Basic Rules of English Language
1. Use Active Voice
Every human language starts an active sentence with the subject, or the "doer." In English, the verb (what's being done) follows the subject. If there is an object (the receiver of the action), it comes after the verb.
2. Link Ideas with a Conjunction
Sometimes you want to link two ideas with a second S+V+O combination. When you do, you need a coordinating conjunction.
3. Use a Comma to Connect Two Ideas As One
FANBOYS are used when connecting two ideas as one in a single sentence, but don't forget the comma.
4. Use a Serial Comma in a List
The serial, or Oxford, comma is a controversial rule of grammar. Some want to eliminate it altogether while others just don't know how to use it. The serial comma is the last comma in a list, usually appearing before "and."
5. Use the Semicolon to Join Two Ideas
A list of grammar rules has to include the scariest of punctuation marks. It might look funny, but don't be afraid of the semicolon; it's the easiest thing in the world to use! Say you want to join two ideas but can't figure out or can't be bothered to use a coordinating conjunction. The two ideas can be separate sentences, but you think that they are so closely connected; they really should be one. Use a semicolon.
6. Use the Simple Present Tense for Habitual Actions
The simple present is the tense you use for any habitual action. The things you always do or do every Tuesday are described with the simple present, which just means you pick the first form of any verb.
7. Use the Present Progressive Tense for Current Action
The present progressive tense is for anything that is happening right now. All of the progressive tenses are easy to spot because their verbs always end with "-ing" and get a helping verb. A helping verb is just so we know who and when we're talking about. In the present progressive, the helping verbs are the present tense conjugations of "to be."
I am drinking Lapsang Souchong tea.
The barking dogs outside are driving me crazy.
Mary is playing with her hyperactive dog.
8. Add "ed" to verbs for the Past Tense
When we talk about the past, we have to add an "-ed" to regular verbs to make the second form. Irregular verbs are tricky and have their own sets of rules. Drink, for example, turns to "drank." Most of the time, though, "-ed" will do.
I drank a lot of Lapsang Souchong tea yesterday, but Mary didn't.
The dogs stopped barking two seconds ago, and I am feeling better.
Mary played fetch with her hyperactive dog.
9-11. Use Perfect Tenses
Practice makes perfect with the perfect tenses. Here are three rules to finish the 11 rules of grammar. If you remember these, you'll be well on your way to perfection.
9. Use Present Perfect for the Unfinished Past
The present perfect can be confusing for some, but it is one of the most important rules of grammar. When people talk about things that have already happened but consider the time in which they occurred to be unfinished, they use the third form of the verb with a helping verb. The helping verb for the present perfect is the present tense conjugation of "to have."
I have drunk three cups of Lapsang Souchong tea today.
Mary's hyperactive cur dog has bitten me three times so far.
Mary has walked her hyperactive poodle 100 times this week.
Unfortunately, the only way to know the third forms of verbs is to remember them.
10. Use Present Perfect Progressive for Unfinished Action and Past
When the action as well as the time is considered unfinished, the verb loads up on third form helping verbs ("to be" and "to have") and changes to the progressive form.
Western countries have been waging wars in the Middle East for thousands of years.
I have been drinking tea all day.
Mary's dog has been barking like crazy since it was born.