Grammar Terms and Rules Units 1 & 2 Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

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Grammar Terms and Rules

Units 1 & 2
Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

Active Voice – The subject performs the action in a given sentence. Active voice is preferred over passive.


The fighter punched Ali and dodged the uppercut.


In the novel Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe highlights the consequences of hubris S V
Passive Voice - One can change the normal word order of many active sentences (those with a direct object) so that the subject is no longer active, but is, instead, being acted upon by the verb - or passive. You need to avoid passive voice in your writing.


Ali was punched by the fighter, and then an uppercut was dodged by him.
In the novel Things Fall Apart, the consequences of hubris were highlighted.


Phrases, Clauses, and Fragments
Sentence Fragment – A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence. Phrases and subordinate clauses are both forms of sentence fragments.
Phrases - A phrase is a collection of words that may have nouns or verbals, but it does not have a subject doing a verb. The following are examples of phrases:

  • leaving behind the dog

  • smashing into a fence

  • before the first test

  • between ignorance and intelligence

  • broken into thousands of pieces

  • because of her glittering smile

Clauses - A clause is a collection of words that has a subject that is actively doing a verb. The following are examples of clauses:

  • since she laughs at diffident men

  • I despise individuals of low character

  • Obediah Simpson is uglier than a rabid raccoon

  • because she smiled at him.

Main Clauses - If the clause could stand by itself, and form a complete sentence with punctuation, we call the clause a main clause. All sentences have main clauses. A main clause must have a subject and a verb. Here are some examples.

  • I despise individuals of low character

  • Obediah Simpson is uglier than a rabid raccoon

  • The author uses cliché metaphors, but she still manages to elicit the appropriate pathos.

  • Because the characters are flat, our character analysis will not be too impressive.

Subordinate Clauses – Subordinate clauses have a subject doing a verb, but they have a subordinate conjunction placed in front of the clause. That subordinate conjunction means that the clause can't stand independently by itself and become a complete sentence. Instead, the subordinate clause is subordinate to another clause--it can't make a complete sentence by itself, even though it has a subject doing a verb. Here are some examples of subordinate clauses (note that they are all fragments)

  • since she laughs at diffident men

  • because she smiled at him.

  • in the event that the novel expresses opinions different from your own

  • even though the similes express a sense of longing

Simple, Compound, Complex, Compound-Complex Sentences

Simple Sentence - A simple sentence, also called a main clause, contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought.

Yann Martel uses Pi’s animal story as a metaphor for religion.

Achebe’s Biblical allusions were familiar to his Western audience.

In the novel The Stranger, Camus creates a unique antihero.

Compound Sentence – A compound sentence is made of two main clauses connected with a comma and a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS) or connected with a semi-colon.

Kafka is the quintessential modernist writer, and his writings have impacted contemporary authors.

Kafka is the quintessential modernist writer; his writings have impacted contemporary authors.

We loved the restaurant, so we returned the next evening.

We loved the restaurant; we returned the next evening.

Complex Sentence – A complex sentence is made of a main clause and a subordinate clause. When the sentence starts with a subordinate clause, a comma is needed to connect the subordinate clause with the main clause. When the sentence starts with a main clause, no comma is needed.

Subordinate Clause Main Clause
When a sentence starts with a subordinate clause, you need to use a comma.

Main Clause Subordinate Clause

You do not need to use commas when the sentence starts with a main clause.

Subordinate Clause Main Clause

If we know about the author, it makes analyzing the literature easier.

Main Clause Subordinate Clause

It makes analyzing literature easier if we know about the author.

Compound-Complex Sentences – A compound-complex sentence is made up of two main clauses and one subordinate clause. There are a variety of combinations. Look at the examples:


Main Clause Main Clause Subordinate Clause
The author uses metaphors to elicit emotion, but his metaphors failed because they were too cliché.

Subordinate Clause Main Clause Main Clause
Because his metaphors were too cliché, they did not elicit the intended emotion, so they failed.

Main Clause Subordinate Clause Main Clause
His metaphors failed to elicit emotion because they were too cliché; they author failed.

Units 3 & 4

Types of Phrases

Prepositions - Prepositions are the words that indicate location. Usually, prepositions show this location in the physical world. Try to use the fewest number of prepositions possible in your writing. Check out the examples below:
on, in, beside, before, after, for, from, as, like, under, of, below, above, (the list goes on)

Prepositional Phrase – Prepositional phrases can be attached to any type of sentence. They begin with prepositions and usually end with a noun or gerund that is considered the object of the preposition.

The metaphors used in the book were too cliché.

After the last full moon, we all became afraid of werewolves.

His brain was as soft as a marshmallow.

Appositive Phrase - An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it. The appositive can be a short or long combination of words. Appositives are always separated by commas. Look at these examples:

The author, Chinua Achebe, uses the Igbo language intermittently.

During the dinner conversation, Clifford, the messiest eater at the table, spewed mashed potatoes like an erupting volcano.

Absolute Phrase - Usually (but not always, as we shall see), an absolute phrase (also called a nominative absolute) is a group of words consisting of a noun or pronoun and a participle as well as any related modifiers. Absolute phrases do not directly connect to or modify any specific word in the rest of the sentence; instead, they modify the entire sentence, adding information. They are always treated as parenthetical elements and are set off from the rest of the sentence with a comma or a pair of commas (sometimes by a dash or pair of dashes). Notice that absolute phrases contain a subject (which is often modified by a participle), but not a true finite verb.

Their reputation as winners secured by victory, the New York Liberty charged into the semifinals.

The two superstars signed autographs into the night, their faces beaming happily

The season over, the team celebrated with a victory party.

Stars all their adult lives, the celebrities were used to the limelight.

Participial Phrase - Present participles, verbals ending in -ing, and past participles, verbals that end in - ed (for regular verbs) or other forms (for irregular verbs), are combined with complements and modifiers and become part of important phrasal structures. Participial phrases always act as adjectives. When they begin a sentence, they are often set off by a comma (as an introductory modifier); otherwise, participial phrases will be set off by commas if they are parenthetical elements.

The stone steps, having been worn down by generations of students, needed to be replaced. [modifies "steps"]

Working around the clock, the firefighters finally put out the last of the California brush fires. [modifies "firefighters"]

The pond, frozen over since early December, is now safe for ice-skating. [modifies "pond"]

Rules for Colons

1. Colon in a Business Letter – Use a colon in the salutation of a business or professional letter or e-mail.

To Whom It May Concern:

President Nixon:

Distinguished Colleagues:

2. Colon before a long quotation – Use a colon to introduce a quotation that is three lines or longer.

Mustapha Mond lectures John about the advantages of World State:
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Blah
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. (64).

3. Colon in a sentence – Use a colon after a main clause to introduce a list or add emphasis to a word.

Kafka uses the following literary techniques: metaphor, allusion, and parallelism.

There was only one word to describe homecoming: embarrassing.

We need some food from the grocery store: cereal, broccoli, yogurt, and eggs.
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