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Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy Guide to Grammar

Hockett’s Easy-Breezy-Lemon-Squeezy Guide to Grammar

SENTENCES:  a group of words that go together and express a complete thought. Sentences are made up of a complete subject and a complete predicate.

Subject: who or what the sentence is about; who or what is doing or being something; who or what information the sentence about whom the sentence gives information 

   The subject will always be a noun or a pronoun. (A noun is a person, place, thing,  

    or idea.  A pronoun stands in for a noun. (Pronouns that function as subjects might be: I,

    he, she, it, they, we, someone, anybody, that, or whose)

    The complete subject is the subject plus all of the modifiers.  (Modifiers are words

    that describe or tell what kind, when, how many, where, how, etc.)

Example:  The fat dog scratched fleas lazily for hours. (The simple subject is “dog.”  The complete subject is “The fat dog,” because “the” and “fat” both tell which dog.)

Sometimes the subject is implied rather than expressed, as in commands:  Sit down!  The subject is understood to be whoever is being spoken to, as in “You sit down!”  We call this the understood you. If one needs to identify the subject of the sentence, it is written as “(you).”

Sometimes a subject is a group of words, as in the example:     

                    Taking a late nap prevents me from sleeping at night.

COMPOUND SUBJECTS: when a sentence has more than one noun or pronoun that is doing  

or being something:       

             Grandma and Grandpa called me.  (Who called?  Grandma, Grandpa)

Predicate: the action or state of being or existence expressed in the sentence

The simple predicate is often called the verb or verb phrase. The complete predicate is the verb and all of the modifiers.

           Example 1: The fat dog scratched fleas lazily for hours.     

           (The verb is “scratched,” because it is what the dog did. The complete predicate 

            is “scratched fleas lazily for hours.” The modifiers of the verb tell what he 

            scratched, how he scratched them, and for how long.)

           Example 2: He looks like a very old dog.

           (In this example, the complete predicate is “looks like a very old dog.” The verb     

            is “looks.”)

Two main types of verbs – action verbs and linking verbs

 ACTION VERBS: express action; what one can physically or mentally do

 LINKING VERBS: express state of being or existence and link the predicate to the subject

Action verb examples

          We have an appointment with the doctor. 

          We are going on Tuesday.

          We were always arriving late last month.

Linking verb examples:

          We are sure of the way.

          We have been there twice before.

          Perhaps we might be early this time.

Linking verbs are most commonly the forms of “to be.” They function as a sort of equal sign, linking the subject to the predicate. (They can also be thought of as the mortar holding two bricks together—the subject is one brick and the second brick is a noun renaming the subject or an adjective describing the subject.  The linking verb functions as the mortar that “links” them together.)

The forms of “to be” are: is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been. By themselves, the forms of “to be” are ALWAYS linking verbs!  Memorize these! Other linking verbs are words such as looks, feels, became, seems, sounds, tastes, or appears which expresses a state, not an action.


Example 1:Today is Sunday. (The linking verb “is” links the subject “Today” with “Sunday.”)

Example 2:The moose seems stupid. (“Seems” links “moose” with “stupid.” It is a stupid moose.)

After a linking verb, the predicate will have either a noun or pronoun renaming the subject (called a predicate nominative) or an adjective modifying the subject (called a predicate adjective). With verbs that can be either action or linking, one must decide what the verb expresses—a physical or mental action, or a state of being or existence:

       Action- The children tasted the desserts.  (“Tasted” is what they physically did.)

       Linking- My dessert tasted strange.  (“tasted” = “strange”; means “appears to be,” and

                    is not an action)

If the verb is linking, the subject and predicate usually can be reversed. “Ice cream is my favorite dessert” has the same meaning as “My favorite dessert is ice cream”. Now try flipping an action verb sentence. ”My dog fetched the ball” is NOT the same meaning as “The ball fetched the dog, does it?

VeRB PHRASES (main verbs and helping verbs)

A verb phrase is made of more than one verb. The verbs act together and function as one verb, as in the sentence:

                                 I am leaving when the bell rings. 

In verb phrases, the last verb in the phrase is called the main verb. (This is the part of the verb phrase that determines if the verb phrase is an action or linking verb.) The other verbs are called helping verbs because they are helping the verb express itself.

The most common helping verbs are:  the forms of “to be” (is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been), ”to have” (have, has, had), and “to do” (do, does, did), along with will, would, can, could, shall, should, may, might, and must.

The verbs in a verb phrase don’t always appear next to one another even though they function together. Sometimes the verb phrase gets split, either when a question is being asked or sometimes when an adverb modifies the verb. (Be careful! The adverb is never part of the verb!) 

In the sentence “John didn’t ever do anything,” the verb phrase is “did do.”  The adverbs “not” and “ever” tell how and when John did anything.  If the verb were underlined, the sentence would look like this:

                               John didn’t ever do anything.

    Examples of other sentences with verb phrases that are split:

                                  Did you know that this was a holiday?

                              I had always expected that this would happen.

                                  Must we leave when the bell rings?

     Examples of verbs or verb phrases with helping verbs showing tense:

                                 I leave when the bell rings.  (present)

                                 I left as soon as possible.  (past)

                                 He is leaving with me. (present progressive)

                                 We will have left on time. (future perfect)

REMEMBER: the main verb is the part of a verb phrase determines whether the verb is linking or action.  A form “to be” is often a helping verb for an action verb, but the main verb is still an action verb. Linking verbs can also have helping verbs that are action verbs by themselves, but the main verb is still linking.

