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Glossary of Grammar/Writing Terms

Here are some grammar and vocabulary definitions which you can use in your essay and discussion writing activities.

• Adjective • Paragraph
• Adverb • Past tense
• Agreement of subject and verb • Past perfect tense
• Articles • Plural
• Capital/Capitalize • Possessive
• Comma • Present tense
• Conjunction • Present perfect tense
• Countable noun • Present progressive/continuous tense
• Draft • Preposition
• Exclamation point • Pronoun
• Fragment • Quote
• Gerund • Quotation mark
• Hyphen • Revise / Revision
• Indent • Run-on sentence
• Infinitive • Semicolon
• Irregular verbs • Sentence
• Modal auxiliary verb / Helping verb • Subject
• Noun • Tense
• Non-countable noun • Third person subject
• Object • Verb


Adjective - A word that describes a noun.
common errors: San Francisco is a safety (safe) city. The city has many excited (exciting) things to do.
example sentences: She found the museums interesting. Her friend was bored in the museums.

Adverb – A word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb.
common errors: It’s hard to live comfortable (comfortably) in a small apartment. Rents are slow (slowly) starting to fall.
example sentences: I eventually found an apartment. It’s hard to find a place to live quickly.

Agreement of subject and verb – The number of the verb must always agree with the number of the subject.
common errors: The family are (is) going to fly to New York. Jim, along with his parents, are (is) looking forward to the trip.
example sentences: The storm is coming. The flights have been postponed.

Articles - A set of words used before nouns.
common errors: Student got a help from writing lab. Essay became better on third draft.
example sentences: The student got help from the writing lab. The essay became better on the third draft.

Capital/Capitalize - A letter used in tall form, also known as upper case (H).
common errors: I read the Newspaper (newspaper) yesterday. I like reading the examiner (The Examiner).
example sentences: There was a story about English teaching in Japan. Another story was about bus drivers in San Jose.

Comma - A punctuation symbol used to separate parts of a sentence (,).
common errors: She bought pens brushes and paint. She needed paint. Especially for her project.
example sentences: She bought pens, brushes, and paint. She needed paint, especially for her project.

Conjunction – A word that often connects two parts of a sentence.
common errors: He did well on the test, but (and) he was going to pass the class. Most people like music, (but) not everyone likes rock and roll.
example sentences: You could order a large pizza or you could have a salad. The restaurant was hot because the windows were closed.

Countable noun - A noun that represents something that can be counted in number.
common errors: I love cat (cats). My dog doesn’t like bath (baths).
example sentences: I have five pets at home. All of my pets have many toys.

Draft - One version of something written

Exclamation point - A punctuation symbol used for forceful expression (!).
example sentences: There’s a bird in the room! Open the door and let it out!

Fragment – Part of a sentence that has been punctuated as if it were a complete sentence.
common errors: Designed the house. When Kim designed the house.
example sentences: She designed the house. When Kim designed the house she got six awards.

Gerund - A word often ending in "-ing" having the characteristics of both a verb and a noun.
common errors: I expected getting (to get) the job in Los Angeles. I usually have good luck to find (finding) employment.
example sentences: I postponed looking for a job. Finding a job I like is important.

Hyphen - A punctuation symbol used to connect the parts of many words (-).
common errors: She’s a self confident leader. She is the ex president of a company with city-wide offices.
example sentences: She’s a self-confident leader. She is the ex-president of a company with citywide offices.

Indent - To start writing or typing a short distance in from the margin.

Infinitive - The main form of a verb usually used with "to".
common errors: I’m planning playing (to play) board games with my brother. I will enjoy to see (seeing) him tomorrow.
example sentences: This game is easy to play. To succeed, you must study the rules.

Irregular verbs - Verbs that do not add "-ed" to change form.
common errors: I payed (paid) a lot for my new shoes. Someone stoled (stole) my old shoes.
example sentences: I bought them at a department store. I chose a black pair.

Modal auxiliary verb / Helping verb - This verb indicates a mood or a tense and is used with another verb.
common errors: The rain maybe (may) cause flooding. You is (should) use your umbrella when you go outside.
example sentences: The storm might last two days. You can walk to work in the rain.

Noun - A word that indicates a person, place, or thing. A noun is used as the subject or object of a sentence or the object of a preposition.
common errors: These kind (kinds) of reports make me happy. I read about the fire in the night (evening) news.
example sentences: The world news is interesting. I watch the weather report on television.

