July 16, 2018

The Five Basic Sentence Structures

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There's a nearly infinite number of ways you can structure a sentence. But at the very heart of any sentence lie just five basic structures: subject + intransitive verb; subject + transitive verb + direct object; subject plus transitive verb plus indirect object plus direct object; subject + copular verb = complement of the copular verb; and subject + transitive verb plus direct object + object complement

Here's a complete explanation.

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6 Tricky Possessives That Can Trip You Up
Posted by June on July 16, 2018
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Possessives shouldn’t be difficult. In many languages, they’re not. In French, for example, to talk about the car belonging to Robert, you just say “the car of Robert”: la voiture de Robert. Spanish works the same way, with “de,” meaning “of”: el auto de Robert.

English isn’t as fond of simple formulas. We rarely use “of” to show possession. Far more often we use an apostrophe plus an S. It sounds simple, but in practice it’s anything but.

For example, when you’re talking about two phones on the table, one belonging to Beth and one belonging to Sam, are they Beth and Sam’s phones, or Beth’s and Sam’s phones?

Why do expressions like “three years’ experience” take an apostrophe?

If two attorneys general are on the same case, whose case is it?

Why is “whose” possessive while “who’s” is not?

And how do you show it when two passersby share ownership of something?

Here's how.

June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

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  • 'Whom' vs. 'Who' at the Beginning of a Sentence

    June A.S.: Everything you said is right, but I'm not sure which comment you're directing it at. Are you getting confused by passive voice as it comes into play in these sentences? "I called him" uses the object pronoun "him" because, as you said, is an object. When you invert that sentence to say "He was called," it's not the same sentence structure. In passive voice, the object of the action (so to speak) is made the grammatical subject of the sentence. So "He was called" does, as you said, required the subject pronoun "he." I don't believe anyone said anything to the contrary.

  • 'Whom' vs. 'Who' at the Beginning of a Sentence

    A.S. WRONG! If "Whom was called into the office" is a question then it's the equivalent of asking "Him was called into the office?" which is obviously wrong. If it's a statement it's still wrong. Look, it's not difficult: Me, him, her, them and whom are objects. I, he, she, they and who are subjects. If the person in the sample sentence is the object (as indicated by "whom") then the office must be the subject but there's no verb for the subject, so the person must be the subject and is therefore who. Understand?

  • E-mail vs. Email

    June Punctuation rules for American English are indeed "always" put the period or comma before the closing quote mark. British style is as you described (that is, it follows a certain logic). But American rules are rooted in a printing convention that originated from aesthetics concerns. I'm quite confident that this American convention will go the way of the dinosaur. Wikipedia is proof: Their style is situational in the way you described. But for now, it's the rule: The comma always goes "inside," as does a "period."

  • A Not-So-Thrilling Typo

    June Oops. Fixing now. (Better late than never.)

  • A Not-So-Thrilling Typo

    JR "An" Not-So-Thrilling Typo?