Basic Building Blocks of Writing – Words: part 1

10/2/2005 4:05:53 PM
I’m going to go over the basics of the parts of speech because I have no idea who will be reading this. The simplest style book assumes a knowledge of the parts of speech and how they work together, so I don’t want to suggest a style book without giving novice writers a reminder. And besides, even we experienced writers could use a little refresher course, right? Of course right!
Nouns are people, places, things or ideas. There’s nothing more simple than that. There are three kinds of nouns: your garden variety noun, proper nouns, and gerunds.
Proper nouns are formal names for things, including trademarked names: the Eiffel Tower, Land Rovers, Jeeps, Kleenex, Baton Rouge, President Bush; the list goes on and on. They are always capitalized. The exception are those trademarked proper nouns that have become common nouns, like jello, cellophane, and jeep. In those cases, check your dictionary for the proper spelling and capitalization.
Gerunds are a funky kind of noun that’s made by pairing up a verb, (usually an action verb) with the ending -ing. Examples are skiing, walking and driving. They can be tricky to spot because there is a verb form that also uses -ing as an ending (or suffix). The key is to ask yourself, “In this sentence, is this a thing?” If so, it’s a gerund.
Verbs, simply put, are what you do. (Where have I heard something like that before?) They indicate motion or a state of being. Like nouns, they can be broken down a little further.
In elementary school you might have heard of helping verbs. These are the forms of be, can, will, shall, may, and have. (There might be one or two others. If I think of them, I’ll edit and add them.) They are paired with a verb to show a state of being or a place in time. In the past few sentences, I’ve used: “might have heard“, “might be“, “will edit“, “are paired” and “have used“. Helping verbs can be used with other helping verbs as in the case of “might have heard” and “can be used“.
Pronouns are another basic part of speech. They can take the place of a noun in almost any situation.
Personal pronouns have two different forms. I, He, she, we and they are used as subjects of a sentence. Me, him, her, us and them are used as direct objects. You and it can be used in either case. I is always capitalized, no matter where in a sentence it is found. The others are always lower case unless they start a sentence, the only possible exception a referral to a deity, in which case, the pronoun would be capitalized.
Possessive pronouns also have two forms. My, his, her, our, your, its and their are used before a noun. Mine, his, hers, ours, yours, and theirs stand alone and are used as direct objects.
Nouns or pronouns coupled with verbs are the building blocks of the most simple part of communication: the independent clause.

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