GRAMMAR REVIEW #2: SENTENCE STRUCTURE, SOME PUNCTUATION
1. Phrases vs. Independent vs. Dependent Clauses. Compound, Complex Sentences.
Some vocab for you: A phrase is a group of words. (Noun phrase: the birds and bees. Verb phrase: going to California. Prepositional phrase: up the creek.) A phrase is always a fragment, never a complete sentence. A clause has a subject and verb. It may also include direct or indirect objects, but it doesn’t have to. An independent clause is a complete sentence. (Ex.: “I eat paste.”) A dependent clause (also known as a subordinate clause) isn’t. The difference is that a dependent clause will begin or end with a subordinating conjunction, like “because,” “although,” or “if”—so that more needs to be added after the clause to make the thought complete. (Ex: “Because I eat paste.” This is a dependent clause.) A compound sentence equals two or more independent clauses. A complex sentence equals 1 independent plus 1 dependent clause.
2. Periods, Question Marks, Exclamation Points.
Periods. Use a period at the end of a complete sentence (not a phrase or dependent clause), or in abbreviations, like Jan. or Dr. Note, as in the last sentence, that even when an abbreviation ends a sentence, you do not add an extra period—though you would add a question mark or exclamation point. (Ex.: Is it Jan.?) Abbreviations in all capital letters rarely require periods (Ex: ESPN, AIDS, NATO).
Question Marks. Direct questions are followed by a question mark (Ex: I was wondering, do you eat paste?) Indirect questions are not. (Ex: I wondered if you ate paste.) Sometimes, if someone is thinking or talking about a question, you can have a question mark in the middle of a sentence. The word following it is not capitalized. (Ex: Does he eat paste? was the question on everyone’s mind.)
Exclamation Points. Use these after exclamations. (Wow!) Don’t overuse them; they can make you sound insecure. Generally speaking, whenever possible, use a period instead.
3. Commas. Master the comma and you master punctuation. Here are 5 times to use them:
a. In lists. Use commas to separate items in lists. The one before the final “and” is optional; I leave it out. (Ex.: I eat paste, peanut brittle, papayas and pork.)
b. Before conjunctions that connect clauses. (Ex.: I eat paste, but she likes mustard.) But not necessarily before conjunctions that connect phrases (I eat paste and dance.)
c. After conjunctive adverbs. Those are words like “however” and “similarly,” which are technically adverbs but act like conjunctions because they connect clauses. Follow these with a comma. (Ex: Unfortunately, the paste was all gone.)
d. After introductory phrases or dependent clauses. (Because of you, I quit the paste.)
e. Between “s/he said” and the quote that follows. (Mom said, “Eat your paste.”)
4. Semi-Colons vs. the dreaded Comma Splice.
a. Use a semi-colon in the same place you would use a period: between two complete sentences. (Correct: My family likes paste; it is yummy. Incorrect: My family likes paste; not ice cream.) It shows a close relationship between the two independent clauses.
b. Here’s one time that rule is often missed: You must use a semi-colon before conjunctive adverbs (like however and similar words—see #3c) that join two complete sentences. (Correct: You like paste; however, I love it. Incorrect: You like paste, however, I love it.)
c. The Comma Splice. This is the name of the mistake when you join two independent clauses with a comma (I like paste, it is yummy.) You must either use a period, a semi-colon, or add a conjunction. (I like paste. It is yummy. I like paste; it is yummy. I like paste, and it is yummy.)
d. Use semi-colons between clauses or phrases that contain a lot of commas. (I like paste, ice cream, and doggies; Mary likes airplanes and knit caps; and Brian loves swimming, stink bombs, and using paste for making things.)
5. Punctuating Around Quotes. Study the following passage and the explanations for how it is punctuated.
“I like to eat paste,” Hambone said. “It’s yummy.” 1, 3
“Really?” she asked, smiling. 2, 4
Hambone said, “Really.” 6,7
“Wow.” She was impressed. 8
“I like to eat paste,” Hambone said, “because it’s yummy.” 9
Their conversation made him remember eating “super-paste,” at “Cheeky Juan’s Pasteria.” Or was it “mega-paste”? Yes, it was “mega-paste”! 10
1. In all dialogue, punctuation (commas, periods, etc.) goes inside of quotes.
- Each new speaker generally gets a new paragraph.
