Introductory Grammar

Introductory English Grammar covering Parts of Speech, Verbs, Sentences, Clauses, Modals, Prefixes and Contractions.

Parts of Speech

  1. Introduction to arts of Speech
  2. English Grammar: Nouns
  3. English Grammar: Pronouns
  4. English Grammar: Verbs
  5. English Grammar: Adjectives
  6. English Grammar: Adverbs
  7. English Grammar: Prepositions
  8. English Grammar: Conjunctions

More Grammar Topics

  1. Regular and Irregular Verbs
  2. Concord of Number and Person
  3. Phrasal Verbs
  4. Infinitives
  5. Gerunds
  6. Structure of Sentences
  7. Clauses
  8. Modals
  9. Direct Speech and Indirect Speech
  10. Prefixes
  11. Contractions


A clause is a string of words which has a subject and a finite verb.

Kinds of Clauses:

  1. Principal Clause/Independent clause
  2. Subordinate Clauses - depend on the Principal clause to complete the meaning.

(a) Noun clauses function as subject or object, responds to question - Who and What

(b) Adjective Clause qualifies or tells about the subject or object, responds to the question Who and Which

(c) Adverb clause tells about time, place, reason, cause, manner Where, When, Why, How, Because


  1. Each clause is a meaningful part of a sentence.
  2. Each subordinate clauses starts with a connector/Linker.
  3. Each clause is named after its function

Clauses are a distinct part of a sentence including a Subject and a Predicate.

Study the sentences given below:

1 (a) He told me about the location of his sister’s house.
(b) He told me where his sister lives.

2 (a) I know the District Magistrate of Agra.
(b) I know the man who is the District Magistrate of Agra.

Sentence (a) in each case is a simple sentence as it has only one finite verb. (told, know)

Sentence (b) in each case has two finite verbs. (told, lives; know, is)

A simple sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. The predicate includes the finite verb and helps make a sentence meaningful.

Main clauses (‘he told’ and ‘I know’) can stand independently but the Subordinate clauses (‘where his sister lives’ and ‘who is the District Magistrate of Agra?’) cannot stand independently.

Subordinate clauses

There are three types of subordinate clauses - Noun clause, Adjective clause and Adverb clause. In a complex sentence, they perform the role of a noun, adjective or adverb as the case may be.


  1. He told me that he would teach me French. (Subordinate noun clause)
  2. This is the book me which my father gave. (Subordinate adjective clause)

Adverb clauses denote time, place, reason and manner.


  1. 1. We shall go out after it stops raining. (Subordinate adverb clause of time)
  2. 2. This is the place where I was born. (Subordinate adverb clause of place)
  3. 3. I am worried as I have not received any letter from you. (Subordinate adverb clause of reason)
  4. 4. I try to walk as fast as I can. (Subordinate adverb clause of manner)

Imperative Sentences

In Imperative Sentences, the verb comes before the subject. For example:

  1. Come here.
  2. Please don’t make a noise.
  3. Shut the door.

If the sentences begin with Don’t or Never, they are called Negative Imperative Sentences. For example:

  1. Don’t stand in front of the office.
  2. Never tell a lie.

Imperative sentences are used to give directions for completion of a certain process.

‘Wh’ Questions

Questions beginning with ‘Wh’ words are called ‘Wh’ questions There are nine ‘Wh’ question words:

  1. When
  2. What
  3. Where
  4. Why
  5. Whom
  6. Whose
  7. Which
  8. How
  9. Who

Framing Yes/No questions

‘Yes/No’ or ‘Indefinite questions’ begin with a Helping Verb (Is, Are, Was, Were, Will, Would, Do, Does, Did, Has, Have, etc.) For example:

1. Are children sleeping comfortably? Yes, children are sleeping comfortably.

While framing the question, we used the same helping Verb which was in the answer?

2. Were they in the playground? No, they were not in the playground.

Questions that begin with ‘do’ or ‘does’ in the present tense and ‘did’ in the past tense do not require the same verb in the answer.

1. Does he go to the Sports Club daily? Yes, he goes to the Sports Club daily.

2. Did he go to Shimla last summer? Yes, last summer he went to Shimla.


  • We begin the Yes/No question with a helping verb.
  • We use the same helping verb which is used in the answer. If there is no helping verb in the answer, we begin the question with ‘Do’, ‘Does’ or ‘Did’ according to the Tense of the Verb used in the answer.


Using a proper noun each time, you wish to talk about a person, place or thing. This can make our conversation or piece of writing very boring and repetitive. To avoid this monotony we use pronouns in place of nouns, e.g. he, she, it, etc. These words make our writing crisp.


There are two kinds of Verbs: Regular and Irregular.

