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A Basic Grammar Glossary Might Be All You Need

Mar 7, 2008
Grammar is like most subjects: you can learn the basics in a few hours, and spend a lifetime exploring its depths. How deeply you dive into any subject depends on two things: does it interest you, and do you need it? Grammar does not interest most people, but everyone needs it, at least a little.

The reason everyone needs to know at least the basic words of grammar is that they form part of the culture we live in. This culture expects a certain basic level of knowledge in its members, and those who don't have it get left out or are made fun of. High school is supposed to provide at least that basic level of knowledge. That is exactly why a high school degree is often required for employment.

Part of that basic level of knowledge is the common words of grammar. Noun, verb, adjective, and adverb are the four big ones, but there are about a dozen more that fall into the class of minimum basic grammar. Pronoun. Preposition. Present, past, and future tense. Direct object. Clause. Phrase. Sentence. Infinitive. Conjunction. Other people would add many more to this list, but these are the basic words that everyone is "expected" to understand.

Two difficulties face anyone who wants to learn the basic words of grammar: What are the basic words, and What do they actually mean in simple language? Most websites about grammar do not distinguish the basic, necessary words from all the rest. Then they use complicated language.

Your best bet is to compile or obtain a basic glossary of grammar. You can use the list above, and start visiting websites until you come up with definitions and examples of each of those words. Look for websites that are for children, or for English as a Second Language (ESL), or that call themselves "easy" or "basic." It probably won't take you nearly as long as you might think.

Write down the words on the list above and try to define them in your own words. Make up a half dozen examples of each grammar word. If you have trouble explaining what a grammar word means, or cannot easily make up examples of it, find another website that will explain it better. When you are satisfied that you have done this correctly for all the words on the list, ask someone to check your definitions and examples.

The whole process might take you two hours or six or even a bit more. It doesn't matter. That is not a lot of time to spend on something so important. Spread it out over a few days if you want to. Just don't get discouraged. If a website confuses you, go to a different one.

Some day in the not too distant future, you will hear one of these words in conversation, or on the television, or will read it in a book, and you will be very glad you went to the effort to find or make your own basic glossary of grammar. Everything will start making a lot more sense.
About the Author
Don Dewsnap and his wife Vykki are writers and own The Dewsnap Company, which publishes basic glossaries on various subjects, stressing clarity and useability. Visit http://www.basic-glossaries.com.
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