I would do a clever opening, but NanoWrimo just started, so I’ll cut right to the chase for all our sake.
General Disclaimer: While I love grammar, I’m also new at learning it. I will do my best to explain things correctly. If you find that I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented something, please share that in the comments. Please do so kindly, though. The goal of this is for all of us to learn and become better writers, and people learn better from kindness than troll-ness.
When we left off last month, all we had were things, people, places, and ideas. Nouns and their associated parts of speech are great, but sometimes you want them to do something. That’s where verbs come in.
Definition: An action or a state of being
When a noun is doing or a noun is being, that’s a verb.
Verbs are often divided into three categories: action, helping/auxiliary, and linking verbs.
ACTION verbs express…well, an action. These are words like run, jump, crochet, write, smile, etc.
LINKING verbs express a state of being, or they connect a noun to another noun or an adjective. They are words like am, is, can, shall, feel, seem.
HELPING/AUXILIARY verbs go in front of an action or linking verb and help tell us when that verb is happening. As I do not know of a difference between these terms, I’ll use them interchangeably. If you do know of a difference, please share in the comments!
For more help with auxiliary verbs, GrammarBytes has a helpful article: www.chompchomp.com/terms/auxiliaryverb.htm
Verbs also have TENSE, which tells us when a verb is taking place. Some tenses need helping verbs, but some do not. Often changes in verb tense require changing the verb itself.
We’ll talk more about verb tense and case in the future, but for today, here are the three basic tenses: past, present, and future.
Sometimes, we want to be even MORE specific about verbs. When that happens, we use ADVERBS.
Adverbs get a bad rap in many writer circles, but they are an important part of speech. Like adjectives and articles, adverbs are modifiers. More specifically:
Definition: Adverbs modify verbs and adjectives.
If Martha ran, we might want to know more about what that looked like. Did she run slowly? Quickly? Smoothly? Jerkily? Leisurely? Hastily?
All of those are adverbs. As you may have noticed, many of them end with -ly, but not all of them do. We might say Martha almost ran, or Martha never ran.
Sometimes, we also want to modify our adjectives, and we use adverbs for that, too. If the Doctor is handsome, how handsome is he? Very? Dashingly? Ridiculously? Slightly? Rakishly? We could have crimson red paint, scarlet red paint, raspberry red paint. All of those italicized words are modifying the adjective red, so they are adverbs.
Prepositions are usually the part of speech that my students have the hardest time with, but it’s a good time to learn about them, now that we know nouns and verbs.
This definition is from Merraim-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary:
Definition: a word or group of words that is used with a noun, pronoun, or noun phrase to show direction, location, or time, or to introduce an object
Perhaps I have the noun Polly. Polly is doing an action, Polly sat. I want to talk about the place Polly sat, and places are nouns. This particular place needs an article to go with it, so we’ll say the place she sat is the windowsill.
Now, we only have nouns, a verb, and an article in our sentence: Polly sat the windowsill. But that doesn’t make very much sense. It seems like she’s making the windowsill sit, but that is either a very funny image or a literal impossibility.
We need to show that the windowsill is the location where Polly sat, and to do that, we need a preposition:
Polly sat on the windowsill.
There are many prepositions, and I find it can be helpful to look at lists of them. For your convenience, here is a list in song form and a list in image form:
Here are some example sentences using prepositions:
As you notice, the prepositions in the sentences on the left drastically change what the other words mean–running through the door is a very different experience from running into it.
GrammarBytes is a fabulous website with all sorts of handouts and worksheets on grammatical topics. If you’re still confused about prepositions, head over there and read up on their explanation of this part of speech.
Happy November, friends!
7 thoughts on “Grammar for Authors: Verbs, Adverbs, and Prepositions”
This is an extremely useful post, which I’ve added to my bookmarks, where it will stay and be re-read again and again until I’ve memorised the details.
It’s one thing to write well and avoid making grammatical errors without knowing exactly what you’re doing and why, but it’s a very different feeling to know the rules of grammar, and to be able to define them. It feels almost like a raw, untrained talent is being crystallised into something sharper, and more competent.
I’m looking forward to the next entry.
Thank you! I’m so glad they’re helpful for you! I agree about the difference between accidentally writing well versus honing our skills by knowing the rules of grammar. Most of my life, I would say that I had “a strong conceptual understanding of grammar,” but I had no clue what the rules were. Learning has been incredibly helpful for me ☺️