Quick Grammar Guide

Clauses and Phrases

Clauses: S + V (optional O)


Active Voice: Subject then Verb (optional Object)

  • “A car hit the tree.”

Passive Voice: Object then Verb (optional Subject)

  • “The tree was hit by a car.”


Clauses: contain at least a S + V

Independent (Ordinate): has S + V; a whole thought

Dependant (Subordinate): has S + V and a conj.


Phrases: either don’t have a subject or don’t have a verb (i.e., less than a clause)


Phrases in Apposition: surround with commas

  • literally out of position, not where they’re supposed to be
  • “Christopher Nolan, who directed The Dark Knight, will also direct the sequel.”


Restrictive Clauses: have phrases with necessary information

  • precede with “that” for objects, “who” for people
  • “The door that is blue has a hungry tiger behind it.”


Non-Restrictive Clauses: have phrases that carry optional information

  • surround with commas; “which” for objects and “who” for people
  • “The door, which is blue, has a hungry tiger behind it.”



Coordinating Conjunctions: and, or, yet, but, for, nor, so

  • precede with commas when they act as conjunctions
  • “I went home, and then I made dinner.”
  • “I would go home, but I have more work to do.”


Correlative Conjunctions: either… or, neither… nor, not only… but also, whether… or, both… and

  • place one before the first item in the pair and the next before the second item
  • do not use commas between the two items
  • Either ride your bike to class or take the bus.”
  • “I have neither the money for a trip to Paris nor the time to take one.”


Subordinating Conjunctions:

  • use a comma only if the subordinating clause comes first
  • “We went for a bite after we saw the movie.”
  • After we saw the move, we went for a bite.”


  • after, even, if, that, while, whether, even though, though, as if, if, although, unless, as though, in order to, until, so that, as long as, rather than, when, whenever, because, before, since, where, wherever


Conjunctive Adverbs

  • can go almost anywhere in a second clause/sentence
  • surround with commas when they’re in a clause
  • precede with period or semi-colon when they’re between clauses
  • “We wanted to go to the park. However, it rained”
  • “We wanted to go to the park. It rained, however.”


  • accordingly, however, nonetheless, also, still, incidentally, now, anyway, indeed, likewise, otherwise, besides, instead, similarly, certainly, consequently, meanwhile, then, finally, moreover, thereafter, further, namely, therefore, hence, furthermore, nevertheless, undoubtedly, thus, next


Verb Tenses

Simple Present: an action that is repeated regularly

  • “I walk to the store.”


Present Progressive: continuous action

  • “I am walking to the store.”


Progressive Verbs: turns a verb into an adjective

  • “High costs are indicative of rising prices.” (wordy)

instead, use the simple present:

  • “High costs indicate rising prices.”



Comma: ” , ” separates clauses, indicates phrases, separates list items

Colon: ” : ” joins an independent clause to a related fragment

Semi-Colon: ” ; ” joins two independent clauses to each other


Slash: ” / ” goes between two words, creates an option between them (e.g., “if/when” “and/or”)
(aka Forward Slash)

Apostrophe: ” ” indicates the possessive (“Daves car doesn’t work”) and abbreviations (“Dont take Dave’s car.”) (NB: Do not use for quotations!)

Quotation Marks: ” ” surrounds quotations
(aka Double Quotes)


M-dash: ” ” distinguishes a phrase from the surrounding text

Parenthesis: ” ( ) ” separates a phrase from the sentence
(aka Round Bracket)

Bracket: ” [ ] ” indicates edits in a quotation
(aka Square Bracket)


Period: ” . ” full stop at the end of a sentence

Question Mark: ” ? ” an interrogative period

Exclamation Mark: ” ! ” an emphatic period