Posts Tagged ‘english grammar’

Resources to Help You Learn English Grammar

Gram­mar is one of the key require­ments for learn­ing Eng­lish. This arti­cle gives you some insight into the kind of resources that you might use for this pur­pose. You can then expand on the resources that have been discussed.

Using resources to teach Eng­lish grammar

When you are teach­ing the lan­guage, it is impor­tant to con­sider all the avenues that are open to you. There are some really great resources that are pro­vided at the British Coun­cil as well as the Amer­i­can Con­sulate. You can also use the inter­net to access some impor­tant tools for your task. Broadly speak­ing these are some of the resources that are avail­able to you

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The Importance of Being a Punctuation Mark

A dress, no mat­ter how sim­ple or drab, can always be enhanced by adding acces­sories. A sim­ple scarf, draped art­fully or an ornate broach – these are just some of the tricks. Sim­i­larly, when you come to lan­guages, a state­ment can have orna­ments too. Adjec­tives are always not the only orna­ments. Another more under­stated and under­used form is the use of punc­tu­a­tion. The use of the proper punc­tu­a­tion at the right time, can trans­form a sim­ple sen­tence into a statement.

Words like “sur­prise” and “amazed” can be replaced with the timely usage of the excla­ma­tion mark. The period as known as a full-stop can con­vey the final­ity and the ever present comma – the con­ti­nu­ity of the words. The ques­tion mark asks the unasked ques­tions. A punc­tu­a­tion mark can con­vey the unspo­ken feel­ing of a speaker in some ways that even words can­not define. The sar­casm, which might be latent in the man­ner of the speaker, can be made more obvi­ous by putting them within quotes, or even to put spe­cial empha­sis on that word. And the sense of belong­ing stated by append­ing the apostrophe.

Punctuation

Punc­tu­a­tion

Take for exam­ple the words “Why are you read­ing this”.
Why are you read­ing this?” states the ques­tion being asked while “Why are you read­ing this!” shows the amaze­ment of the speaker. Again, by com­bin­ing the punc­tu­a­tions we can con­vey both mean­ing. “Why! Are you read­ing this?” shows both the sur­prise and ques­tion.
“Why are you read­ing “this”?” ques­tions with empha­sis on the mate­r­ial at hand. If you place the quotes on read­ing as in “Why are you “read­ing” this?” then you would be ques­tion­ing the action.
In a sen­tence like “I’m done.” with the usage of the period you con­vey the final­ity of the intent.

In ver­bal world, often the mood and artic­u­la­tion dic­tates the punc­tu­a­tion. Often you would have heard about the float­ing terms– expres­sions, into­na­tion etc. These when trans­lated to the writ­ten world leads to the need of punc­tu­a­tion. Play­ful expres­sions of words along with imag­i­na­tive read­ing would actu­ally help you visu­al­ize the con­text in point.

Punc­tu­a­tions are a very use­ful weapon to have in your arse­nal when deal­ing with sen­tences and state­ments. With just chang­ing the place­ment, the whole mean­ing and tone of a sen­tence can be changed. Innocu­ously even, the wrong usage can cause unin­tended offense. Hence it is the duty of the author to use it well and use it judi­ciously so as to avoid any con­fu­sion, or worse, any harm.

Frequently Asked Question on Passive Voice   —   Part 3

In our pre­vi­ous writes, we often dis­cour­aged the usage of pas­sive voice. But in this arti­cle we would see the sce­nar­ios when pas­sive voice is the only way. By the end of this arti­cle you would real­ize that pas­sive voice is not a redun­dant gram­mar entry, it is just a style to hide non-necessary essentials.

When is pas­sive voice con­sid­ered to be good?

Some­times pas­sive voice is the best choice for writ­ing. We will look into few exam­ples when they are useful.

To mask the sub­ject and high­light the object

Let us look into this point under this example.

100 votes are required to pass the bill.

In the above exam­ple, the focus is on num­ber of votes rather than the event “bill”. Thus we can suc­cess­fully empha­size the action. An active state­ment would read like “The bill requires 100 votes to pass”. This would put less empha­sis on bill, mak­ing it less dra­matic.
To de-emphasize an unknown subject/actor.

Con­sider this example:

Over 120 dif­fer­ent con­t­a­m­i­nants have been dumped into the river.

In instances like this, when you don’t know the specifics of the actor, such as in this case, you don’t know who dumped all the con­t­a­m­i­nants in the river. When the knowl­edge about the actor is non-existent, pas­sive writ­ing helps you in report­ing the action with­out actu­ally stat­ing the actor. But if you know the actor, your clar­ity and mean­ing would be benefited.

If your read­ers don’t need to know who’s respon­si­ble for the action.

