that begin with consonants.
"A" goes before all words that begin with consonants.
a cat
a dog
a purple onion
a buffalo
a big apple

with one exception: Use an before unsounded h.

an honorable peace
an honest error

Sure or Surely?
Sure is an adjective, and surely is an adverb. Sure is also used in the idiomatic expression sure to be. Surely can be used as a sentence-adverb

A little bit of
This phrase is informal and always precedes an uncountable noun.

There is a little bit of pepper in the soup.

ENOUGH modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.

There is enough money to buy a car.
I have enough books to read.

Plenty of
This phrase modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.

They have plenty of money in the bank.
There are plenty of millionaires in Switzerland.

NO modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.

There is no time to finish now.
There are no squirrels in the park.

Indefinite Articles: a and an
A and an signal that the noun modified is indefinite, referring to any member of a group. These indefinite articles are used with singular nouns when the noun is general; the corresponding indefinite quantity word some is used for plural general nouns. The rule is:

a + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a boy
an + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an elephant
a + singular noun beginning with a consonant sound: a user (sounds like 'yoo-zer,' i.e. begins with a consonant 'y' sound, so 'a' is used)
some + plural noun: some girls

If the noun is modified by an adjective, the choice between a and an depends on the initial sound of the adjective that immedately follows the article:

a broken egg
an unusual problem
a European country (sounds like 'yer-o-pi-an,' i.e. begins with consonant 'y' sound)

Note also that in English, the indefinite articles are used to indicate membership in a profession, nation, or religion.

I am a teacher.
Brian is an Irishman.
Seiko is a practicing Buddhist.

Countable vs. Noncountable
A and an are used if the noun can be counted.

i.e / e.g
i.e = that is.

The origin of i.e. is "id est." You use i.e. when you're restating the idea (to be more explicit) or expanding upon it.

Example: We provide all retailers with the standard discount, i.e., 10%.

e.g = for example.

The origin of e.g. is "exempli gratia."

Example: Shertzer's book has a number of elements, e.g., punctuation, capitalization, parts of a sentence, and confusing words.

In American English, generally follow i.e. and e.g. with a comma. Use abbreviated forms like these only in informal or technical documents, or documents where space is at a premium (catalogs, forms, etc.).

Commas and speech
A comma is used between the words of direct speech and the verb say or other speech tag.

'Come and look at the room,' he said. 'It has a sea view.'

'Over here,' she shouted.

He asked, 'Do you really love me?'

No comma is needed in indirect (reported) speech.

She shouted that she needed help.

He said that he really loved her.

Some, Any
Both words modify either countable or uncountable nouns.

There are some cookies in the jar. (countable)
There is some water on the floor. (uncountable)

Did you eat any food? (uncountable)
Do you serve any vegetarian dishes? (countable)

Semicolon use
A semicolon can be used to link together clauses which could stand alone as sentences, but which have a close relationship with one another and are more effectively shown as components of a single sentence. If a clause cannot function as a complete sentence, it ought not to begin or end with a semi-colon.

John was wearing his best suit.
Mary was in a T-shirt and a pair of torn jeans.

John was wearing his best suit; Mary was in a T-shirt and a pair of torn jeans.

Using a semicolon implies that that the facts that John was dressing up and that Mary was dressing down are somehow related.

The Dash
1. Use a dash to show an interruption of thought in a sentence. In these instances, the dashes could be removed and the sentence would still make sense.

My dog—who, by the way, hasn't had a bath in years—is a little stinky.
The flight attendant confiscated my pepper spray—my favorite can of pepper spray!—and threw it in the garbage.

2. Use a dash to turn something general into something specific:
My little sister loves hairy animals—orangutans and yaks are her favorites.

3. Use a dash to introduce a definition:
My favorite punctuation mark is the dash—a mark used to show an interruption in thought, a change from something general to something specific, or to introduce a definition.

4. In conversation, a dash can be used to show an interruption.
Ernie took a deep breath. "I tried to tell you—"
"You didn't try hard enough!" Bert said.

Dashes are often used in place of other punctuation marks (colons, semi-colons, commas, parentheses) to create a less formal style. Examples:

I went to agricultural school to learn three things—radishes, rhododendrons, and rutabagas. A dash is used instead of the more formal comma.

