English Grammar: a quick guide


Grammar deals with how we make sentences: the kinds of words we use and the order they come in. Knowing precisely how sentences work can help us


  • write with more confidence and variety
  • correct or improve other people’s writing
  • interpret unclear texts, and
  • appreciate what good writers do.


It can also help if we’re teaching or learning another language, because most languages work in much the same way.


My approach is systematic, because you need all the pieces of the jigsaw to complete the picture. As you go on, you’ll see more clearly how they fit together. You'll be able to revise what you know, and fill in the gaps. Then you can decide what level of detail is useful for you.


My approach is also traditional, because the traditional method is still a good way to start. But where newer ideas are useful, for example in clause analysis, it makes sense to adopt them.


Here’s what’s called the sentence hierarchy in grammar:


  • sentence
  • clause
  • phrase
  • word


In the traditional way, we’ll work up from the bottom, words, to the top, sentences.


The guide covers the following.


1  Parts of speech - nouns, articles, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions


2  Phrases - noun, verb, adjective, adverb, prepositional


3  Clauses - subject, finite verb, object, complement, adverbial; main, subordinate (adverb, noun, relative); active and passive voice; apposition; declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamative


4  Sentences - classification, co-ordination, ellipsis.


There are also sections on punctuation and common problems. And there are revision exercises with answers, and an index.


Based on some of the grammatical facts, I also offer advice on clear writing. As always, when it comes to style, less is more, and simplicity wins every time.


About the author


Peter Holmes studied English at Queens’ College, Cambridge. Then he taught English at Radley College, St Paul’s School, Eton College and Cheadle Hulme School, ending as head of department. Since then he has worked with Plain English Campaign as an editor and trainer.


English Grammar: a quick guide  is available as a Kindle book from Amazon. Click on the link below.