You can’t build your dream house without first laying the foundation. The same applies to learning English. If it’s your dream to speak English fluidly and with confidence, you must lay your foundation in order to create a sturdy platform on which to begin the more complex construction.
Maybe you’ve started to learn some English vocabulary, but without a basic understanding of English grammar, you won’t be able to build sentences and construct conversation.
As a beginner, you shouldn’t stress too much about being grammatically perfect though. Even native speakers slip up on grammar, especially in conversation. However, by starting to learn the basic English grammar tenses and rules, you will be surprised how rapidly your English language abilities will progress.
So, if you’re ready to start building, let’s go ahead and lay down that foundation.
Why Learning Basic English Grammar Is Important
Improves Your Communication Skills
Learning proper sentence structure through basic English grammar is important to improving your communication abilities. As you talk and write to people using these commonly understood sets of grammar rules, people will find it easier to understand you.
Instead of simply having a list of jumbled words, grammar organizes and glues your words together in a way that native English speakers understand.
Enhances Your Reading Comprehension Abilities
Learning English grammar isn’t all about people simply understanding you; it’s also about you understanding the spoken and written words around you. Comprehending basic English grammar helps you to better interpret books, street signs, menu’s in restaurants, email correspondences, and so much more.
The written language is all around us, and learning a new written language opens up to new worlds of ideas and culture. Imagine how much more you will learn and enjoy when traveling in an English-speaking country when you can read what’s going on around you.
Prepares You for Intermediate English Grammar Rules
We all have to start somewhere. Advanced English grammar can be very complicated, so as a beginner English learner, a valuable grammar learning tip is not to get overwhelmed at the start.
Begin with mastering basic English grammar rules before you dive into learning intermediate and advanced rules to give yourself a solid base to build on.
Lay Your Foundation with These 10 Basic English Grammar Rules
Singular vs. Plural Nouns
Nouns are naming words. Nouns will be the first words you learn when you start learning a new language.
Nouns can be both singular, referring to one person, place, thing or idea, or plural referring to multiple people, places, things or ideas.
The end of the noun changes to transform it from singular to plural. This will differ depending on the end of the word.
For most nouns, simply add an -s to the end to turn it into a plural noun.
Doctor → Doctors
Mountain → Mountains
Cat → Cats
Thought → Thoughts
For nouns that end in a -ch, -x or -s, add -es to turn the word into a plural noun.
Church → Churches
Tax → Taxes
Eyeglass → Eyeglasses
Add an -es to nouns that end in -f or -fe while also changing the -f to a -v.
Half → Halves
Calf → Calves
Knife → Knives
The spelling of some nouns changes in the possessive form.
Man → Men
Child → Children
Goose → Geese
Tooth → Teeth
Person → People
Words ending in -o or -y are tricky as they don’t have consistent rules you can follow to change them.
Most of the time, merely adding an -s to the end of a word that ends in -o is sufficient. However, sometimes, the word requires an -es at the end.
For words that have a consonant before the -y, you usually add a -ies to the plural form.
If there’s a vowel before the -y, then simply add an -s to the end of the word.
Lady → Ladies
City → Cities
Tray → Trays
Hero → Heroes
Burrito → Burritos
Some words stay the same in both singular and plural forms.
Sheep → Sheep
Moose → Moose
Furniture → Furniture
Jewelry → Jewelry
Homework → Homework
Add an apostrophe and an -s to nouns to make them possessive and indicate who the owner of something is.
Add an apostrophe to the ends of names already ending in -s.
The teachers’ chair
The kids’ playground
When talking about two people owning a single object, only add an apostrophe and -s to the end of the second person’s name.
Mom and Dad’s house
David and Jen’s dog
Susan and Elodie’s table
To describe a situation where two people own separate things, add an apostrophe and -s to both people’s names.
Aunty’s and Uncle’s books
Carol’s and Susan’s shoes
Josh’s and Tom’s houses
Pronouns replace the noun in a sentence. These words include I, You, He, She, It, We, They, Us and Them.
For example, the sentence “Jonathan goes to work at eight in the morning,” can be altered to, “He goes to work at eight in the morning” using the pronoun he.
Another example is, “Mary and Joe spent the day gardening,” which would change to, “They spent the day gardening.”
And for extra practice, “The story was exciting,” can be changed to, “It was exciting.”
Be Verbs and Action Verbs
Verbs are used to indicate an action, state or occurrence in a sentence. A state of being is shown using be verbs. As the name suggests, action verbs express action. Verbs can also indicate the past, present or future tense, so you understand when in time, the action or occurrence happened.
When turning a be verb into a negative, add the word not in front or shorten it to aren’t for are not, isn’t for is not or hasn’t for has not.
Here are some examples of be verbs:
I am a gardener.
She likes the smell of roses.
Sunbathing on the beach is my favorite activity.
They are very friendly.
And here are some examples of action verbs:
I ate a salad.
She walked the dog.
He ran through town.
John swims in the ocean every day.
If you want to see 150 real examples of common verbs in action, have a look at this video:
Adjectives are describing or modifying words for nouns.
In English, adjectives are typically placed in front of the noun.
A sunny day
Adding a un-, in- or dis- to the front of an adjective is often an easy way to give it the opposite meaning.
Common → Uncommon
Interested → Disinterested
Definite → Indefinite
Assemble → Disassemble
Strings of adjectives have a specific order they should be placed in. This order is size or shape, age, color, origin then material.
The small, old, yellow, English stone cottage.
The large, red and white Dutch tulip.