My lawyer—Winthorpe Harrison Smythe, III—will be contacting you. A dash is used instead of a comma or parentheses.

My brother wreaks havoc—I get all the blame. A dash is used instead of a period or semi-colon.

Prepositions of Time, of Place, and to Introduce Objects
Extended time
To express extended time, English uses the following prepositions: since, for, by, from—to, from-until, during,(with)in

She has been gone since yesterday. (She left yesterday and has not returned.)
I'm going to Paris for two weeks. (I will spend two weeks there.)
The movie showed from August to October. (Beginning in August and ending in October.)
The decorations were up from spring until fall. (Beginning in spring and ending in fall.)
I watch TV during the evening. (For some period of time in the evening.)
We must finish the project within a year. (No longer than a year.)

The word Myriad
Myriad As a noun, myriad means ten thousand, or a great number (a myriad of aircraft). In this case, you're not using myriad to modify: it's the subject.

As an adjective, myriad means "having innumerable aspects or elements" (those myriad challenges - the myriad activity of the people - myriad butterflies).

These days, the distinction is blurred, and we see quite a bit of "...a myriad of..."

"An" goes before all words that begin with vowels:
"An" goes before all words that begin with vowels:
an apricot
an egg
an Indian
an orbit
an uprising

with two exceptions: When u makes the same sound as the y in you, or o makes the same sound as w in won, then a is used.

a union
a united front
a unicorn
a used napkin
a U.S. ship
a one-legged man

Near or Nearly?
Near can function as a verb, adverb, adjective, or preposition. Nearly is used as an adverb to mean "in a close manner" or "almost but not quite."

Simile or metaphor?
The art of making a object be seen in a new light is one of the most valuable tools a writer can use to describe. Some objects, emotions and ideas are difficult to describe and sometimes require a more lyrical explanation like a similie and metaphor.

A simile is literally the open comparision of one thing to another, using the words like or as.

Her face was as withered as a walnut husk.

A metaphor allows for a more hidden comparison, without the directness of like or as:

The furrows in her brow were deep enough to plant a garden.

Phrases and Clauses
A phrase is a group of words that doesn't have both a subject and a predicate.

Looking ahead (no subject)
The dog across the street (no predicate)
In the house (no subject or predicate)

A clause is a group of words that does have its own subject and predicate. A clause may or may not be able to stand alone as a sentence.

Before the girl crossed the road, her mother yelled at her to stop.
Before the girl crossed the road is a dependent clause: it has a subject [the girl] and a predicate [crossed the road], but can't stand alone as a sentence.
Her mother yelled at her to stop is an independent clause: it has a subject [her mother] and a predicate [yelled at her to stop], and the clause could stand alone as a sentence.

Real or Really?
Real is an adjective, and really is an adverb.

• Family relationships
(when used as proper names)

I sent a thank-you note to Aunt Abigail, but not to my other aunts.
Here is a present I bought for Mother.
Did you buy a present for your mother?

Prepositions: On to, In to
The other two prepositions of direction are compounds formed by adding "to" to the corresponding prepositions of location.
The preposition of location determines the meaning of the preposition of direction.
ON + TO = onto: signifies movement toward a surface.

IN + TO = into: signifies movement toward the interior of a volume.

Little, Quite a little, Few, Quite a few
Little and quite a little modify only uncountable nouns.

We had a little ice cream after dinner.
They offered little help for my problem.
(meaning "only a small amount")
They offered quite a little help for my problem. (meaning "a large amount") (See quite a bit of, below.)

Few and quite a few modify only countable nouns.

A few doctors from the hospital play on the softball team.
Few restaurants in this town offer vegetarian dishes.
(meaning "only a small number")
Quite a few restaurants in this town offer vegetarian dishes. (meaning "a large number")

Commas vs. Semicolons
A group of words containing a subject and a verb and expressing a complete thought is called a sentence or independent clause. Sometimes, an independent clause stands alone as a sentence. Sometimes two independent clauses are linked together into what is called a compound sentence. One of two different punctuation marks can be used between the independent clauses in a compound sentence: a comma or a semicolon.