Regular Verbs: The verbs which take ‘d’ or ‘ed’ in their past forms are called regular verbs. Examples: chart, work, like

Irregular Verbs: When the spellings of the verbs change with the change of tense they are called Irregular verbs. Examples: catch, seek, come

Certain verbs do not change their form in simple past e.g. cut, shut, hurt, cost, etc. undergo a change in the spelling.

Affirmative and Negative Statements in the Simple Present Tense

Affirmative statement are positive in nature and states that something is true, e.g. Ali paints the wall. The verb ‘paints’ follows the subject ‘Ali’.

Affirmative: They play football on this ground.

Negative: They do not play football on this ground.

Affirmative: He drinks milk everyday.

Negative: He does not drink milk every day.

Exceptions: With the verb ‘be’ (is/are in case of simple Present Tense) and also when there is a modal in the statement we do not use ‘do’ or ‘does’ with not in Negative statements, e.g.:

(i) He is not well today.

(ii) I cannot speak French.


  • In an Affirmative statement the verb follows the subject.
  • In a Negative Statement we use do not’ or ‘does not’ except when the verb is ‘be’ and when there is a modal in it.

Past Tense

The boy caught hold of the rope.

She did not like the programme.

Did she try to finish the work?

Subject + 2nd form of the verb


  1. The first form of the verb is placed after the subject.
  2. ‘Did’ is placed before the subject.
  3. Question words, if any, are placed before did.

Past Tense is used:

(a) To express actions / events completed in the past, e.g.

When did you meet him last?

India won freedom in 1947.

I met Udyan yesterday.

(b) To express a habit or custom in the past, e.g.

She attended church regularly when she was young.

Meera read the Bhagwat Gita every day.

(c) To express an action which continued for a period of time in the past:

My brother worked in that office for five years.

He lived here for a long time.

(d) To express an action going on at the time stated:

While he played on the tabla, Rita danced.

The simple past tense

The simple past tense is used to refer to the action which took place in the past and was completed. The verbs are used in their second form, e.g.

I went to Goa last year.

I wrote a poem yesterday

The train arrived at 6’o clock.

2. ‘Wh’ questions in the past tense, e.g.

When did you go to Goa?

What did you do yesterday?

Where did you go during the summer holidays?

Past Perfect Tense

When I met him, she had not yet heard the news.

Had the girl returned before her mother came?

At nine o’clock, the train had left.

By 20, Hitendra had taken the B.A. degree.

Subject + helping verb (had) + the past participle + object

‘Had’ with 3rd form of the verb is used with all the subjects

Past Perfect Tense in Time Clauses

Look at the sentences given below:

  • When I reached the station, the train had already left.
  • I didn’t reach until after the train had left.
  • They had finished their breakfast before they ran out to play.

In the above sentences, two events have been indicated. The Conjunctions used to join the sentences are ‘when’, ‘until’, ‘before’. The action which is completed first is written in the Past Perfect Tense while the other action which happens later, is written in the Past Tense.

We can say that the Past Perfect Tense is used to denote the past of the past tense.

Present Perfect Tense

The ‘tense’ denotes a verb which also tells us something about the time of an action.

1. Past Perfect Tense tells us that an action was completed in the past. The Present Perfect Tense tells us that an action has just been completed in the recent past time and is relevant in the present time also. It uses the following pattern:

has/have+ past participle

E.g. I have finished reading the book. (have + finished)

The plane has landed. (has + landed)

2. To construct a sentence with a negative meaning we use not or never between has/have and past participle

E.g. We have never flown in an aircraft. (have + never + flown)

She has not finished her project. (has + not + finished)

3. Interrogative sentences using the present perfect tense

Interrogative sentences ask questions. To make interrogative sentences in present perfect tense we start the sentence with ‘en’ form of words or use do/have//has + pronoun/noun + past participle.

E.g. Has she seen the movie’ Taare Zamin Par’? (has + she + seen)

What have you decided to do now?

What +have+ you+ decided)

4. Non-finite verbs using ‘ing’

There are some verbs to which the suffixes ’ing’ or ’ed’ are attached but they do not function as main verbs. Such verbs are called non finite verbs.

They do not undergo any change even when the subject changes. Also, they do not tell us anything about time.

E.g. Rama loves playing cricket.

Rama loved playing cricket.

They love playing cricket.

In all the above sentences you would have noticed that the word ‘playing’ did not undergo any change even when the underlined words (subject + verb) changed.

Present Perfect Continuous Tense

Present Perfect Continuous Tense indicates that the action that began in the past is still continuing. For example,

  • It has been raining since morning.

It is also used to express an action that began in the past and has just been completed but the result of that is still there. For example,

  • I have been working since morning. Thank God it has finished now.

