English Grammar Rules

English Grammar

English Grammar Rules:

Grammar Rules

Here is a list of five of the most common grammatical mistakes that are made by English speakers/writers. This list is merely a quick glance; these matters are dealt with in detail as well, in appropriate sections.

  1. Subject Verb Agreement: Learners often get confused with using the appropriate form of the verb with the subject of the sentence. For example, ‘I live in India’ and ‘He lives in India’ is the correct subject verb agreement of the verb ‘to live’.
  1. Possessive Nouns: Non-native speakers of the English are unsure about showing possession while writing or speaking in English. For example, ‘The book belonging to the girl’ can also be referred to as ‘The girl’s book’
  1. Comparison of adjectives: We add ‘er’ to compare short adjectives like pretty and thick; and we add ‘more’ for longer adjectives like handsome and intelligent.
  1. Punctuation mistakes: Punctuation errors, too, are very common, especially in the use of semicolons and commas.
  1. Singular and Plural: Many new learners make mistakes in forming the plural form of singular nouns.

Possessive Nouns

Possessive nouns are those nouns that show possession. Possessive Nouns are used to show ownership.

A noun is possessive only when a phrase can be modified to say that an idea or commodity belongs to something or someone. Possessive nouns are an integral part of learning English, use them as often as you can to gain confidence.

Here are some rules to help you use possessive nouns

Rule 1: In singular nouns (person, place, thing or idea), we add apostrophe and ‘s’ after the noun. For example:

– Ron’s car is in the garage. (Car belonging to Ron is in the garage)

Note that the possessive noun always comes before what the person or a thing owns or has. In this case, the car belongs to Ron and hence the singular noun ‘Ron’ is placed before ‘car’ that he owns.

Rule 2: In singular nouns ending with ‘s’, we add an apostrophe and ‘s’ to the noun. For example:

– Tejas’s notebook is lying on the table. (Notebook of Tejas is lying on the table)

– Suhas’s wife is a doctor. (Wife of Suhas is a doctor)

Rule 3: In singular nouns ending with ‘s’ followed by a word starting with ‘s’, we just add an apostrophe to the noun. This is to avoid a hissing sound. For example:

– Tejas’ school is in Malviya Nagar.

– Suhas’ sister is a teacher.

Rule 4: In plural nouns (ending with ‘s’), we add apostrophe after ‘s’. For example:

– Students’ report cards are ready.

– Girls’ dance classes have been postponed.

In the first one, the plural of ‘student’ is ‘students’. To show that the report cards belonging to the students are ready, we simply add apostrophe after ‘s’.

Similarly, in the second sentence, the plural of ‘girl’ is ‘girls’. To show that the dance classes which the girls attend have been postponed, we add apostrophe after ‘s’.

Rule 5: In irregular plural nouns (men, children) we add apostrophe and ‘s’ to show possession. For example:

– Children’s clothes are expensive. (Clothes of children are expensive)

– People’s mindset needs to be changed. (Mindset of people needs to be changed)

In the first example, plural of ‘child’ is ‘children’. To show that the clothes belonging to the children are expensive, we add apostrophe and ‘s’ after children. The same rule applies to the second example as well.

Here are some more examples to show you other possible cases.

    • – Alex and Philip’s shop. (Two nouns are used closely and showing joint possession; here, the apostrophe will be used with the second noun)
  • – Shakespeare’s and Wordsworth’s works. (Two nouns are used together yet separate possession is implied thus the apostrophe is used with both nouns)

Punctuation Rules

Punctuation is a very important aspect of writing; good writing presupposes correct punctuation. Incorrect punctuation is the sign of weak writing, or carelessness. But this sort of thing is eminently avoidable, because punctuation is quite simple to master. Here are some basic rules to keep in mind:

  1. Every sentence must end with a full stop.
  2. Proper nouns (names of people, places, brands, etc, i.e. unique instances of a class) must always be capitalised.
  3. When you use opening quotation marks, do not forget to use closing quotation marks at the end of the quoted word or phrase.
  4. Quotation marks are when quoting or sometimes to convey irony, not for emphasis; emphasis is conveyed by emboldening or italicisation, followed by an exclamation mark.
  5. Do not use an apostrophe when you are pluralising a word. The plural of toy is toys, not toy’s. Apostrophes are used to form contractions (it is = it’s) and indicate possession.
  6. The ellipsis, used to indicate variously the intentional omission of a section of text, an unfinished thought, and a trailing off into silence, consists of only 3 dots. It is pointless to add more dots to an ellipsis. This is excessive punctuation, which is in other words incorrect punctuation.
  7. As per the rules of British English, any punctuation mark that is not part of a quoted section of text must be placed outside the quotation marks. However, in the case of direct speech, punctuation marks must be enclosed within the quotation marks.
  8. Do not link independent clauses with commas. Independent clauses are groupings of words that can stand alone as sentences. For example, in He knew how to drive, that he didn’t do it very often was a matter more nerves, not inability both the parts before and after the comma are full sentences. In such cases, the comma is not the correct punctuation mark of connection. In needs to be replaced with a semi-colon (‘;’). The sentence becomes: He knew how to drive; that he didn’t do it very often was matter of nerves, not inability.
  9. Use a comma after the introductory element of a sentence. The introductory element is a word or a phrase that begins a sentence by providing background, or simply modifies it. For example, Honestly I don’t know how I managed to escape is wrong, because the word ‘honestly’ modifies the sentence. Hence, it should be Honestly, I don’t know how I managed to escape.