Use a comma after the first independent clause when you link two independent clauses with one of the following coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet. For example:

I am going home, and I intend to stay there.
It rained heavily during the afternoon, but we managed to have our picnic anyway.
They couldn't make it to the summit and back before dark, so they decided to camp for the night.

Use a semicolon when you link two independent clauses with no connecting words. For example:

I am going home; I intend to stay there.
It rained heavily during the afternoon; we managed to have our picnic anyway.
They couldn't make it to the summit and back before dark; they decided to camp for the night.

You can also use a semicolon when you join two independent clauses together with one of the following conjunctive adverbs (adverbs that join independent clauses): however, moreover, therefore, consequently, otherwise, nevertheless, thus, etc. For example:

I am going home; moreover, I intend to stay there.
It rained heavily during the afternoon; however, we managed to have our picnic anyway.
They couldn't make it to the summit and back before dark; therefore, they decided to camp for the night.

Write out numbers beginning sentences.
Six percent of the group failed.
NOT: 6% of the group failed.


• The pronoun "I"

• Proper nouns

• The names of countries, nationalities, and specific languages
Costa Rica

• Trademarks

Affect or effect?
"Affect" is a VERB. Most commonly, it means to influence or have an impact on something or someone.

Example: How will this article affect your writing?

"Effect" is a NOUN. Most commonly, it means a result or something brought about by a cause.

Example: I wonder if this article will have an effect on your writing.

In the field of psychology, "affect" can serve as a noun. And "effect" can be a verb, but it's an obscure usage. Thus, 99.9% of the time you'll be safe if you remember: "A" is the verb. "E" is the noun.

Past Continuous


The past continuous is formed as follows:

TO BE (in the past tense) + present participle of verb

Examples: I was studying


Use the PAST CONTINUOUS to express a scenario in the past. Usually the past continuous is found in two-clause sentences, where one clause expresses a scenario, and the other expresses a specific action in the past.

Example: The bomb exploded while the people were eating dinner.

Note that the order of the clauses is not important. We could also say:

The people were eating dinner when the bomb exploded.

The important thing is that the specific past action takes past tense, while the scenario is expressed in past continuous.

More examples:

-I was watching (scenario) television when the doorbell rang (specific action).
-When I arrived (specific action) in Chicago, it was raining (scenario).
-The burglar entered (specific action) the house while the family was sleeping (scenario).
-At 2:45, I was reading (scenario) the newspaper. Then, I noticed (specific action) a bright flash in the sky...
-I caught (specific action) malaria when I was travelling (scenario) in India.

Remember that there are certain verbs not generally used in continous tenses (see p. 13). For these verbs, use the simple past tense for past scenarios.

Example: A doctor in New Delhi took care (specific action) of me while I was sick.

Also note that two consecutive past actions do not require past continuous.

Example: When I finished my dinner, I turned on the T.V.

Active vs. Passive Voice
You've heard it a million times. "Avoid passive voice." Remember what that means?

Voice is a verb form (like tense, number, and person). There are two verb voices: active and passive.

Your verb is ACTIVE if the subject of your sentence performs the action described by the verb.

Examples: You should avoid passive voice. The car ran over the child.

Your verb is PASSIVE if the subject doesn't perform the verb's action.

Examples: Passive voice should be avoided. The child was run over.

Can you see why you should avoid passive voice and why active voice is usually a better choice?

Passive voice is—well—passive and weak. It's less direct, informative, and effective than active voice. Who should avoid passive voice? What ran over that poor kid? Who knows?

Exception: If you want to emphasize that the child is a passive victim to whom something happened rather than talk about what the car did, choose passive voice.

Helpful Hint: Think at least twice before you use passive voice. Make sure it serves your purpose.

Your / you're
Your or you're?

You're: Contraction of the words "you are,"

e.g., "You're up for an award. Someone said you're leaving."

Your is a possessive form of a personal pronoun,

e.g., "I like your Web site. Tom, thanks for giving your time to this effort."

Both: "Your knowledge of HTML shows that you're a dedicated designer."

Prepositions: on, in
With many verbs of motion, "on" and "in" have a directional meaning and can be used along with "onto" and "into".

