Grammar Rules

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Rules, whether they're grammar rules or govern right turns on a red light or library late fees or condominium pet restrictions, are often a bit tedious. We remind ourselves that fairly careful thought usually goes into them. However exasperating they might be, they tend to make sense. The threshold of how much sense is how flexible they are.

By way of comparison, look at Latin. Where the borders of the Roman Empire undulated almost with the tides, the dictums of the language were as rigid as the columns in the Coliseum, the archways of the aqueducts. They are all ruins. By a fortunate twist of coincidence, however, English is quite a different story. The strength of English is not defined with the rigidity of Latin or the purity of French.

Instead, English as a language--which includes its grammar rules--is unique in being adaptable. Words are not inflected as they are in French and German and Russian, which makes them simpler and fewer. Vocabulary is open to change and additions, which makes it rich and vibrant and colorful. Word forms are flexible as well, ensuring a linguistic Darwinian selection. There is so little to English grammar rules that it's almost hard to go wrong.

Grammar Rules: For the Most Part, Sweet and Simple

A sentence must have a subject (noun or pronoun, stated or implicit) and a verb (action). They must agree in person and number (I/we-you-he-she-it/they and singular or plural). A sentence might have an object (recipient of action). It's only when the extras are added--modifiers, participles, and conjunctions and their attendant punctuation marks--that the waters muddy. The truth is, the real stumbling block in English is spelling. Because it is has little rhyme or reason, sorting out grammar makes looks more confusing than it is. For those who are less than confident in their skills, the investment in a quality dictionary may make all the difference. Likewise, online tutorials can be painless and helpful as well.

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