   Compound VERBS: more than one action or state of being expressed in a sentence


                                I washed and dried the dishes.    

                                (What did the subject do? “washed” and “dried”)

                                I was a good athlete once, but I am a better scholar now.

                                (What states of being are there? “was” and “am”)



passive or active voice-Verbs have either active voice or passive voice. (Caution: These are NOT verb types! It is one way sentences can function.) 

Passive: the action of the verb in the sentence IS NOT being done by the subject   

                     The plane was flown by my uncle.  (Did the plane DO the flying? No.)

Active: the action of the verb in the sentence IS being done by the subject

                     My uncle flew the plane.  (Did my uncle DO the flying? Yes.)

NOTE: Sentences using active voice are generally seen as stronger sentences and are often considered better choices for one’s writing.

Modifiers: words that provide additional detail about a subject, an action, or an object in  sentences          

Modifiers are either adjectives or adverbs.  Both adjectives and adverbs can be single words, phrases, or clauses.  Phrases and clauses are both types of word groups, but they may be only part of a larger sentence. In other words, some groups of words that go together are complete sentences, but other groups of words are not.

     PHRASES: groups of words that function together and contain either a subject or a verb, but not both

There are verb phrases, verbal phrases, and prepositional phrases.  The prep phrases are further identified as adjective and adverb phrases according to how they function in a sentence

     CLAUSES: groups of words that go together and contain both a subject and a verb

There are two main types of clauses -- independent and subordinate

Independent clauses- a clause that can stand alone as a sentence; a clause that expresses a complete thought

             Example: The book that I bought is very exciting.

             (The independent clause is “The book is very exciting.”.)

Subordinate (or dependent) clauses- a clause that does not express a complete thought; in a sentence, it modifies the independent clause (if it were written alone it is called a fragment)

            Example: The book that I bought is very exciting. 

             (The subordinate clause  “that I bought” tells which book.)

Subordinate clauses are identified as either adjective clauses or adverb clauses, depending on what they modify, or give more information about, in the sentence.

Adjectives: Regardless of whether they are single words or if they are phrases or clauses, adjectives modify nouns and pronouns; adjectives tell which one, what kind, or how many.

single word adjectives- The tall clown with the red nose that honks is funny.

                                    “The,” “tall,” and “funny” modify clown (tells which one, what kind)

adjective phrase- The tall clown with the red nose that honks is funny.

                               “with the red nose” modifies clown  (tells which one)

adjective clause- The tall clown with the red nose that honks is funny.

                               “that honks” modifies nose  (tells which one)

Adverbs: Regardless of whether they are single words or if they are phrases or clauses, adverbs modify verbs, adverbs, or adjectives; adverbs tell: when, where, how, why, in what manner, to what extent, under what conditions, or to what degree.

single word adverbs-

After a really great run, I never take an icy cold shower, because I might get cramps.

(“really” tells to what degree the run is “great,” “never” tells when I “take” the shower, and “icy” tells to what extent the water is “cold”)

adverb phrase-

After a really great run, I never take an icy cold shower, because I might get cramps.

(“After a really great run” is a phrase that tells when the shower isn’t taken)

adverb clause-

After a really great run, I never take an icy cold shower, because I might get cramps.

(“Because I might get cramps” tells why I never take a cold shower after a run)

Subject and object complements

OBJECT COMPLEMENTS: completes the action of the sentence; only occur after an action verb

Direct Object: receives the action of the verb; answers who?/what? after an action verb; abbreviated as DO

Indirect Object: tells to whom/for whom the action is being done; abbreviated IO

example:     I threw him the ball.

(The action verb is “threw.”  Threw what? The ball.  “Ball” is the direct object.

To whom did I throw it? I threw it to him. “Him” is the indirect object.)

SUBJECT COMPLEMENTS: completes a sentence after a linking verb; it is the noun or pronoun that renames or the adjective that modifies the subject of the sentence

        PREDICATE NOMINATIVE: a noun or pronoun that renames the subject of the sentence after a linking verb; predicate noun is another name; abbreviated PN

       PREDICATE ADJECTIVE: an adjective that modifies the subject of a sentence after a linking verb; abbreviated PA


        My dog’s name is Liam.  (“Liam” renames the subject “name,” so it is a PN.)

        Liam is huge.   (The adjective “huge” modifies the subject “Liam,” so it is a PA.


Prepositions: Relationship words that provide information about the position in space or time of a noun or pronoun or how the other parts of the sentence fit together; give information about how a noun or pronoun relates to other words in the sentence; function as adjectives or adverbs

Common preps are: of, by, to, after, in, on, about, in front of, with, for, since, before, at, down, up, upon, around, against, from, off, out, across, next to, beside, near, on top of, under, and inside.

Prepositions (“preps”) must always occur in a phrase, called a prepositional phrase. The prep must have a noun or pronoun as its object. This is called the object of the preposition, or the OP for short.

Note: if a word appears to be a preposition, but there is no object of the preposition, then the word is an adverb!    

     Examples:   I have not seen him since Tuesday. (“since” is a prep in this case)  

                  I saw him on Tuesday, but I have not seen him since. (“since” is an adverb, 

                  because it does not have an object)

A prep phrase that modifies a noun or pronoun is called an adjective phrase. The phrase itself will tell which one, what kind, or how many, just as single-word adjectives do.

A prep phrase that modifies a verb, adjective, or adverb is called an adverb phrase. The phrase will tell when, where, why, how, etc.