Commas with Non-Essential Elements
Some modifying elements of a sentence are essential (they restrict the meaning of a modified term) while others are non-essential (they don't restrict the modified term's meaning). These nonessential elements, which can be words, phrases, or clauses, are set off with commas.

How do you tell if something is non-essential? If you leave out the element or put it somewhere else in the sentence and it changes the essential meaning of the sentence, the element is essential; if not, it is non-essential.

Rule: Use commas before and after non-essential words, phrases, and clauses—elements embedded in the sentence that interrupt it without changing the essential meaning.

Essential Examples:
The sixth-century philosopher Boethius was arrested, tortured, and bludgeoned to death. (word)
The person checking tickets at the counter asked for a form of identification. (phrase)
The woman who interviewed you is my sister. (clause)

Non-essential Examples:
The average world temperature, however, has continued to rise significantly. (word)
Company managers, seeking higher profits, hired temporary workers to replace full-time staff. (phrase)
My uncle, who is eighty years old, walks three miles every day. (clause)

Scarcely and hardly are already negative adverbs. To add another negative term is redundant, because in English only one negative is ever used at a time

They found scarcely any animals on the island. (not scarcely no...)
Hardly anyone came to the party. (not hardly no one...)

Adjectives and nouns
Adjectives modify nouns; adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

You can recognize adverbs easily because many of them are formed by adding -ly to an adjective.

Passive Voice
Usually we use the active voice when making sentences, but when we wish to deemphasize the subject of an action, or when the subject is unknown, we can use the passive voice. Here is an example:

Active voice: The shark ate the boy.

Passive voice: The boy was eaten (by the shark).

The first sentence is fine, grammatically speaking, but because the boy is more important to us than the shark, we would probably use the second form.


In the active voice, we have a subject, a verb, and sometimes an object. We can change any active voice sentence that has an object to a passive voice sentence. The active object becomes the passive voice subject.

Active Voice Sentence:
Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.
The optometrist repaired my glasses

Passive Voice Sentence :
Hamlet was written by Shakespeare.
My glasses were repaired (by the optometrist).

The passive voice verb is constructed as follows:

TO BE + past parti­ciple


Active Voice Verb Passive Voice Verb

makes is made
made was made
is making is being made
has made has been made
will make will be made
is going to make is going to be made

Examples of passive modals:

Look at that crazy driver! People like that should be arrested (by the police).
Celine told me that this song might be included on her next album.

There is also a passive infinitive form which is:
TO BE + past participle


The baby likes to be rocked slowly.
Lucien Bouchard hopes to be elected again.

Speak to / speak with
When you speak "to" someone, it's like giving a speech or presentation, even if the someone is only one person.

When you speak "with" someone, it means you are having a two-way conversation.

Bad or Badly?
When you want to describe how you feel, you should use an adjective (Why? Feel is a sense verb;see rule #3 above). So you'd say, "I feel bad." Saying you feel badly would be like saying you play football badly. It would mean that you are unable to feel, as though your hands were partially numb.

Writing Numbers
Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers that can be expressed in one or two words and use figures for other numbers:

over two pounds
six million dollars
after thirty-one years
eighty-three people

after 126 days
only $31.50
6,381 bushels
4.78 liters

Punctuating Dialogue
A dialogue tag is a phrase that indicates who is speaking.
He said
She exclaimed
The teacher asked
They yelled

When these phrases are attached to sentences of dialogue, they must be punctuated specifically, according to where the dialogue tag falls.

Dialogue followed by a dialogue tag:
"I love to eat at Hamburger Heaven," she said.
Put a comma inside the quotation marks and a period at the end of the dialogue tag.

Dialogue tag followed by a line of dialogue:
I replied, "Hamburger Heaven is gross."
Put a comma after the tag. Begin the quote with a capital letter (because it's the first word in a complete sentence of dialogue). The period at the end of the sentence goes inside the quotation marks.

Dialogue tag interrupting a sentence of dialogue.
"I can't believe," she said with a glare, "that you don't like to eat there."
Put the comma inside the quotation marks for the first half of the quotation.
Put a comma after the speaker tag but before the second set of quotation marks. (Do not capitalize the dialogue tag)
Put the period at the end of the sentence, inside the quotation marks.
Do not capitalize the first word of the second half of the quotation (since it's not the beginning of the person's spoken sentence).