In this sce­nario it is quite dif­fi­cult to opt for the voice usage. Some instances, you delib­er­ately make the sen­tence pas­sive. This is done to high­light some fact. The catch is, try to put your­self in reader’s posi­tion and antic­i­pate his reac­tion. Here are two examples:

Baby Julie was deliv­ered at 3:30 a.m. yesterday.(passive)

and

Dr. Mark deliv­ered baby Julie at 3:30 a.m. yesterday.(active)

Whereas the first sen­tence is more apt for the fam­ily mem­bers or friends, the sec­ond sen­tence is of more import for the hos­pi­tal report. In first sen­tence we shift the impor­tance to the baby while in the sec­ond the focus is on doctor.

Let us now deal down to strate­gies which would facil­i­tate the pas­sive voice indication.

Strate­gies

Iden­tify

  • Look for the pas­sive voice: “to be” + a past par­tici­ple (usu­ally, but not always, end­ing in “-ed”).
  • If you do not see both of them, then dis­card. Else, does the sen­tence describe an action? If so, is there an actor? If there is an actor, check if it is in the gram­mat­i­cal sub­ject position.
  • Does the sen­tence end with “by..”? Many pas­sive sen­tences include the actor at the end of the sen­tence in a “by” phrase, like “The ball was hit by the player” or “The shoe was chewed up by the dog.” “By” by itself isn’t a con­clu­sive sign of the pas­sive voice, but it is an indef­i­nite indi­ca­tor for pas­sive voice.

Eval­u­ate

  • Is the doer/actor men­tioned? Should you men­tion the doer?
  • Does it really mat­ter who’s respon­si­ble for the action?
  • Are you writ­ing some­thing where a reader should need to know the actor?
  • Do you want to empha­size the object?

Rewrite

If you observe that your sen­tence looks more ele­gant when writ­ten in active voice, switch to active voice.

Frequently Asked Question on Passive Voice  —  Part 2

Con­tin­u­ing with our dis­cus­sion for the most neglected aspects of pas­sive voice, we would look into other fre­quently asked ques­tions. Before div­ing straight into the ques­tions, I would like to point out the impor­tance of this exer­cise. The whole point of this arti­cle is to bring forth the usage of pas­sive voice. Most of the peo­ple frown at pas­sive voice because they lack clar­ity (The sub­ject is not stated specif­i­cally). Some­times this mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion can prove vital to some form of writ­ing (aca­d­e­mic, legal etc). In such form of writ­ing, every sen­tence is under scrutiny, hence the need of utmost clar­ity. Pas­sive voice in such form of writ­ing is eas­ily avoidable.

The pas­sive voice always avoids the usage of first per­son. If there is cita­tion of first per­son (I or we) then it is active voice.

We would start with a counter exam­ple for this claim. “I was hit by the cricket ball”. In this sen­tence notice how the gram­mat­i­cal sub­ject is over­lapped with the gram­mat­i­cal object, hence the pas­sive voice. But this form still uses the usage of first per­son. We notice that we can’t directly dis­card a sen­tence as active as soon as we encounter the usage of first person.

You should never use pas­sive voice.

Though pas­sive voice often reduces clar­ity and makes the mean­ing dubi­ous, it is some­times prefer­able. At times it is only appro­pri­ate to use pas­sive voice. We will deal with all such cases in the next series of FAQs. Just to cite a small exam­ple, pas­sive voice brings the atten­tion to the object, so a sen­tence like “Mis­takes were made.” In the above sen­tence note that by obscur­ing the doer of the action; the sen­tence doesn’t bring the cul­prit who did the mis­take. It merely states that a mis­take was made. Some­times hid­ing the sub­ject brings parity.

Gram­mar checker can find pas­sive voice usage.

If you noticed the first point under the dis­cus­sion in the pre­vi­ous arti­cle, you would notice that we dis­cussed how using pas­sive voice is not a gram­mat­i­cal error. So since it is not a gram­mat­i­cal error, it is dif­fi­cult to catch the error through gram­mar check tool. It may be erro­neous, specif­i­cally hav­ing dubi­ous actions. Let us look into an example.

Women were not treated as equals

In the above sen­tence, we see that the above sen­tence lack pre­ci­sion. A reader would def­i­nitely ask with whom were the women com­pared to here. i.e Women were not treated as equals with men. If you notice now, the exam­ple in ques­tion would be ren­dered as care­less or lazy writ­ing. So think twice before using pas­sive voice in your writing.

By now, I am sure; you would have appre­ci­ated the need for pas­sive writ­ing and its pres­ence in daily world. In the next arti­cle we would see when using pas­sive writ­ing is appropriate.

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