Past Perfect Continuous Tense

Past Perfect Continuous Tense is used for an action started in the Past, continued for some time, then was completed in the past. For example,

  • I had been living in Mumbai for 10 years before coming to Delhi.
  • How had you been working on that project?

Points to Remember:

  • We use ‘for’ to denote period of time e.g. for 3 hours/days/months/years.
  • We use ‘since’ to denote point of time e.g. since morning/8 a.m./last Monday/2005


Adjectives are words which describe a noun or a pronoun (e.g. person, place or thing). Adjectives describe colour, shape, size, number, age, material, etc. A combination of two or more adjectives can also be used to describe a person, place or thing.

Adjectives of quality and quantity: They are words which describe a noun or a pronoun (persons , places or things) are called adjectives.

Adjectives of quantity: Such adjectives answer the question ‘how much or how many.’

E.g. There are millions of trees growing in the world. All the trees are useful in one way or the other. Most trees have medicinal properties too.

Adjectives of quality tell us more about the  noun and answer the question ‘of what kind.’ E.g. It was a terribly hot afternoon. (‘Hot’ describes the noun afternoon)


Adverbs are mostly formed by adding ‘ly’ to an adjectives, e.g. beautiful – beautifully, clever – cleverly, honest – honestly and so on.

Certain adverbs are exceptions. For example, words like fast, well, much, little, etc. do not need an ‘ly’ . They also do not undergo any other change.

Adverbs of manner

An adverb of manner is a word which tells us how some action happens.

E.g. He worked tirelessly.

She spoke softly.

The underlined words tell us something more about the verbs ‘worked’ and ‘spoke’.

Most adverbs of manner use ‘ly’ at the end.

Adverb of Manner: shows how an activity is/was/will be done.

Example: The third holy man stood quietly.

Put ‘how’ question to the action word (verb). Its answer will be an Adverb of Manner.


Q. How did the third holy man stand?
A. Quietly

Adverb of Place: shows place of activity and answers ‘where’ question.

Example: My grandpa is sitting there.

Adverb of time: shows the time of activity and answers ‘when’ question.

Example: May I leave now, Rani Saheba?


A Preposition is a word that comes before a Noun or a Pronoun. It shows the relationship of a Noun or Pronoun with another word in a sentence. It tells us about time, place, position and directions.


  • I live in Delhi.
  • The dog ran across the road.

Some preposition are very close to each other but have distinct use; study the following examples:

(i) ‘in’ and ‘into’

  • a) The ball is in the hole.
  • b) The boy jumped into the river

We use ‘in’ when the position is static and ‘into’ when the movement is involved

(ii) ‘On’ and ‘upon’

  • a) The keys are on the desk.
  • b) The cat jumped upon the chair.

We use ‘on’ when the position is static and ‘upon’ when movement is involved

(iii) ‘over’ and ‘above’

  • a) The sky is over our head.
  • b) The Ganga is flowing above the danger mark.

‘Above’ is used when we want to say that a thing is higher than another thing. When the thing is much high we use ‘over’

(iv) ‘along’ and ‘across’

  • a) We walked along the bank of the river.
  • b) The ball went across the road.

We use ‘along’ when we talk of one end to another and ‘across’ when we talk of one side to another.

(v) ‘by’ and ‘with’

  • a) We write with a pen.
  • b) I went to Agra by bus.

‘With’ is used to denote instrument (what one is using) to do something and ‘by’ is used to express means or the agency of an action.

(vi) ‘between’ and ‘among’

  • a) There is a stool between the two chairs.
  • b) Distribute the sweets among the children.

‘between’ is used when only two persons or things are involved and ‘among’ when more than two things or persons are involved.

(vii) ‘of’ and ‘off’

  • a) Sudha is the monitor of the class.
  • b) The apple fell off the tree.

‘of’ shows relationship and ‘off’ shows separation.



Linking words / connectors or conjunctions:

These are all words that are used for connecting two words, phrases and sentences, they are called linking words, e.g. ‘and’, ‘but’, or, ‘because’, etc.’

Linking words / conjunctions fall into two categories.

Co-ordinating conjunctions appear in the middle of a sentence, two words or independent clauses. Some coordinating conjunctions are yet, but still, even, as well as, etc.

Co-ordinating conjunctions are those that connect two sentences or clauses of unequal rank, e.g. Though she is poor, she is happy. However, when such a coordinating word
appears in the middle of the sentence, there is no comma. E.g. She is happy though she is poor.

Sequence markers: these are words like first, next, then, subsequently, finally, etc.

Phrasal Verb

Phrasal Verbs have a verb and another word or phrase (usually a preposition). They act as one word and have a meaning different from the original verb.