- The last period in the quotes becomes a comma when followed by “s/he said.”
- Question marks and exclamation points stay the same before “s/he said.”
- “s/he said” is not capitalized when it comes after the quotes (but it is, of course, if it starts a sentence.)
- There is a comma between “s/he said” and the actual quote.
- Sentences inside quotes are capitalized as they would be, disregarding what comes before or after the quote marks.
- If you leave out “s/he said,” but describe action, quote ends in a period and description is a new sentence. (“Hi,” she smiled. = wrong.)
- If interrupting a sentence of dialogue with “s/he said,” use a comma after “s/he said.” If between sentences, use a period. (Compare Hambone’s 1st and 3rd lines.)
- When describing a title or term that has to be in quotes (as opposed to dialogue), a comma or period will still stay inside the quotes (always!), while a question mark or exclamation point go outside.
Slipping into Commas
Master the comma and you master punctuation. Here are six times to use them, and one not to:
- In lists. Use commas to separate items in lists. The one before the final “and” is optional; I leave it out. (Example: I eat paste, peanut brittle, papayas and pork.) Lists can include actions, not just things.
- As brackets around an interrupting description. (Pinky, her hair twirling, snorted.) These commas work in pairs. They usually come between the subject and the verb.
- After introductory phrases/clauses (or before concluding phrases/clauses). If it begins with some word like because, since, if, when, while, or as, it’s an introductory phrase or dependent (also known as “subordinate”) clause. Separate this front part of the sentence from the main part with a comma. (While arriving, I was spat upon.) Basically, if you have a modifying phrase or clause, you can interrupt the subject-verb sentence with it, like in #2 (Pinky, her hair twirling, snorted); start the sentence with it, like in this example (Her hair twirling, Pinky snorted), or you can end the sentence with it, in which case you might separate it out with a comma (Pinky snorted, her hair twirling) but might not (I was spat upon while arriving.)
- a. In dialogue, between s/he said and the quote that follows. (Mom said, “Eat your
b. The last period in dialogue also becomes a comma before s/he said. (“Eat your paste,” Mom said.) Note that Mom is really saying a period, but on the page it’s a comma inside the quotes. (Just because you have quotation marks, though, doesn’t mean you need a comma before them. Only before dialogue. Not before “air quotes” or excerpts of written work: see how there’s no comma between before and air quotes in this sentence?)
- Before a conjunction (like “and” or “but”) when it is followed by a clause. (Ex.: I eat paste, and I dance.) But not before a conjunction when it is followed by a phrase (I eat paste and dance on tables all night long.) This rule separates the grown-ups from the kids. A clause has a subject noun (I) and a verb (dance). It can stand alone as a sentence. (I dance.) A phrase has one or the other. It can’t stand alone as a sentence: “dance on tables all night long” needs a subject to stand alone, even though it’s longer than the clause “I dance.”
- After words like “however” and “similarly.” These are called conjunctive adverbs: they are technically adverbs but act like conjunctions because they connect clauses. They get punctuated differently from real conjunctions because they are a different part of speech, even though they may mean the same thing, like but and however do. Put a period or semi-colon before these. Put a comma after them. (Ex: The paste was yummy; however, it is all gone.) Note: a comma follows however, but not but (a conjunction). (The paste was yummy, but it is all gone.) Remember the rule: “But flows.”
-1. Note: Here’s one time not to use a comma: between two independent clauses (as in, each with a subject and verb). That’s called a comma splice. Instead, use a period, a semi-colon, or add a conjunction like “and” or “but.” (Wrong: I like you, you’re purty. Right: I like you; you’re purty. Or: I like you. You’re purty. Or: I like you, and you’re purty.)
