When I was in school, English grammar concepts used to give me nightmares. Prounouns, Verbs, Adjectives, Adverbs – all sounded Greek to me! And these are all important concepts from an exam point of view. Somehow, I managed my way past them. So, I have attempted to make the English grammar rules regarding these concepts easier for you. Below are some of the most common grammatical mistakes people do when it comes to pronouns, verbs, adjectives & adverbs. I have tired to present the rules in the most awesome unforgettable way so that it becomes easier for you.
In view of the constraints of time that a student / learner of English faces today, I believe that it will be all the more useful that English Grammar Rules and ‘Funda’ be given as briefly as possible to make a point succinctly.
Not all is intended to be covered, nor all is intended to be explained-what is covered in these blogposts below should be enough for you to go ahead and attempt correctly 8 out of 10 questions on English, Grammar & related in any competitive exam – be it CLAT, CSAT, UGC-NET, Bank PO, CAT, GRE, GMAT, SSC, NDA or any that happens in India.
Grammar Rules for Pronouns:
1. The WHO, WHICH and THAT problem.
WHO and THAT are used when referring to persons. WHICH is never used for people/groups. WHO is used when the individual person / individuality of the group is implied. Whereas, THAT is used when we are talking about a class, species or type.
TIP TO REMEMBER:
- Remember that song – ‘Who’s that Girl!!’ So, who and that are used for people.
- She is the lady WHO did not quit even at the face of difficulties.
- He is the KIND OF leader THAT we want to lead our country.
Note : THAT is often associated with KIND OF. So, if you get confused, see if you can find a class, type or species reference.
Save THAT for the best!
THAT is generally used after adjectives of superlative degree i.e. for the extreme cases.
- She is the BEST friend THAT I could have asked for.
- This is the MOST ANNOYING thing THAT could have happened today.
THAT vs WHICH
Use THAT before a restrictive clause and WHICH before everything else.A restrictive clause is just part of a sentence that you can’t get rid of because it specifically restricts some other part of the sentence. Here’s an example:
- Clothes THAT are in vogue please females.
The words that are in vogue restrict the kind of clothes you’re talking about. Without them, the meaning of the sentence would change to all clothes please females, not just the clothes are in vogue. (And note that you don’t need commas around the words that are in vogue.)
Nonrestrictive Clause—Which(extra gyaan)
A nonrestrictive clause is something that can be left out without changing the meaning of the sentence. It’s just extra gyaan. Here’s an example:
- Diamonds, which are expensive, please females.
Now just taking that diamonds are always expensive, so leaving out the words which are expensive doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence. (Also note that the phrase is surrounded by commas. Nonrestrictive clauses are usually surrounded by, or preceded by, commas.)
A QUICK TIP for even your grandchildren to remember this: Just know that you can throw out the “whiches” and no harm will be done. You use which in nonrestrictive clauses, and if you eliminate a nonrestrictive clause, the meaning of the remaining part of the sentence will be the same as it was before. And in the opposite case, use that.
WHICHES are not PEOPLE (sorry for being judgmental!). Although, if you have read Harry Potter, you would know – some witches are the best people ever! 🙂
When you have a person and an animal, remember WHICHES are not PEOPLE. So, use THAT. Besides, we humans anyway think ourselves to be superior. So, a human + an animal = a human only. Hence, we use THAT. For e.g.:
- The man and his dog that came yesterday have come again today.
Words that restrict you to using THAT
Words like – All, any, none, only, alone, nothing – they take THAT and not WHICH / WHO because they are Restrictive in nature (refer to point above). For e.g.
- All the participants THAT came yesterday have been judged.
- There is NOTHING you can say THAT will stop me from loving you.
Then, where do we use WHICH?
Simple – Animals, objects, places. And of course, NON RESTRICTIVE places.
- Our new home, WHICH is very beautiful, is now ready to be lived in.