Non-countable noun – Nouns that do not add "s" at the end and show amount in quantity rather than number.
common errors: I drank so many wines for dinner. After that, I needed a hundred sleeps.
example sentences: I drank so much wine / many glasses of wine for dinner. After that I needed a lot of sleep.

Object - The focus of a verb's action.
common errors: They were against. I went to there anyhow.
example sentences: They were against my trip. I went to Rome anyhow.

Paragraph - The part of a piece of writing, signaled by a space or indentation, that introduces a new topic or idea.

Past tense - Some event or action that happened in a former time as shown in a verb.
common errors: He spended (spent) too much money. At that time, he need (needed) to learn how to save.
example sentences: Saving was not easy for him. He put more money in the bank.

Past perfect tense - Two events or actions that happened in the past as shown in a verb.
common errors: By 1998, Joe has (had) lived in San Francisco for five years. Before moving to San Francisco he had live (lived) in Mexico.
example sentences: He had worked in Mexico ten years when he lost his job. Joe had never been to San Francisco before he moved there.

Plural - Indicating more than one.
common errors: College graduates often get two job (jobs). Many peoples (people) want to work in fashion.
example sentences: Women in advertising make good salaries. The pay for workers in sales jobs is not as good.

Possessive – Indicating ownership or a similar relationship.
common errors: His’ (His) dogs’ (dog’s) name is Spot. He has three animals and spends a lot on his pet’s (pets’) food.
example sentences: The dog is barking because its water bowl is empty. Bob and Janet’s cat drinks water from the pool.

Present tense - An event or action that happens now, or usually happens, as shown in a verb.
common errors: Our teacher is wanting (wants) us to take quizzes. I am study (I study) for the quiz every week.
example sentences: A quiz every week helps me learn. I need to be prepared for taking tests.

Present perfect tense – An event or action that started in the past and continues into the present as shown in a verb.
common errors: I have learn (learned) a lot in the library. I go (have gone) to the library everyday for the last two weeks.
example sentences: I have read almost all the books about film. I’ve had a library card for two years.

Present progressive/continuous tense - An event or action that is happening as you speak as shown in a verb.
common errors: Jill write (is writing) a book about acting. She is wanting (wants) to finish it this month.
example sentences: She’s expecting to sell many copies. Jill is using her computer to write the book.

Preposition - A word that combines with a noun or pronoun to form a phrase.
common errors: The artist used of curved brushstrokes to soften the picture. The picture had so many hard lines on the background.
example sentences: The artist used curved brushstrokes to soften the picture. The picture had so many hard lines in the background.

Pronoun - A word used as a substitute for a noun.
common errors: Whose (Who’s) going to give a present to my brother? My parents often give he (him) expensive gifts.
example sentences: Everybody is coming to my brother’s birthday party. The people who come will bring food.

Quote - To repeat something that another has said or written.

Quotation mark - A punctuation symbol used in pairs to mark the beginning and end of a phrase in which the exact words are used (“ “).

Revise / Revision - To make a new version of a writing.

Run-on sentence - To continue a sentence without a punctuation mark where it should be.
common errors: I like baseball, let's go to a game tomorrow. Jim's a photographer he's going to the ballpark to take pictures.
example sentences: I like baseball. Let's go to a game tomorrow. Jim's a photographer, and he's going to the ballpark to take pictures.

Semicolon - A punctuation symbol used to separate major sentence elements (;).
example sentences: Jean lost her books; they fell out of her bag. Here most valuable book was her dictionary; it had green cover.

Sentence - A group of words usually with a subject, verb, and object, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
common errors: She was asking who are you people. You please shut the window.
example sentences: She asked the people who they were. Please shut the window.

Subject – That which does the action in a sentence.
common errors: Neither wine nor beer are (is) served to the customers. A majority drinks (drink) water.
example sentences: Drinking juice is also allowed. At Café Verde, I had tea.

Tense - Verbs change form to show present, past, or future time.
common errors: Yesterday I go (went) to the new movie. The director maked (made) a long film.
example sentences: She will go to the theater. She went the theater. She goes to the theater at night.

Third person subject - A person or thing in the singular.
common errors: The company hire (hires) forty people each year. That (It) has a large budget for personnel.
example sentences: My friend wants a job there. He’s going there soon for an interview.

Verb - An action word.
common errors: She wait (waits) at the bus stop everyday. She should went (have gone) to the bus station.
example sentences: The bus didn’t come for an hour. It was late getting to most of the stops that day.

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