Dialogue tag between two complete sentences of dialogue
"It's a disgusting place," I said. "My dog won't even eat there."
If your quotation consists of two complete sentences and the dialogue tag is between the two, treat the first sentence of dialogue and the dialogue tag as if they were standing alone (comma inside the quotation marks, period after the dialogue tag). Then, put quotation marks around the entire final sentence and put the period inside.

Commas after Introductory Elements
Introductory Clauses
Introductory clauses are dependent clauses that provide background information or "set the stage" for the main part of the sentence. Introductory clauses start with adverbs like after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, until, when, etc. For example:

If they want to win, athletes must exercise every day. (introductory dependent clause, main clause)
Because he kept barking insistently, we threw the ball for Smokey. (introductory dependent clause, main clause)

Introductory Phrases
Introductory phrases also set the stage for the main action of the sentence, but they are not complete clauses. Phrases don't have both a subject and a verb that are separate from the subject and verb in the main clause of the sentence. Common introductory phrases include prepositional phrases, appositive phrases, participial phrases, infinitive phrases, and absolute phrases. For example:

To stay in shape for competition, athletes must exercise every day. (introductory infinitive phrase, main clause)
Barking insistently, Smokey got us to throw his ball for him. (introductory participial phrase, main clause)
A popular and well respected mayor, Bailey was the clear favorite in the campaign for governor. (introductory appositive phrase, main clause)
The wind blowing violently, the townspeople began to seek shelter. (introductory absolute phrase, main clause)
After the adjustment for inflation, real wages have decreased while corporate profits have grown. (introductory prepositional phrases, main clause)

Introductory Words
Introductory words like however, still, furthermore, and meanwhile create continuity from one sentence to the next. For example:

The coaches reviewed the game strategy. Meanwhile, the athletes trained on the Nautilus equipment.
Most of the evidence seemed convincing. Still, the credibility of some witnesses was in question.

When to Use a Comma
Introductory elements often require a comma, but not always. Use a comma in the following cases:
* after an introductory clause. (If introductory element has a subject and verb of its own)
* after a long introductory prepositional phrase or more than one introductory prepositional phrase. (If there are more than five words before the main clause)
* after introductory verbal phrases, some appositive phrases, or absolute phrases.
* if there is a distinct pause. (When you read the sentence aloud, if you find your voice pausing a moment after the introductory element)
* to avoid confusion. (If a reader might have to read the sentence more than once to make sense of it)

When not to Use a Comma
Some introductory elements don't require a comma, and sometimes the subject of a sentence looks like an introductory element but isn't. Do not use a comma in the following cases:
* after a brief prepositional phrase. (If it is a single phrase of less than five words)
* to separate the subject from the predicate. (See below.)

Each of the following sentences may look like it requires a comma after the opening segment (marked with an x), but the opening segment is really the subject of the sentence. Do not use a comma to separate the subject of a sentence from its predicate.

Preparing and submitting his report to the committee for evaluation and possible publication[x] was one of the most difficult tasks Bill had ever attempted.
To start a new business without doing market research and long-term planning in advance[x] would be foolish.
Extracting the most profit for the least expenditure on labor and materials[x] is the primary goal of a capitalist

MUCH modifies only uncountable nouns.

They have much money in the bank.

MANY modifies only countable nouns.

Many Americans travel to Europe

Much, Many
Much modifies only uncountable nouns.

How much money will we need?
They ate so much cake that they started to feel sick.
Much effort will be required to solve this problem.

Many modifies only countable nouns.

How many children do you have?
They had so many books that they had to stack them in the hall.
Many Americans travel to Europe each year.

Like vs As
“Like” is a preposition and “as” is a conjunction — so there’s a very complicated explanation. Here’s my best stab at simplifying it.

Use “like” in comparisons when you mean “in the manner of” or “to the same degree as.”

Example: You talk like a walrus with marbles in its mouth.

That is, “you” talk in the manner of a marble-mouthed walrus, but you aren’t equal to a walrus or serving the function of one.