Comparison of Adjectives

When we want to compare two or more nouns using adjectives, we use the comparative and superlative forms of the adjective to show the comparison between the nouns. E.g. –

Honey is sweet, sugar is sweeter but victory is the sweetest.

In this sentence, we are comparing the three nouns using the positive, comparative and superlative forms of the word ‘sweet’.

Positive Form

These are the simple adjectives that simply describe the noun without comparing it to another – big, sweet, clean, etc.

      She has a big black dog.

      He is a sweet boy.

      The cupboard is clean.

Comparative Form

These are used when we are comparing two nouns and need to show which noun possesses the adjective or character in a greater or lesser amount, when compared with the other. – bigger, sweeter, cleaner, etc.

      I have a big dog but hers is bigger.

      He is sweeter than the other boys.

      The cupboard is cleaner than before.

Superlative Form

This form is used when three or more nouns are being compared and we need to show that one or more of the nouns posses the adjective or characteristic to the highest amount possible. We usually add ‘the’ before the superlative form. – biggest, sweetest, cleanest, etc.

      She has the biggest dog in the colony.

      He is the sweetest boy in his class.

      The cupboard is the cleanest thing in the house.

Making Comparatives and Superlatives

There are certain rules that must be followed in the making of the comparatives and superlatives of the adjectives. Not all adjectives form their comparatives and superlatives in the same way and there are also some irregular adjectives that form completely different comparative and superlative forms.

Single Syllable Words and Double Syllable Words ending with -y, -er, -ow, -le

We use ‘-er’ to make the comparative and ‘-est’ to make the superlative.

Positive Comparative Superlative
Black Blacker Blackest
Fair Fairer Fairest
Clever Cleverer Cleverest






When there is a silent ‘e’ at the end of the positive form, we remove that and add ‘-er’ and ‘-est’

Positive Comparative Superlative
Nice Nicer Nicest
Late Later Latest





When the adjective ends with a ‘y’, we convert the ‘y’ into ‘i’ before adding ‘-er’ and ‘-est’

Positive Comparative Superlative
Pretty Prettier Prettiest
Lazy Lazier Laziest





If the adjective is a small one with little stress on the vowel, we double the last consonant.

Positive Comparative Superlative
Hot Hotter Hottest
Wet Wetter Wettest





Other Words with Two or More Syllables –

For other double syllable words that do not end with -y, -er, -ow, -le, and for adjectives with more than two syllables we use more and most to form the comparatives and superlatives.

Positive Comparative Superlative
Difficult More Difficult Most Difficult
Careful More Careful Most Careful
Handsome More Handsome Most Handsome
Interesting More Interesting Most Interesting

Special Adjectives

There a few adjectives that can use both ‘-er and -est’ and ‘more’ and ‘most’ to form their comparative and superlative forms. The distinction between these is that ‘-er and -est’ are used when we are comparing the noun to another noun and ‘more’ and ‘most’ is used when we are comparing characteristics within the noun.

Positive Comparative Superlative Example
Clever Cleverer/ More Clever Cleverest/Most Clever He is cleverer than her.

He is more clever than studious.

Quiet Quieter/ More Quiet Quietest/ Most Quiet This is the most quiet it gets here.

This is the quietest place.

Brave Braver/ More Brave Bravest/ Most Brave She is braver than other girls.

She was more brave than afraid.

Sure Surer/ More Sure Surest/ Most Sure He was surer of the result than others.

You’ll be more sure about the concept after you read the chapter.

Irregular Comparisons –

These adjectives do not make their comparative and superlative forms using the rules above. Their comparative and superlative forms are different words altogether.

Positive Comparative Superlative
Bad Worse Worst
Good Better Best
Far (place & time) Further Furthest
Far (place) Farther Farthest
Old (people) Elder Eldest
Little (amount) Less Least
Late (order) Latter Last