Basic Phrases in English

While communicating in English, you must ensure that you are grammatically correct. It's important that what you are trying to convey does not get lost because of poor grammar. Let's review some grammar rules that will help you write better.

What to Use when?

Good versus Well - We frequently need to choose between the adjective 'good' and the adverb 'well'. Remember that in most cases, when you are modifying a verb, you need to use an adverb.

For example: She dances well.

However, when you are using a linking verb or a verb that has to do with the five human senses, you should use an adjective.

For example: How are you? I'm feeling good, thank you.


Even after my careful decoration, this room doesn't look good.

Although this is generally the rule, many careful writers use 'well' after linking verbs relating to health. This usage is acceptable (and also appropriate) in certain cases. In fact, to say that you are good or that you feel good usually implies not only that you're fine physically good but also that you are emotionally in a good place.

Bad versus Badly - Use the adjective form after those verbs that are related to human feelings. So, if your dog died, you would feel bad. Saying that you felt badly implies that something was actually wrong with how you experience your emotions.

Affect versus effect - Here are some rules that can help you:

  • If you are talking about a result, then use the word 'effect'. For example: What effect does the loss have on the team?
  • If you want to describe something that was caused or brought about, use effect. For example: The new CEO effected some positive changes in the team.
  • Use 'affect' to describe a facial expression. For example: He took the news of his wife's sudden death with little affect.
  • Use 'affect' when trying to describe influencing someone or something rather than causing it. For example: The unexpected rains will affect the number of people coming to the fair this year.

Farther versus further - Farther means "more far" in physical distance. For example: Jane ran farther than Mary. Further means "more far" figuratively, and can also mean "more/additional." For example: Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's versus Its - "It's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has". For example: It's been a long time since I spoke to my sister.

Its' is the possessive form of "it". For example: The apartment complex has its own swimming pool.

Using Similar-Sounding Words

Advice refers to guidance or counsel, as in: Your sound Advice saved me from a terrible mistake. Advise means to counsel, recommend, or inform, as in: I Advice you to consult a heart specialist.

Accept is a verb that means "to receive, admit, regard as true or say yes". For example: I can't accept his gift. Except is a preposition that means "excluding". For example: He bought a gift for everyone except me

Descent refers to going downward. For example: His Descent from the airplane was much slower after he pulled the cord on his parachute. Descent is disagreement, as in: Of the twelve jury members ruling on the case, hers was the only voice of Descent.

Principal is the head of a school, main person, or amount of money borrowed, as in: Interest will be charged on the Principal at the rate of 5 percent.

Principle refers to a fundamental law or basic truth, as in: It is my Principle that you should treat other people the way you'd like to be treated.

Subject-Verb Agreement - Are your sentences grammatically correct?

The subject of a sentence is the person, place, thing or idea that is doing some action or being something. To find the subject, ask the question, "Who or what 'verbs' or 'verbed'?" The answer to this question is the subject.

For example, in the sentence "The equipment in the laboratory must be replaced," the verb is "must be replaced". What must be replaced? In this case, the answer is "The equipment". So, the subject here is "equipment".

The basic principle of Subject-Verb agreement is singular subjects need singular verbs; plural subjects need plural verbs. My brother is a doctor. My sisters are architects.

Here are some rules that will make your life simpler:

1. The indefinite pronouns such as anyone, everyone, someone, no one, nobody are always singular and therefore need singular verbs.
For example: Everyone has done his or her homework. Some indefinite pronouns (all, some) are singular or plural depending on whether the thing they are referring to is countable or not. For example: Some of the books are missing; some of the water is gone.

2. Phrases such as together with, as well as, along with, are not the same as 'and'. The phrase introduced by 'as well as' or 'along with' will modify the earlier word, but it does not compound the subjects (as the word 'and' would do).

  • The chairman as well as his brothers is going to jail.
  • The chairman and his brothers are going to jail.

3. In a similar way, the conjunction 'or' does not conjoin (as the word 'and' does). When the words 'nor' and 'or' are used, the subject closer to the verb determines the number of the verb.

  • Neither my father nor my uncles is going to sell the house.
  • Are either my sisters or my mother responsible?
  • Is either my mother or my sisters responsible?

4. If your sentence compounds a positive and a negative subject and one is plural, the other singular, the verb should agree with the positive subject.

  • It is not the committee members but the president who decides this issue.
  • It was the facilitator, not his ideas, that has provoked the students.

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