4 Basic Principles to Remember in English Grammar

Are you ready to move to the next level in English proficiency? After learning the basic grammar rules, it is time to be familiar with some language principles that can add more sense to the rules. Here are 5 basic principles to remember in English grammar.

1. The sequencing of words in a sentence follows a predetermined order.

The relation between words is principally determined by the order in which they are placed. Words that are near each other are closely related in meaning. The most common sequence (in a simple declarative sentence) follows this order:

Subject-verb – object and adverbial phrase

“My father is fixing the door outside the garage.”

“The librarian handed the book to my friend.”

“Coach passed the ball to my friend beside the locker.”

The most basic sentence only needs a subject and a verb:

“Father understands.”

(You) “Read.”

If you change the sequence, the meaning changes as well. Take a look and understand the difference.

“My father is fixing the door outside the garage.”

“The father is fixing the garage outside my door.”

“The librarian handed the book to my friend.”

“My friend handed the book to the librarian.”

“Coach passed the ball to my teammate beside the locker.”

“Besides the locker, my teammate passed the ball to my coach.”

“Father understands.”

“Understand, father.”

These pairs of sentences all correctly follow the rules of grammar; they even use the same exact words. They are all logical and convey a complete thought, yet the meanings have changed completely. This proves that the principle of observing proper word order is crucial if you wish to be effective in using the English language. One wrong placement of a tiny word could tell your reader something other than your intended meaning.

2. Punctuation marks guide your readers to achieve proper understanding.

There are rules to properly use punctuation marks, but the governing principle is this: punctuations make reading easy and meaningful.

For example, can you see the difference between these two sentences?

“Let’s eat, Grandpa!”

“Let’s eat, Grandpa!”

The comma provides a life-changing correction! You don’t ever want to say the second sentence because you would never ever harm your grandfather, let alone eat him.

How about this:

“Hey doc, I have a problem with eating, dandruff, and itchy legs.”

“Hey doc, I have a problem with eating dandruff and itchy legs.”

If you hear someone say the second sentence, he or she needs more than a doctor if they find dandruff and itchy legs appetizing.

And how about this one:

“I will love you until the day I die!”

“I will love you until the day I die?”

Don’t marry the second guy if he has so much doubt.

Punctuations are essential, especially for longer and more complex sentences. The proper use of punctuation marks says a lot about a person’s level of proficiency. Beginners in English may not think much about punctuation and might even forget writing to them. Remember, you could get your Grandpa eaten by cannibals if you don’t put a comma where it belongs.

3. Sentences make more sense if they work together well and are connected with each other properly.

Here is the principle to keep in mind: string your thoughts effectively by connecting your clauses properly.

Connectors (aka conjunctions) are vital linking words that put together words, phrases, or clauses. You can identify a master English writer in how he or she connects words, phrases, and clauses together.

Connectors reveal three types of relationships between the phrases or clauses they link: coordination, subordination, or correlation. Coordinating clauses are two clauses with equal rank. They are joined together by the words “and”, “but”, “or”, “nor” or “yet”. Subordination, on the other hand, means the other clause is of lesser importance. For this, you will use subordinating conjunctions, relative pronouns, and some subordinating adverbs as “because”, “if”, “although”, “who”, “when”, “that” and so on. Finally, correlation is expressed using correlating conjunctions, such “either… or”  or “both… and”.

4. Nonrestrictive phrases and introductory clauses clarify or modify your main clause.

Nonrestrictive phrases provide additional information that may not be important for a sentence to make sense. These phrases simply describe some elements. They are preceded by a comma to separate them from the main sentence.

Likewise, introductory clauses (or phrases or words) add meaning to a sentence but are not vital to its meaning. They provide introductory elements to set the stage for the main sentence and are dependent because they can’t stand on their own or make sense. Again, a comma separates the introductory clause, phrase, or word from the rest of the sentence (this sentence is an example).

Here are some sentences with a nonrestrictive phrase, set forth by a comma.

“Everyone submitted the assignment, which was more difficult than last week’s task.”

“The scientific theory was easy to follow because of how well the teacher explained it.”

“Everything went well, as expected by most.”

And here are three sentences with an introductory clause (or word):

“Because the teacher was well-liked, the algebra class turned out to be very interesting.”

“To pass the class, they had to submit a well-crafted essay on the subject matter.”

“Definitely, this week’s workshop is the most effective one.”

Above are just five principles that can help you write better English. The English language is so rich that there are several other tips and principles to discover. To get more help and advice, visit LingualBox today.

I am Edwin Estioko and I have years of experience in writing and editing for international audience. With a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in Ministry, I am a published author of children's books and an elementary English textbook.