The long, new, pink, silk skirt.
Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
When comparing two things, use a comparative adjective. For comparisons of multiple things, use superlative adjectives.
Form comparative adjectives by adding an -er and -est to form superlative adjectives on the end of one-syllable words.
soft → softer → softest
old → older → oldest
short → shorter → shortest
For words ending in a -y, change the -y to an -i then add an -er for the comparative adjective and an -est for superlative adjectives.
pretty → prettier → prettiest
happy → happier → happiest
busy → busier → busiest
The spelling doesn’t change for adjectives with more than one syllable. Add the word more in front of these words to make the comparative adjective and most for superlative adjectives.
respectable → more respectable → most respectable
exciting → more exciting → most exciting
peaceful → more peaceful → most peaceful
Some adjectives have different forms when turning them into comparatives and superlatives.
little → less → least
many/much → more → most
good → better → best
bad → worse → worst
Comparative adjectives typically have the word than in front of them to create comparisons.
This pillow is softer than the other one.
My dog is happier than my cat.
Sitting in this garden is more peaceful than in my garden at home.
There is less than there was yesterday.
The word the usually accompanies superlative adjectives.
John is the oldest in the classroom.
Mary is the happiest person I know.
Simon is the most respectable person in the room.
This is the worst day of the week.
Adverbs give more information about the verb, adjective or another adverb in the sentence.
Verb: The train is fast.
Adjective: The sun is strikingly hot today.
Adverb: The flower is opening very slowly.
Adjectives can often be turned into adverbs by adding a -ly to the end. When the adjective ends in a -y, remove the -y and add -ily to the end.
complete → completely
quick → quickly
beautiful → beautifully
lazy → lazily
happy → happily
crazy → crazily
To indicate both simple past and past principles when using regular verbs, simply add an -ed to the end of the original form. Irregular verbs don’t follow a standard formula when using them in the past tense; however, some patterns can be seen.
Here are some regular verb examples in original, simple past and past principle form:
walk, walked, walked
smile, smiled, smiled
cook, cooked, cooked
watch, watched, watched
listen, listened, listened
Below are a few common irregular verbs in original, simple past and past principle form:
rise, rose, risen
bite, bit, bitten
choose, chose, chosen
break, broke, broken
grow, grew, grown
know, knew, known
fly, flew, flown
hit, hit, hit
bet, bet, bet
cut, cut, cut
Coordinating conjunctions are one of the most basic ways to join words, phrases or clauses together into one sentence. Commonly used coordinating conjunctions include the words for, and, not/nor, but, or, yet and so. The mnemonic FANBOYS is a useful way to remember these coordinating conjunctions.
Include for in a sentence as a replacement to the word because to show purpose or reason.
We went on holiday, for we love to travel.
I bought a new dress, for tonight is the Christmas party.
When using and in a sentence, it means in addition to and is used to connect ideas.
I want to eat ice cream and candy.
Mary will give you her old baby clothes and cot.
Add negativity into a sentence with the words not/nor.
I want pizza, not pasta.
She didn’t reply to my phone message nor email.
Using but adds tension to a sentence and creates contrast or a contradiction.
John went to the supermarket but couldn’t find celery.
I wanted the purple dress, but they didn’t have my size.
To add choice into a sentence, use or.
Do you want a yellow bag or a purple bag?
I either want the flowers or the tie-dye fabric.
Like but, using yet in a sentence adds contrast. The difference is that yet means nevertheless or at the same time.
He is nice, yet he has a big ego.
She swam very fast, yet didn’t make it to the finals.
The word so adds cause-and-effect information to a sentence.
I heard fantastic reviews about the movie, so I bought tickets to see it.
Mary loves the color yellow, so I bought these yellow flowers for her.
Verb tense adds time information into a sentence. Tense is broken down into the past, present and future.
The simple tense used in the present form is the original verb form.
I watch a movie every week.
You swim competitively.
I eat noodles for lunch.
Verbs often alter slightly when using the past tense.
I watched a movie last week.
You swam competitively.
I ate noodles for lunch.
Add the word will in front of verbs to indicate future tense.
I will watch a movie this week.
You will swim competitively.
I will eat noodles for lunch.
Methods for Learning Basic English Grammar
Start with Basic English Lessons
An easy way to get overwhelmed when learning a new language is to jump ahead too quickly. Save yourself from getting overwhelmed by starting with the basics.
Start by practicing basic English lessons either online, at home or in a classroom setting. A highly recommended English grammar book for those who wish to learn at their own pace is “Basic Grammar in Use” by Raymond Murphy.
Utilize Real-Life Examples
It’s one thing to understand perfect classroom English and a very different thing to apply it to real-life scenarios. With such a vast number of English speakers around the world, you will find an enormous amount of different accents and slang. This can make real-life English challenging if you haven’t been exposed to it.
The thousands of interactive videos will help you to practice your English vocabulary and grammar online through topics that interest you, which will create a more enjoyable and authentic learning experience.
Practice with quizzes and games
Trying to memorize all the specific grammar rules and tenses can be dull. Use language learning quizzes and games to make learning basic English grammar fun. Websites like Quizlet allow you to create your own flashcards with words and photos or you can search for pre-made decks.
Now that your basic English grammar foundation is laid, you are ready to start constructing sentences and building on your conversation, writing and reading skills.
Adrianne Elizabeth is a freelance writer from New Zealand. English is her first language. When she is not writing, she loves traveling and learning about new cultures. Currently, she is passionately studying Latin American Spanish, so she understands the joys and challenges of learning a new language.