Use “as” in comparisons when you mean to show equality or “in the function of.”

Example: You acted as a comedian for the group when situations got too tense.

In this case, you=comedian. You served the comedian’s function.

What about those times when you’re presenting examples?

The rule is the same, but Writer’s Block offers an easy to remember rule of thumb.

“Like” generally excludes things.

“As” generally includes things.

In other words, use “like” when making a comparison to just one other thing. Use “as” (or “such as”) when making a comparison to several things.

Example: When you have a toy like a bag of marbles, it’s easy to talk to a walrus.

You’re comparing toy to one thing (bag of marbles), so use “like.”

Example: When you have a toy, such as a bag of marbles or a sack of doorknobs, it’s easy to talk to a walrus.

You’re comparing toy to a number of things (bag of marbles and sack of doorknobs), so use “such as.”

Prepositions of Time, of Place, and to Introduce Objects
One point in time
On is used with days:

I will see you on Monday.
The week begins on Sunday.

At is used with noon, night, midnight, and with the time of day:

My plane leaves at noon.
The movie starts at 6 p.m.

In is used with other parts of the day, with months, with years, with seasons:

He likes to read in the afternoon.
The days are long in August.

Like or As?
Like is a preposition. It should be followed by an object to make a prepositional phrase.

As is a conjunction. It should be followed by a clause containing a subject and a verb.

Incorrect: He runs like a gazelle does.
(Like is followed by a clause.)

Correct: He runs like a gazelle.

Correct: He runs as a gazelle does.

This is sometimes confusing because as occasionally is used with elliptical clauses which may resemble prepositional phrases.

Like is never used with clauses in standard English.

Its / It's
Its or It's?

Its: The possessive form of the pronoun it is never written with an apostrophe.

Examples: "Try this book. Its title is . . ."
"What is its value?"

It's: contractions of it is and it has.
Example: It's time to go. It's been great.

Test whether you have the right form by checking whether you can substitute 'it is' or 'it has' for what you have written. If you can, then it's is correct.

First vs. Subsequent Mention
A or an is used to introduce a noun when it is mentioned for the first time in a piece of writing. The is used afterward each time you mention that same noun.

An awards ceremony at the Kremlin would not normally have attracted so much attention. But when it was leaked that Soviet President Konstantin Chernenko would be presenting medals to three cosmonauts, interest in the ceremony intensified.

Note: There is and there are can be used to introduce an indefinite noun at the beginning of a paragraph or essay.

There is a robin in the tree outside my window. When my cat jumps up on the desk, the robin flies away.

Definite Article: the
The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the noun is particular or specific. The signals that the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a group.

The is not used with noncountable nouns referring to something in a general sense:

[no article] Coffee is a popular drink.

The is used with noncountable nouns that are made more specific by a limiting modifying phrase or clause:

The coffee in my cup is too hot to drink.

The is also used when a noun refers to something unique:

Do not use the before:

- names of countries except the Netherlands and the US
- names of cities, towns, or states
- names of streets
- names of lakes and bays except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
- names of mountains, except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Rockies or unusual names like the Matterhorn
- names of continents
- names of islands except with island chains like the Aleutians, or the Canary Islands

Do use the before:

- names of rivers, oceans and seas- points on the globe
- geographical areas
- deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas.

Their / They're / There
Their, They're, or There?

Their: possessive form of the word they,

e.g., Their Web site is full of typos.

They're: Contraction of the words "they" and "are,"

e.g., They're doing a great job on their Web site.

There: at or in that place,

e.g., "Now there is a stunning Web site."

Prepositions of Spatial Relationship
Above, across, against, ahead of, along, among, around, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, from, in front of, inside, nearby, off, out of, through, toward, under, within.

This word modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.

I don't have enough potatoes to make the soup.
We have enough money to buy a car.

A little bit of, Quite a bit of
These informal phrases usually precede uncountable nouns. Quite a bit of has the same meaning as quite a little and is used more commonly.

There's a little bit of pepper in the soup. (meaning "a small amount")
There's quite a bit of pepper in the soup. (meaning "a large amount")

Omission of Articles
While some nouns combine with one article or the other based on whether they are countable or noncountable, others simply never take either article. Some common types of nouns that don't take an article are:

1. Names of languages and nationalities

2. Names of sports

3. Names of academic subjects

Countable Nouns
Countable nouns refer to things that we can count. Such nouns can take either singular or plural form.