Comma Practice: Fill in all the necessary commas (and one semi-colon or period), with no extras. Then write six original sentences, one for each rule.
I like to eat syrup stamps paste and pennies.
My name is John Jacob Jingleheimer Fritz but you can call me Hambone.
Even though you’re humongous I want you to walk on my back in high heels.
The village jungle gym which these days is called a “play structure” collapsed in the monsoon.
Unfortunately the winter has stopped but the flu left us sick and waiting for summer.
Oddly I like you but you don’t like me my sock puppet or our collection of barber shop hair.
Startling me Mom said “Hello! You’re a rascal” and beat me but it barely hurt.
Since you left I am king of the fort and never leave it however I eat well.
Laughing insanely she twirled in her room her long hair caught in the high-speed industrial-strength ceiling fan.
Grammar Quiz 2: Clauses and Basic Punctuation Name ______________________
v.1.0 (3 points each) (1 point)
1-3. Identify each as a phrase (P), independent clause (IC), or dependent clause (DC).
- She ate the paste __________________
- When Rodrigo Epstein Jingleheimer-Schmidt ate the paste _______________
- Up in that paste __________________
4-6. Identify each as a CLAUSE, a COMPOUND sentence, or a COMPLEX sentence.
4. You play with puppets, and you talk too much. ________________
5. Since you talk too much, you should play with puppets. ________________
6. You play with puppets and talk too much. ________________
7-11. Punctuate with as many periods, question marks or exclamation points (only) as necessary.
- Sally puts on human rights puppet shows for NATO
- Have you ever seen her work
- No, but I was wondering if it is any good
- It’s so good they are giving her a doctorate, so she can call herself Dr
12-16. Punctuate with all the commas, if any, each needs (to be technically correct).
- I have a dog a cat a bird and a pet rock.
- My friend is a puppeteer and she talks too much.
- My friend is a puppeteer and an eater of paste.
- She’s a good paste-eater but I think that she is best at dancing and singing.
- When I think of you my ears start ringing.
17-20. Punctuate with all the commas or semi-colons each needs. (Don’t use periods.)
- I saw you you were eating paste from a bucket.
- The bucket was big yellow and empty it was dripping on your shoes and socks.
- I came I saw I conquered.
- My paste was thick creamy and gooped-up in places Jackie’s paste was yellowish watery and dripping down her fingers and Widow Shanahan’s paste was greenish hard at the edges and smeared all over her moustache.
21-25. Identify each in bold as a comma splice (CoSp), a correctly-used comma (CoCo), an incorrectly-used semi-colon (ISC) or a correct semi-colon (CSC).
- The day was lovely, I hated it. __________________
- The day was hateful, not lovely at all. __________________
- My arms are open; yet closed to you. __________________
- Your days are numbered; however, you are in your prime. __________________
- Your days are numbered, however many the number. __________________
26-33. Pick the correct way to punctuate the following, from the choices below the examples.
“Mary wants to shop (26) told his mom (27) wants to buy puppets (28)
“Is that so (29) mom asked.
Dave said (30) Mom (31)
Dave’s mom wondered, would they buy what her kids called “iggies (32)
Actually, she thought a lot about “iggies (33)
26. (a) .” he (b) ”. He (c) ,” he (d) ”, he (e) ”, He
27. (a) . “she (b) . “She (c) , “she (d) , “She
28. (a) .” (b) ”. (c) ”! (d) ,”
29. (a) ?” his (b) ”? his (c) ?” His (d) ,” his
30. (a) “yes, (b) “Yes, (c) : “yes, (d) , “Yes, (e) , “yes,
31. (a) ”. (b) .” (c) ”! (d) ,”
32. (a) ”. (b) .” (c) ”? (d) ?”
33. (a) ”. (b) .” (c) !” (e) ”,
EXTRA CREDIT: (1 point each): (1-4) List up to 4 subordinating conjunctions, and
(4-8) up to 4 conjunctive adverbs.
1. 2. 3. 4.
5. 6. 7. 8.