action verb

A transitive verb that conveys a sense of action is sometimes called an action verb. An example sentence follows.

Kamal kicked the soccer ball.

Kamal is the subject of the sentence. Kamal acted. He kicked the ball. The verb conveys a sense of action. Go to verb in the main directory for further explanation.


Antecedent means precede or go before. In English grammar an antecedent is a noun that precedes a pronoun in a sentence. The grammatical significance is that the pronoun must agree with the antecedent in number and gender.

George found his wallet in the garage. (noun and pronoun are singular / masculine)

The cyclists wound their way through the traffic. (plural noun and plural pronoun)


An appositive is a nonessential element of a sentence that renames or further identifies a noun or noun phrase.

William, my husband, is a professional golfer.

Garfield, the cat, is a cartoon character.

Pile-It-On, my favorite pizza, is on sale this weekend.

William is the subject of the first sentence. My husband is the appositive that further identifies William. The sentence would be grammatically correct if the appositive were omitted.


Three words in the English language are articles: a, an, the.

definite article

The word the is a definite article. The definite article points to a specific person, place, or thing. An example follows.

The President of Charleston College attended the meeting.

indefinite article

A college president spoke at the meeting.

Yale is an institution.

A college president is not a specific college president. There are many college presidents. Yale is an institution, one of many institutions.

auxiliary verb

Auxiliary words are used in conjunction with verbs to adjust the tense, voice, or mood/mode expressed. In the examples given below, will and did are auxiliary verbs.

I have tickets for the show. (present tense)

I will have tickets for the show. (future tense)

I did have tickets for the show. (past tense)

The auxiliary word is a verb. The combined auxiliary verb and main verb may be called a verb phrase.

Caution: A phrasal verb is not the same as a verb phrase.


The English grammar term case applies to nouns and pronouns. A noun or pronoun may be nominative case, objective case, or possessive case. A noun or pronoun that is the subject of a sentence is nominative case. A noun or pronoun that is a direct object, indirect object, or object of a preposition is objective case. A noun or pronoun that denotes possession is possessive case.

nominative case

King of Prussia is a town in Pennsylvania. (noun / subject of sentence)

Babies require a lot of attention. (noun / subject of sentence)

They are in charge of this operation. (pronoun / subject of sentence)

It is I. (pronoun / used as a predicate nominative)

NOTE: Americans rarely use pronouns as predicate nominatives.

objective case

Mr. Sullivan taught the course (Taught what? Answer: the course) (direct object)

Mr. Eberto taught them Spanish. (Taught Spanish to whom? Answer: them) (indirect object)

Who is the author of this graffito? (Graffito is a noun and is the object of the preposition of.

possessive case

My automobile is the one with the ticket. (pronoun / possessive case)

The customer's car is ready. (noun / possessive case)

I am grateful to them for allowing us to use their barbecue grill. (pronoun / possessive case)

Note the grammatical difference in the two sentences below.

That book is mine. (pronoun / possessive case)

That book belongs to me. (pronoun / objective case)

In each of the two sentences above the speaker indicates that he or she possesses that book. The second sentence utilizes a prepositional phrase to express possession, and the pronoun me is objective case.

collective noun

A collective noun can be either singular or plural. The verb used by the author indicates whether the noun is singular or plural. Some examples of collective nouns and usage examples are listed below.

army, crew, jury, staff, cast, faculty, majority, team, government

The jury has reached a verdict. (jury as a singular entity--singular)

The jury are in rancorous disagreement. (jury as multiple members--plural)

The faculty is on strike. (faculty as a singular entity--singular)

The faculty are straggling back to campus. (faculty as multiple members--plural)

Our team is ahead. (team as a singular entity--singular)

Our team are discouraged. (team members are discouraged--plural)


The word complement means to complete. The complement does not include the subject or verb, but does provide some additional meaning that completes the thought. Sentence complements are direct objects, indirect objects, objective complements, predicate adjectives, and predicate nominatives. Examples are shown below.

He crashed the airplane.

What was crashed? Answer: airplane. The word airplane is a noun and it is the direct object of the verb.

She bought him a new airplane.

What did she buy? Answer: airplane. For whom did she buy the airplane? Answer: him. The word him is a pronoun in the objective case, and it is the indirect object of the verb.

They named the airplane Second Chance.

What did they name? Answer: airplane. The word airplane is the direct object of the verb named. An objective complement renames or further identifies a direct object. The name Second Chance is a noun in the objective case that complements the direct object. If they speak about their airplane, they will both understand that they are talking about Second Chance. If they speak about Second Chance, they will both know they are talking about their airplane.

The honey is sweet.

What kind of honey? Answer: sweet. The word sweet is an adjective. The verb is does not accept an object. The word sweet describes the subject and completes the thought. The word sweet is a predicate adjective in this application.

My automobile is a Crosley.

