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Grammar Terms Defined FAQ

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By popular demand, a "Grammar Terms Defined FAQ."

Warning: The General Reader and Writer have determined that there are words in here that you last saw in English or foreign language classes, and therefore brain-freeze may ensue. We'll try to make it more fun (and more understandable) than in class.

Noun - A person, place, thing, or idea. A noun is usually something real that you can point to and say, "what's that?" Except for ideas (like freedom) or certain hard-to-catch things, like the wind or God or a twenty-meter dragon. If "the" fits before the word, chances are, it's a noun.

Number (singular, plural.)

Case (subject, object, possessive.)

Gender (masculine, feminine, neuter.) Most English nouns have neutral gender now, meaning they are an "it" instead of a "he" or a "she." Natural gender is what gender a noun has in nature. Grammatical gender is often unrelated to natural gender, and means how the noun was categorized by gender within the language.

Subject or nominative case: The subject of the sentence.

Object (dative / accusative) case: The object acted on by the subject and verb.

Possessive case: The form that is used to show an item belongs to something or someone else.

Nouns and pronouns have a "declension for case," which is the table of all the forms of the word.

Verbs have a "conjugation for tense, mood, and voice," which is the table of all the forms of the verb.

Verb - The action word that tells what is done in the sentence.

Adjective - A modifier of a noun or pronoun. Comparative ends in -er or preceded by more or less. Superlative ends in -est or preceded by most or least.

Adverb - A modifier of a verb or an adjective. Shows time, place or manner in which a thing is done.

Pronoun - Takes the place of a noun. Same properties as a noun, except pronouns also have person (1st, 2nd, 3rd).

1st Singular: I, me, my, mine;

2nd Singular: you, you, your, yours;

~ Obsolete: thou, thee, thy, thine;

3rd Singular:

~ Masculine: he, him, his, his;

~ Feminine: she, her, her, hers;

~ Neuter: it, it, its, its;

~ Formal: one, one, one's, one's;

1st Plural: we, us, our, ours;

2nd Plural: you, you, your, yours;

~ Obsolete: ye, you, your, yours;

~ Regional Variants: (y'all, you all, you guys, you lot, youse);

3rd Plural: they, them, their, theirs;

Interrogative: who, whom, whose, whose;

Relative: which;

Preposition - Joins a verb and the object on which the verb acts;

"The squirrel is ____ the tree." (No, not f***ing or any other -ing, you in the back row, but you've got a good sense of humor.)

Conjunction - connects two words or clauses; (No, not Santa and the Mrs.) - and, but, or, nor, with, and so on;

Interjection - Word-like sounds, generally - oh, ah, huh, eh, ow, aie, eek, oo, and so on;

Indefinie Article - singular: a, an; plural: some; a special adjective;

Definite Article - the; a special adjective;

...MORE TO COME...

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One thing I've noticed with the grammer check I use, it offers explanations of the rule and gives some examples.

Piss on grammar checkers and spell checkers.

If you want to be a better writer, write without them. I don't use either. If I have a specific question on a particular word or clause, I will use the computer as a last resort.

And, more importantly, the grammar checker in MS Word makes LOTS of errors. Relying on it is foolhardy :)

-- wbms

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Spell checkers -- I wish people would use them. I wish people would learn the commonly confused spelling words, at least. Even so, there's still no substitute for a human proofreader who knows what he/she is doing.

Grammar checkers -- Bleh. Too many times, they still flag things incorrectly as errors. A human editor is much better suited to this, if he/she knows the rules.

Auto. Language Selection -- Hahaha! Don't even use it. Set the language manually, if you must. If a document has more than one language, set the primary language for the document, and set individual passages to their language or dialect. You don't want to find out it thinks your English text is something else, or vice versa.

Track Changes -- Nice, useful feature, mostly. But don't save a file as a web page with Track Changes still on! Why? Because the exported HTML will mark up the tracked changes, including by whom and when they were done, along with underline and strikethrough text. Whee! Not what you or anyone else wants to see.

Yes, folks, there's nothing like catching such things when someone sends you files containing them, or when you realize you almost sent out your files with such errors. It pays to pay attention.

I'm not immune to slip-ups, though, and neither are major publishers and advertisers. I still remember seeing a major typo in the first chapter headline of a very popular computer book. Boy, was I glad it wasn't my typo, and boy, do I bet the author, proofer, and editor were embarrassed when anyone pointed it out.

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It's true--spelling and grammar checkers are pretty inadequate when they're faced with creative writing. I use them, but only to catch simple spelling errors that my eye may have missed.

In defense of those who create such things, though: I recently had a conversation with a programmer who works on such things though, and he put it in perspective for me. Spelling to a great degree, but even more grammar, are incredibly complex. It isn't for lack of intelligent programmers that these programs are so faulty--it's the complexity and subtly of the language. Personally, I'm glad that the programs are so inadequate to the task--it's one of the few areas where the human brain is still the superior machine.

Interestingly, if you look at language interpretation, you can see that computers, unaided by the human mind, do a thoroughly wretched job. Computer interpretations of almost any foreign language into english read like haiku written by idiots.

anyway...my two cents worth.

cheers!

aj

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