Concrete nouns may be countable.
There are a dozen flowers in the vase.
He ate an apple for a snack.

Collective nouns are countable.

She attended three classes today.
London is home to several orchestras.

Some proper nouns are countable.

There are many Greeks living in New York.
The Vanderbilts would throw lavish parties at their Newport summer mansion.

General vs. Specific
A, an, and the can all be used to indicate that a noun refers to the whole class to which individual countable nouns belong. This use of articles is called generic, from the Latin word meaning "class."

A tiger is a dangerous animal. (any individual tiger)
The tiger is a dangerous animal. (all tigers: tiger as a generic category)
The difference between the indefinite a and an and the generic a and an is that the former means any one member of a class while the latter means all of the members of a class.

The omission of articles also expresses a generic (or general) meaning:

no article with a plural noun: Tigers are dangerous animals. (all tigers)no article with a noncountable noun: Anger is a destructive emotion. (any kind of anger)

A lot of, Lots of
These words are informal substitutes for much and many.

Lots of effort will be required to solve this problem. (uncountable)
A lot of Americans travel to Europe each year. (countable)

Good or Well?
Good is an adjective, so you do not do good or live good, but you do well and live well. Remember, though, that an adjective follows sense-verbs and be-verbs, so you also feel good, look good, smell good, are good, have been good, etc. (Refer to rule #3 above for more information about sense verbs and verbs of appearance.)

Confusion can occur because well can function either as an adverb or an adjective. When well is used as an adjective, it means "not sick" or "in good health." For this specific sense of well, it's OK to say you feel well or are well — for example, after recovering from an illness. When not used in this health-related sense, however, well functions as an adverb; for example, "I did well on my exam."

Due to / Because of
Due to or Because of?

Due to modifies nouns and is generally used after some form of the verb to be (is, are, was, were, etc.). Jan's success is due to talent and spunk (due to modifies success).

Because of should modify verbs. Ted resigned because of poor health (because of modifies resigned).

A lot of/lots of
These are informal substitutes for MUCH and MANY. They are used with uncountable nouns when they mean MUCH and with countable nouns when they mean MANY.

They have lots of money in the bank.
A lot of Americans travel to Europe.

Both modify countable and uncountable nouns.

There is some water on the floor.
There are some Mexicans here.

Do you have any food?
Do you have any apples?

LITTLE modifies only uncountable nouns.

He had little food in the house.

FEW modifies only countable nouns.

There are a few doctors in town.

• The days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays
(but not the seasons used generally)


Exception: Seasons are capitalized when used in a title.

example: The Fall 1999 semester

Prepositions of Time, of Place, and to Introduce Objects
To introduce objects of verbs English uses the following prepositions to introduce objects of the following verbs.

At: glance, laugh, look, rejoice, smile, stare
She took a quick glance at her reflection.
(exception with mirror: She took a quick glance in the mirror.)
You didn't laugh at his joke.

Of: approve, consist, smell
I don't approve of his speech.

Of (or about): dream, think
I dream of finishing college in four years.

For: call, hope, look, wait, watch, wish
Did someone call for a taxi?

• Words and abbreviations of specific names
(but not names of things that came from specific things but are now general types)


When the noun cannot be counted.
The must be used when the noun cannot be counted.

Definition of Count and Noncount nouns
Count or Noncount?
The main difference between count and noncount nouns is whether you can count the things they refer to or not.

Count nouns refer to things that exist as separate and distinct individual units. They usually refer to what can be perceived by the senses.

Noncount nouns refer to things that can't be counted because they are thought of as wholes that can't be cut into parts. They often refer to abstractions and occasionally have a collective meaning (for example, furniture).

Uncountable Nouns
Uncountable nouns refer to things that we cannot count. Such nouns take only singular form.

Abstract nouns are uncountable.
The price of freedom is constant vigilance.
Her writing shows maturity and intelligence.

Some concrete nouns are uncountable (when understood in their undivided sense).

The price of oil has stabilized recently.
May I borrow some rice?