My automobile is what? Answer: a Crosley. The word Crosley is a proper noun, but it is not an object because the verb is does not accept an object. Note that the word Crosley renames or further identifies the subject of the sentence. The word Crosley completes the thought and is classified as a predicate nominative. You could turn the sentence around. A Crosley is my automobile. In that case the word Crosley would be the subject of the sentence and would be in the nominative case.

compound sentence/elements

Compound means to combine two or more parts. A compound sentence has two or more complete sentences combined into one sentence. The two sentences may be joined by a comma and a conjunction, or they may be joined by a semicolon or by a colon. A sentence may have a compound subject or a compound verb. The first sentence below is a compound sentence. The second sentence has a compound subject and a compound verb.

The rules were strictly observed, but the school board was unappeased. (compound sentence)

Wine and roses charmed and beguiled the guests. (compound subject / compound verb)

concatenated verb

Concatenation is use of two adjacent verbs in a sentence. Neither verb is an auxiliary verb. Examples are given below.

I stopped worrying about little things.

I love listening to '50s music.

After the collision the ship started leaking oil into the bay.

He went to water the horse.

conjugate (Verbs)

Conjugate means to arrange in ordered groups. Verbs may be conjugated according to mood/mode, number, person, tense, or voice. These terms are listed and explained in the verb section of this on-line grammar. Go to verb in the main directory.


Declension is the organization of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives according to case, number, and gender. In a bygone era repetitious memory drills were sometimes used as a means to teach declensions.


Degree refers to the organization of adjectives according to intensity. For example, the intensity or degree of the word new can be shown as follows: new, newer, newest. I have a new cell phone. He has a newer cell phone. She has the newest cell phone. These three states are called positive, comparative, and superlative. Go to adjective in the main directory for further explanation and additional examples.

dependent clause

A sentence has at least one independent clause. An independent clause has a subject and a verb and is a complete thought, therefore a complete sentence. A dependent clause, often called a subordinate clause, contains information and usually contains a subject and a verb, but it is not a sentence. The subordinate clause is dependent on the independent clause in the sentence. Go to sentence in the main directory for further explanation and examples.

finite verb

The form of a finite verb can be changed to indicate person, tense, or number. Some sentence examples are shown below. Go, also, to verb in the main directory.

I write for the school newspaper. (present tense)

I wrote for the school newspaper last year. (past tense)

I am a writer. (first person, present tense, singular)

You were a writer. (second person, past tense, singular)

They are our most vigorous critics. (third person, present tense, plural).


A gerund is a verb that functions as a noun. A gerund has an ing suffix. Consider the following sentence.

Flying is exciting.

Flying is the subject of the sentence and is a noun in this application. Flying is the present participle form of the verb fly.

An approximate meaning of the word gerund is carry on. The term may or may not have been adopted to indicate that a verb is employed in a manner that requires the verb to carry on the function of a noun.


An infinitive is a combination of the word to and a verb. An infinitive can function as a noun, as an adjective, or as an adverb.

To understand is easy.

In the sentence above the infinitive to understand functions as a noun and is the subject of the sentence. The word easy is employed as a predicate adjective.

This is money to spend.

In this sentence the infinitive to spend functions as an adjective that describes what kind of money. It is money to spend, not money to loan or invest.

The speaker failed to understand his audience.

In this example the infinitive to understand functions as an adverb that expresses how the speaker failed.

linking verb

A linking verb is an intransitive verb that conveys a sense of state but does not convey a sense of action. The word link in the term linking verb indicates that the verb provides a connection between the subject and a subject complement. A complement describes the subject or renames the subject. Examples are shown below.

Sinbad is a sailor.

The subject of the sentence is Sinbad. The complement is sailor. The complement sailor renames Sinbad. We could write: That sailor is Sinbad. The word Sinbad and the word sailor represent the same entity in the example sentence.

The sea is green.

In this sentence the word green is a complement that describes the state of the sea.

Use the following test to determine if the verb in a sentence is a linking verb. Substitute is or are or am for the verb in the sentence. If the sentence makes sense with the substitution, the original verb in the sentence is a linking verb.

The salad looks fresh.

Substitute the appropriate verb from the test set.

The salad is fresh.

The sentence makes sense with the substitute test verb. Consequently, looks is a linking verb.


One of the ways to classify sentences is according to the way verbs are used to produce a result. Three categories identified are: imperative, indicative, and subjunctive.

The word imperative means or implies command. An imperator was a military commander in the Roman army. Sentences written or spoken in the imperative mode express a command, a plea, or a request. All imperative sentences are expressed in 2nd person.



Do your homework.

Bring me a cup of coffee.

The subject of each sentence above is implied. The implied subject is you.


George, help me!


Please contribute to our charity.


We use the indicative mode for most of our communication. Indicative means indication or to indicate. This mode is used to state a fact or to ask a question.

The new coach is producing a winning team.

Is the new coach producing a winning team?


The subjunctive mode is used to express hypothetical or imaginary situations. The subjunctive mode is infrequently used in expository writing, but may be an important part of our thinking process. Remember, thoughts expressed in the subjunctive mode are not fact. Notice the verb forms required for expression of thoughts in the subjunctive mode. Subjunctive means join or append, and the term originally referred to a subordinate clause containing the hypothetical aspect of the sentence.

If I were taller, I would play basketball.

I wish I were skiing in the Alps.

My teacher recommended that I join the drama club.

If a policeman had been there, he would have arrested them.

If I believed in the fairy godmother, I might believe you will make an "A" in the course.

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