Basic English Skills

Basic English Skill: Grammar Skills Training

Commas:  We use commas in two main ways: Commas to separate items in a list and can also mark out the less important part of a sentence.

Commas to separate items in a list:  The items can be real things:

E.g. I need some pens, pencils, paper and a calculator before I start my class.

Sometimes these items are things you do, or places you go:

E.g. Yesterday I went to work, played football, went to the pub and then went to bed.

 Always use ‘and’ to separate the last two items in your list however,

Don’t use a comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of your list.

Don’t use commas where you should use a full-stop. If the words can stand alone as a proper sentence then there is no need to put in a full-stop or a joining word (‘and’, ‘but’ etc).

E.g. ‘Yesterday I went to work, I went for a run, I went shopping and I washed the car.’

This sentence doesn’t work as it could be separated into standalone sentences. You could instead write them as a list; to do this take out the ‘I’:

E.g. ‘Yesterday I went to work, went for a run, went shopping and washed the car.’

Commas can also mark out the less important part of a sentence: This is a useful way to make your sentences more interesting by adding extra information.

E.g. The van, which was parked on the field, had a cat in the back seat.

This type of comma use allows for extra, if less significant, information to be put into a sentence.

 Dave, who works for Mercedes, was given fudge cake for tea.

 This sentence is about Dave eating fudge cake. The ‘who works for Mercedes’ part is merely additional information.

Apostrophes: Apostrophes have two uses they can be used to show that letters have been removed from a word/words and apostrophes can also be used show you that something belongs to something else.

Apostrophes have two uses they can be used to show that letters have been removed from a word/words: For example,

Do not becomes don’t.

I will becomes I’ll.

Could have becomes could’ve.

The apostrophe goes where the letters have been removed. You use

apostrophes this way when writing informally. It is not advised for you to

shorten words when writing formally. NOTE – sometimes words are

shortened in an irregular way. The apostrophe, however, is still used to show where letters are missing.

E.g. Will not becomes won’t.

Apostrophes can also be used show you that something belongs to something else:

E.g. The cat’s tail – says that the tail belongs to the cat.

E.g. The car’s lights – says that the lights belong to the car.

Usually the apostrophe goes before the s. If the owner already ends in s then the apostrophe goes after the s that is already there. You just need to add an apostrophe.

E.g. The dogs’ bowls – says that the bowls belong to some dogs

E.g. The boys’ coats – says that the coats belong to some boys.

E.g. The cars’ wheels – says that the wheels belong to some cars.

Watch out for plurals that don’t end in s. Words like men and children don’t end in s, but they are talking about lots of people. These words use ’s to show possession.

E.g. The men’s hats – says that the hats belong to the men. The women’s house – says that the house belongs to the women.

Differentiating between your, you’re, their, there, they’re.

Your: This is used to say that something belongs to somebody.

E.g. That is your football.

You’re: This means you are.

Their: This is used for plural possession.

E.g. That is their football.

There: This is used directionally

E.g. His house is there.

They’re: This means they are.

E.g. They’re nearly home.

Paragraphs : A paragraph is a group of sentences about one subject.

Topic Sentence : The first sentence often tells you what the subject is.  Known as a ‘topic sentence’.

E.g. ‘Travel has changed completely in the last hundred years.’

This sentence immediately informs the reader that the paragraph will be about travel and how it has changed. You should try to make sure that every sentence in your paragraph supports/is relevant to the topic sentence.

Headings : Sometimes paragraphs can be given ‘headings’.   A museum could, for example, have a whole booklet about Travel, with headings such as ‘Cars’, ‘Trains’, ‘Planes’ and ‘Ships’. When you plan your writing, it’s a good idea to write down a heading foreach paragraph before you start writing it. It may be unnecessary to keep the headings in your final version, but they will help your work stick to the point. For example, if you are writing about a book, each paragraph could be about a different theme; the headings could be ‘Greed, ‘Lust’ etc.  

Linking paragraphs : You can link paragraphs by using ‘linking words’, such as ‘however…’,  ‘contrastingly, ‘alternatively etc.