While uncountable nouns do not generally take a plural form, sometimes they may be pluralized when used in a countable sense.

• The major words in the titles of books, articles, and songs (but not short prepositions or the articles "the," "a," or "an," if they are not the first word of the title)

example: One of Ringo’s favorite books is The Catcher in the Rye.

Using Articles with Countable and Uncountable Nouns
A countable noun always takes either the indefinite (a, an) or definite (the) article when it is singular. When plural, it takes the definite article if it refers to a definite, specific group and no article if it is used in a general sense.

The guest of honor arrived late.
You are welcome as a guest in our home.

Uncountable nouns never take the indefinite article (a or an), but they do take singular verbs. The is sometimes used with uncountable nouns in the same way it is used with plural countable nouns, that is, to refer to a specific object, group, or idea.

Information is a precious commodity in our computerized world.
The information in your files is correct.

Plenty of
This term modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.

There are plenty of mountains in Switzerland.
She has plenty of money in the bank.

This word modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.

There were no squirrels in the park today.
We have no time left to finish the project.

Prepositions:spatial relations
Prepositions expressing spatial relations are of two kinds: prepositions of location and prepositions of direction. Both kinds may be either positive or negative. Prepositions of location appear with verbs describing states or conditions, especially be; prepositions of direction appear with verbs of motion.

Prepositions differ according to the number of dimensions they refer to. We can group them into three classes using concepts from geometry: point, surface, and area or volume.

Prepositions in this group indicate that the noun that follows them is treated as a point in relation to which another object is positioned.

Prepositions in this group indicate that the position of an object is defined with respect to a surface on which it rests.

Prepositions in this group indicate that an object lies within the boundaries of an area or within the confines of a volume.

Notice that although in geometry surface and area go together because both are two-dimensional, in grammar area and volume go together because the same prepositions are used for both.

at ....... point
on ....... surface
in ....... area/volume

At calls for further comment. Because it is the least specific of the prepositions in its spatial orientation, it has a great variety of uses: location, destination, direction.

"in" and "on"
1. Nouns denoting enclosed spaces, such as a field or a window, take both on and in. The prepositions have their normal meanings with these nouns: on is used when the space is considered as a surface, in when the space is presented as an area.

1. Notice that in implies that the field is enclosed, whereas on implies only that the following noun denotes a surface and not necessarily an enclosed area

2. When the area has metaphorical instead of actual boundaries, such as when field means "academic discipline," in is used:

She is a leading researcher in the bioengineering field.
3. Several common uses of in and on occur with street.

In and on are also used with means of transportation: in is used with a car, on with public or commercial means of transportation.

Prepositions: To
The basic preposition of a direction is "to."
TO: signifies orientation toward a goal

When the goal is physical, such as a destination, "to" implies movement in the direction of the goal.

When the goal is not a physical place, for instance, an action, "to" marks a verb; it is attached as an infinitive and expresses purpose. The preposition may occur alone or in the phrase in order.

Li Ling washed her dog (in order) to rid it of fleas.

Prepositions of Time, of Place, and to Introduce Objects
Higher than a point
To express notions of an object being higher than a point, English uses the following prepositions: over, above.

He threw the ball over the roof.
Hang that picture above the couch.

Prepositions of Time, of Place, and to Introduce Objects
To express notions of place, English uses the following prepositions: to talk about the point itself: in, to express something contained: inside, to talk about the surface: on, to talk about a general vicinity, at.

There is a wasp in the room.
Put the present inside the box.
I left your keys on the table.
She was waiting at the corner.

Prepositions of Time, of Place, and to Introduce Objects
Lower than a point
To express notions of an object being lower than a point, English uses the following prepositions: under, underneath, beneath, below.
The rabbit burrowed under the ground.
The child hid underneath the blanket.
We relaxed in the shade beneath the branches.
The valley is below sea-level.

Prepositions of Time, of Place, and to Introduce Objects
Close to a point
To express notions of an object being close to a point, English uses the following prepositions: near, by, next to, between, among, opposite.

She lives near the school.
There is an ice cream shop by the store.
An oak tree grows next to my house
The house is between Elm Street and Maple Street.

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