(i) Look after: Parents look after their children.

(ii) Look about: (be on the watch) Look about for a suitable job in the wanted column of a newspaper

(iii) Look through: (examine/revise) Look through your notes before the exams.

(iv) Look well: (pleasing) Does the dress look well on me?

A verb followed by a preposition is called Phrasal Verb.


  • Anita turned off the lights.
  • Sagar threw away the ball.
  • I am coming back to Delhi on Sunday.

The preposition used with the verb often gives it a special meaning


  • Archana has got back from Canada. (returned)
  • Abhi got off the bus. (got down)
  • Sunny is getting on very well with his studies. (doing well)

Reported Speech

When we try to convey someone’s words in our own words without changing the meaning, we use ‘Reported Speech’. In doing so, we have to make some changes in the form and structure of certain words. Example

Hari said to his boss, “Sir, I am planning to go to Goa this month.” (Direct Speech)

Hari told his boss that he was planning to go to Goa that month. (Indirect Speech or Reported Speech)

For changing questions into statements we use reported verbs like asked, wanted to know, enquired, questioned, etc.

For changing a question to statement we use words like, said, told, informed, stated, announced, ordered, etc. The choice of reporting verbs also depends on the tone, mood and function of the speaker’s language


These are letters added before a word to change the meaning of the word, e.g. 

Un + able= unable (makes it opposite of able)

Semi + circle = half circle


Very often words are contracted for convenience of use. Contracted forms are used mainly in informal writing, direct speech, dialogue writing and very often while talking.

Contractions should not be used in formal writing eg. in articles, essays, paragraphs and formal letters.

While contracting we put an apostrophe where a letter is missed. e.g. Cannot = can’t; they are= they’re


Look at the sentences given below:

  • Singing is his hobby.
  • Playing is my son’s first love.
  • Walking is good for health.

We notice that the bold words in each sentence are formed from the root verbs by adding ‘ing’. But they act as nouns and are called Gerunds. They are verbs at the root.

sing + ing = singing
play + ing = playing
walk + ing = walking


Look at the sentences given below:

  • She came running to me.
  • They saw an interesting movie.
  • Trained personnel can get employment easily.
  • Running water has less impurities.

The words in bold are not main verbs, they act as adverbs (e.g. sentence 1), and adjectives (e.g. sentences 2,3,4)

They are called Participles and function as Verbal adjectives.


Modals are forms of verbs which express different functions such as:

Ability, possibility, etc. are expressed by using ‘can’, ’could’.

Permission is expressed by using words like ‘could’, ‘may’, etc.

Making predictions and stating intentions can be expressed by using ‘will’, ‘would’.

Obligation and duty are expressed by using ‘must’, ‘need’, etc.

‘Would’ and ‘could’ are also used to make a polite speech.

Modals are such auxiliaries that express the mode of action of the main verb. They add more meaning to the sentence.

Modals are used to express

  1. Ability - I can speak French.
  2. Duty - You must obey traffic rules.
  3. Advice - You should revise the course before the exams.
  4. Permission - You may go now.
  5. Possibility - It is cloudy. It may rain.
  6. Promise - I will definitely visit you next Sunday.
  7. Request - Could you lend me your pen?
  8. Offer - Would you like to have some coffee?
  9. Threat - He shall be punished for his rudeness.
  10. Moral obligation - You ought to help the needy.
  11. Negative or interrogative sense - How dare you insult me?

Points to Remember:

  1. Modals are never used alone. They are used together with the main verb.
  2. They do not change with the change of person or number.
  3. They always take the Ist form of verb.
  4. They express imaginary actions like ability, power, permission, possibility, advice, duty, etc.

Active and Passive Voice

When the subject of a sentence is also the doer of an action the sentence is said to be in the active voice.

When the receiver of the action or action itself is more important than the doer, the position of the subject is changed or not mentioned at all.


We planted a number of trees along the road. (active voice)

A number of trees were planted along the road. (passive voice)

The passive voice is written in the third form of verb, e.g. taken, hidden, found, etc.

The Passive voice is used while writing notices, reports, experiments, processes, procedures ,etc.


A finite verb is and then contrast it with an infinite verb. A finite verb is governed by its subject which means that the verb changes according to the number of the noun (singular or plural) eg.

The cows are grazing in the field (plural subject)

A cow is grazing in the field. (singular subject)

Finite verbs also indicate time, i.e. tenses.

An infinitive or non finite verb is exactly the opposite. It does not change with the subject nor does it undergo any change with the tense.

Infinitives may or may not take to before them, e.g.

  • The doctor asked me to eat an early dinner.
  • My mother insists that I wash my hands before eating food.