2. ONE / ONE’s vs HIS/HER
When ONE is the subject of the sentence, it acts as an indefinite pronoun (pronouns used for persons and objects alike.) In such situations, the object of the sentence also has to be ONE and not his/him/her.
- ONE should always remember ONE’s duty towards the nation – CORRECT
- Why would ONE not do what makes him/her happy? – INCORRECT
- Why would ONE not do what makes ONE happy? – CORRECT.
You may also take it as a parallelism rule. The tone of the sentence should be SAME THROUGHOUT. Indian TV serials may run without logic. But English does not!
3. EACH OTHER vs ONE ANOTHER
2 people : EACH OTHER
More than 2 : ONE ANOTHER
- Actresses can never like ONE ANOTHER.
- Twins are just too much like EACH OTHER.
Tip: For one another, remember to find unity in diversity i.e. ‘find ONE in many’ (anekta mein ekta)
4. EITHER / NEITHER vs NONE/ANY/ANY ONE
One out of 2 people : EITHER or NEITHER
One out of more than 2 people : NONE / ANY / ANY ONE
- NEITHER of you two can go to the party. You are grounded!
- ANY ONE of the party members can claim it.
Tip to remember: Same logic as above!
5. Who Vs Whom
The words who and whom are both pronouns. First I want you to actually understand the right way to use these words.
Rule: You use who when you are referring to the subject of a clause and whom when you are referring to the object of a clause. I know we aren’t comfortable with aliens like subject and object. But it will be smoother and sweeter with the example.
(Just know that the subject of the sentence is the person doing something, and the object of the sentence is the person having something done to him/her.) For example:
- If I say, “I love you,” you are the object of my affection, and you is also the object of the sentence (because I am loving you, making me the subject and you the object). How’s that? It’s like love and grammar rolled into one.
- So Whom Do I love? The object (and that’s YOU)
Million dollar tip: When you are confused between who or whom, ask yourself if the answer to the question would be he or him. If it’s him, it would be whom (Easy to remember: him & whom both end with m)
So when you ask whom (or who) do you love? The answer is I love him. So you know to use whom. And who loves you? The Subject — the one taking action, not the one being acted upon and that’s I. Also the answer is He loves me. So you know to use who.
English Grammar Rules for VERBS
1. I WAS or I WERE?
Tip that you won’t ever forget: Use WERE to express a wish / an uncertainty / contrary-to-fact.
- I wish I WERE Arvind Kejriwal. I would have done things differently. (a wish)
- If she WERE here, she would see how much I love her. (contrary-to-fact)
Tip: See all of them (wish, uncertainty) as dreams. You always say “I saw a dream.” So it is past tense. Hence, I WERE, she WERE …
2. SHALL vs WILL
Indicating mere FUTURE
SHALL : 1st person i.e. I, WE
WILL : 2nd and 3rd person i.e.YOU, HE, SHE, IT, THEY
- I / WE SHALL be going to the concert tomorrow.
- YOU WILL see Mr. Watson waiting for you at the station tomorrow.
- THEY WILL find the journey amusing.
- The countryside is beautiful.
Caution: If you use I WILL / WE WILL to talk about future, you end up conveying you determination / choice / willingness to perform the task, NOT THE FUTURE.We WILL appreciate a quick response – you are determined to appreciate the response only if it is quick.
- We SHALL appreciate a quick response – you are expecting a quick response in future.
Reverse the above and you get threat, determination, promise, desire or choice.
WILL : 1st person i.e. I / WE
SHALL : 2nd and 3rd person i.e. YOU, HE, SHE, THEY.
- I / we WILL make sure … (determination)She SHALL not disobey me. (Threat)
- They SHALL see to your needs. (promise)
SHALL I vs WILL I
Best explained with example :
- SHALL I meet you at the café tomorrow?
- SHALL we go to the class together?
SHALL : 1st personNOTE : For 2nd and 3rd person questions, use the word that is expected in the answer.
