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If your first language is not English, you will most likely need some extra help when writing in Standard, or formal, English. New students of Standard English often make similar kinds of errors. Even if you have been speaking English for a long time, you may not feel as confident in your written English skills. This chapter covers the most common errors made by English language learners and helps you avoid similar mistakes in your writing.
The most basic sentence structure in English is a subjectA word that tells what the sentence is about. Subjects are usually nouns or pronouns. plus a verbA word that tells what the subject is doing or links the subject to a describing word.. A subject performs the action in the sentence, and the verb identifies the action. Keep in mind that in some languages, such as Spanish and Italian, an obvious subject does not always perform the action in a sentence; the subject is often implied by the verb. However, every sentence in English must have a subject and a verb to express a complete thought.
Not all sentences are as simple as a subject plus a verb. To form more complex sentences, writers build upon this basic structure. Adding a prepositional phrase to the basic sentence creates a more complex sentence. A prepositionType of word that connects a noun, pronoun, or verb to another word that describes or modifies it. Common prepositions include in, on, under, near, by, with, and about. is a part of speech that relates a noun or a pronoun to another word in a sentence. It also introduces a prepositional phraseA group of words that begins with a preposition.. If you can identify a preposition, you will be able to identify a prepositional phrase.
On is the preposition. On the couch is the prepositional phrase.
Copy the following sentences onto your own sheet of paper and underline the prepositional phrases.
Another sentence structure that is important to understand is subject + verb + object. There are two types of objects: direct objectsA noun or pronoun in a sentence that receives the action of the verb. The direct object answers whom? or what? after the verb in a sentence. and indirect objectsA noun or pronoun in a sentence that answers the question to whom? or to what? after the verb. The indirect object comes before the direct object in a sentence..
A direct object receives the action of the verb.
The letter directly receives the action of the verb writes.
A quick way to find the direct object is to ask what? or who?
Sentence: Maurice kicked the ball.
What did Maurice kick? The direct object, ball.
Sentence: Maurice kicked Tom by accident.
Who did Maurice kick? The direct object, Tom.
An indirect object does not receive the action of the verb.
The action (writes) is performed for or to the indirect object (me).
Even though the indirect object is not found after a preposition in English, it can be discovered by asking to whom? or for whom? after the verb.
Sentence: Dad baked the children some cookies.
For whom did Dad bake the cookies? The indirect object, children.
On a separate sheet of paper, identify the subject, verb, direct object, and indirect object in the following sentences.
On a separate sheet of paper, rewrite the sentences in the correct order. If the sentence is correct as it is, write OK.
English speakers rely on the following two common ways to turn sentences into questions:
Move the helping verb and add a question mark.
Sentence: Sierra can pack these boxes.
Question: Can Sierra pack these boxes?
Add the verb do, does, or did, and add a question mark:
Sentence: Jolene skated across the pond.
Question: Did Jolene skate across the pond?
On a separate sheet of paper, create questions from the following sentences.
An adjectiveA word that describes a noun or a pronoun. is a kind of descriptive word that describes a noun or a pronoun. It tells which one, what kind, and how many. Adjectives make your writing more lively and interesting. Keep in mind, a common error that English language learners make is misplacing the adjectives in a sentence. It is important to know where to place the adjective in a sentence so that readers are not confused.
If you are using more than one adjective to describe a noun, place the adjectives in the following order before the noun:
Adjectives can also be placed at the end of a sentence if they describe the subject of a sentence and appear after the verb.
Sentence: My English teacher is excellent.
On a separate sheet of paper, place the following sets of adjectives in the correct order before the noun. The first one has been done for you.
book: old, small, Spanish
a small old Spanish book (age, size, ethnicity)
Write a paragraph about a memorable family trip. Use at least two adjectives to describe each noun in your paragraph. Proofread your paragraph, and then exchange papers with a classmate. Check your classmate’s use of adjectives to make sure they are correct.