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English Grammar

As I promised, I am posting my notes here. They are pointers and I do not intend to give very descriptive rules as it would not coax you to look into a book and learn them properly with any exceptions which the rules may have. This is meant to help you know what to look for and which rules are important. I am sure it will help a lot.

Verb-Subject Agreement
  • Error of Proximity
  • Two subjects joined by ‘and’ – plural
  • If both point to the same thing (one thing) – singular
  • Parenthetical words joined to a singular subject – singular (e.g. ‘with’, ‘as well as’)
  • Two or more singular subjects connected by ‘or’, ‘nor’ – singular
  • When one of them is plural – plural (and nearer to it)
  • When subjects of different person joined by ‘or’. ‘nor’ – verb is of person nearer to it
  • Either, neither, each, everyone, many a – singular
  • Each X and every Y – singular
  • Pains, means – singular or plural (depends)
  • Nouns which are plural in meaning – plural (e.g. ‘dozen’ – needs a plural verb)
  • None – plural, but singular also in some cases
  • Collective noun – singular (but if individuals are thought of – plural; e.g. – the team is united. The jury are divided in their decision…because it no more is collective in a sense…)
  • Plural noun is a proper name – singular (e.g. Arabian Nights)
  • Plural noun denote some specific quantity or amount as a whole – singular (e.g. fifteen minutes is..)
  • When ‘each’ or ‘every’ follows a subject, it has no bearing on the verb form.
  • Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives or adverbs.
  • Thence = from there; Whence = from where (use of ‘from’ with these is wrong; from thence is wrong usage)
  • Only Adverb of Manner, Degree & Time admit of comparison
  • Order of Adverbs – Manner, place, time
  • Manner, place are placed after the verb (or object)
  • Frequency, Degree are normally placed between the subject & the verb (if the verb has more than one word, then placed after the first)
  • If the verb is :
    am/are/is/was --> after
    Before <-- be (do) Before <-- have to, used to
  • If adjective (adverb) -- then before the adjective (adverb)
  • But ‘enough’ is always placed after
  • ‘Only’ is placed immediately after the word it modifies
  • ‘Ever’, ‘never’, ‘scarcely’ are often misplaced (e.g. scarcely anyone believes…right; no one scarcely believes…wrong)
  • Seldom or never…right
  • Seldom if ever…right
  • Seldom or ever…wrong
  • ‘Never’ for ‘not’ is wrong. (E.g. He was never born in India…wrong; He was not born in India…right)
  • too = more than enough
  • too != very/much
  • Of course != certainly, undoubtedly
  • Of course = natural or inevitable consequence
Nouns & Pronouns
  • Uncountable nouns do not have plurals. Cannot be used with a/an. (e.g. advice, news, information, luggage, work, business, weather, traffic, scenery, paper, soap, bread, etc.)
  • Possessive Case –
    Living beings, personified objects, space or time (denoting an amount)
    Apposition – ‘s is added to the latter
    Two subjects – when different possession is implied, then both of them has ‘s
    When joint possession is implied, only the latter has ‘s
  • Pronoun after than/as – nominative form (e.g. taller than I) But if verb is missing then objective form can be used. (Taller than me…is also correct)
  • Anybody, everybody, everyone, anyone, each – singular. Gender is as per context
  • ‘One’ should be used throughout
  • ‘None’ – singular/plural – as per context
  • ‘Anyone’ – used only when there are more than two persons
  • Each, either, neither – singular
  • For relative pronouns – verb must agree with antecedent of the relative pronoun
    (e.g. – He is one of the cleverest boys that have passed this year. This is only one of the poems that is worth reading.)
  • Possessive case pronoun cannot be used as antecedent
  • Third person pronoun should not be used as antecedent to who/that
    (e.g. Mucool’s room is so messy that his mother calls him a pig. Him is wrong. Needs an antecedent and there is none. Mucool’s is possessive case. Him should e replaced by mucool)

Like -- to comapre people, things (nouns)
As -- to compare clauses (any phrase that involves a verb)

SUCH AS = For Example
such as != like ...'such as' cannot be substituted for 'like'

Comparisons must be logically and structurally parallel.

Two things -- comparative degree
More things -- superlative degree

Different from -- is correct
Different than -- incorrect

Verb Tense, Mood & Voice

Infinitives -- to + the verb
Split Infinitives are wrong
e.g. to + ___ + Verb wrong...nothing should come in between to and the verb.

PRESENT PERFECT -- have/has + past participle

PAST PERFECT -- Had + past participle
"To have" = "had"
These are correct forms:
has had
had had
Refer Manhattan

If she wins...will give... (present)
If she won...would give...(past)
If she had won...would have given...(future)

COULD/WOULD never appear in the IF clause.

IF vs WHETHER --> Use whether not if, when you have to make a choice.

Subjunctive Mood

If I were...(contrary to reality)

Uncertainity --> Hopes, desires, proposals, requests

Formed using "That"...then plural form to be used for singular subjects.
e.g. It is urgent that she sign...not signs!!
that he be...infinitive form without "to".

Suggested Books : Wren & Martin, Manhattan SC, Kaplan 800, Kaplan Verbal Workbook, Official Guide

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