- SHALL he be hanged for the crime? (expected answer: ‘Yes, he shall’)
- WILL you get the dress for me today? (expected answer: ‘Yes, I will’)
English Grammar Rules for ADJECTIVES and ADVERBS
Adjectives and adverbs function as modifiers. They restrict / qualify the meaning of other words. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. Adverbs modify mainly verbs, adjectives and other adverbs.
1. Comparative Forms vs. Superlative Forms
2 persons / places / things : Comparative form (taller / more / prettier / healthier).
More than 2 persons / places / things : Superlative form (tallest / most / healthiest)
- The MORE promising role was offered to the YOUNGER employee.
- The MOST efficient method should be used.
- The MORE efficient of the two methods should be used.
- She is CLEVERER than wise – WRONG
- She is MORE CLEVER than wise – CORRECT.
The word MORE has to be used when you are comparing between two qualities of the same person. Here, using cleverer would be incorrect as you are not comparing between two people.
2. FEWER vs LESS:
This is one of the most frequently made mistakes in English grammar.
Use FEWER when you can COUNT and LESS when you cannot. Simple!
- Women now spend LESS TIME in the kitchen.
- Women now spend FEWER HOURS in the kitchen.
Meaning remains same. But we use FEWER in the later sentence because we can count the number of hours. But time is a quantity which cannot be counted.
NOTE: LESS is the correct adjective. LESSER often refers to inferior. For e.g.
- Between the two of them, he is the LESSER evil.
Tip: Less : Uncountable / mass nouns cannot be plural & cannot be counted individually most of the times.
Few : Countable nouns
- There is LESSER noise in the room because we now have FEWER kids than before.
- Make LESS tea because we will need FEWER cups of tea henceforth.
3. Elder & Eldest / Older & Oldest
Here’s a bit of trivia. Elder & Eldest are used for members of the same family. Tip to remember: The word ‘elder’ gives a feeling of respect. So, you respect your elders. It is more than just good manners. It is also good grammar 🙂
ELDER is followed by TO
OLDER is followed by THAN.
- I’m OLDER than my boss but that does not stop him from being a douche.
- Lord Ram is the ELDEST of the four brothers of the Raghu-clan.
Directions for questions 1 to 15: use the correct form of the pronouns in the following:
- We scored as many runs as ( ) . [They, them]
- Ankur and ( ) were present. [I, me]
- Can you sing as well as ( ) ? [they, them]
- Let you and ( ) try what we can do. [I, me]
- Wait for Preeti and ( ) . [I, me]
- You know that as well as ( ) . [I, me]
- It was I that gave you that alarm. [I’m]
- Between you and ( ) I do not believe him. [I, me]
- We are not so rich as ( ) . [They, them]
- Paritosh is as old as ( ) . [I, me]
- You, ( ) can best explain. [Yourselves, yourself]
- The city ( ) s not very large. [Itself, it]
- None so blind as ( ) that will not see. [They, them]
- Whom can I trust if not ( ) ? [He, him]
- You will hurt ( ) . [Him, himself]
I hope you are acing this 15 marks grammar test above! 🙂
If you have any doubts about the above, please feel free to drop in a comment. English is a vast language and the rules are in plenty. And crazy too, at times. A good reading habit will juxtapose these lessons with reinforced confidence. Do check out the following for quick learning –
- 150 Common Mistakes in English Grammar and Their Correct Answers
- Troublesome Articles, Tenses & Conjunctions
- Commonly Mis-Spelled Spellings & Ways to Remember Them
- Troublesome Prepositions: English Grammar Rules
I know English section of entrance exams can be deal-breakers for many. During my travels a Motivational Speaker and Career Counselor, I have come across many mathematical geniuses who struggle with the language part. You don’t need to! Here’s a compilation of all my blogposts on English, Grammar, Vocabulary and Communication – Blogposts on English.
Here are the solutions for the 15 questions above. So, how did you perform?
There maybe a million things on your mind to worry about. Let English not be one of them 🙂