Ahhhhh, yes. There’s Ms. Wilson, standing at the front of the classroom with the overhead projector, crossing out yet another grammatical error and shaking the marker at your class to drill in the grammar rule ... what was it again? Many of us can clearly remember the experience of middle school—the braces, the sports failures, the romantic failures, the fashion!—but the actual lessons taught in actual school have likely gone by the wayside. Even if we speak correctly, our knowledge of grammatical terms and formal rules is likely scant.
One of the complaints most often heard on college campuses—if you lean in close to a professor’s door while they’re grading—is that kids these days don’t know proper grammar. College essays are riddled with errors that students should have learned in middle school. “What’s this, another dangling modifier?! Ugh, improper usage of a transitional phrase! Really, another comma splice! Time for another cup of coffee.”
Really, when it comes to adults, there are two camps: those who know middle-school grammar, and those who do not. Which are you?
The appositve in this sentence is the grunge rock icon Kurt Cobain. An appositive is a noun or pronoun that is located beside another noun to clarify it or give more information about it. When the appositive is “essential to the meaning of the sentence” (Purdue OWL), as above, it does not require punctuation to set it apart.
While “on” and “in” are similar in meaning, they do have a crucial difference. “On” refers to the surface of an object, and “in” directs attention inside the object. Pouring your drink onto your cup could result in one of those terrible middle school spills that could ruin your outfit and your day.
You often, but not always, need a comma at the end of an introductory phrase. In this case, the introductory phrase indicates a pause before the next segment of the sentence, and the comma helps to make that pause clear for readers. Introductory clauses, on the other hand, always are set apart with a comma. What’s an introductory clause, you ask? Read on, friends.
A phrase is a group of words that go together as a concept but do not contain a subject and verb, while a clause does have a subject and verb. For example, “the girl with braces” is a phrase, and “the boy who doesn’t use deodorant” is a clause.
‘Comma splice’ is one of those phrases that gets thrown around a lot by grammar nerds, but it’s often used incorrectly. You may hear someone use the term for any old misplaced comma. If you do, you should definitely have this knowledge weapon ready to throw down: it only applies to a comma used between independent clauses, without the required conjunction.
The above sentence is a run-on because it combines two independent clauses without punctuation. Adding the comma before so, which functions here as a coordinating conjunction (like and, but, or), fixes the issue. Why is the mall so cool in middle school, anyways?
An independent clause contains a subject and verb and forms a complete thought. It’s what we think of as a sentence. While the idea of a “complete thought” may seem hard to quantify, that’s the language all the grammar sites use to describe what makes a clause independent. Another way to think of it is a clause that doesn’t leave you asking, “huh?” Or “and?”
The direct object follows a transitive verb— a verb that does something to something else. To find what it is, ask ‘what?’ after the verb. In this case, Billy throws what? He throws a pencil. Why did he throw a pencil? I don’t know. This kind of thing just happens in middle school.
This sentence is composed of two independent clauses, so it needs punctuation in order not to be a run-on. Since there is no conjunction, a semi-colon is the only option here. At what point does boredom become uncool again? College?
Quotation marks set apart the title of a poem. That’s definitely something you learned in middle school. And perhaps something you used in college a few times. But how often do you use this rule in real life? If you’re quoting poetry in your love emails, you’re more cultured than most.
This is a classic verb-tense agreement question. Since the earlier part of the sentence is in the past tense “they went,” the next part needs to agree with that, thus changing have to had. It does sound like a bad idea, by the way, but in middle school it may have seemed like a good one.
The colon is used after a complete sentence to show that what comes after is going to clarify what came before. You often find it, as here, introducing a list. Ahh, summer camp. Don’t forget the contraband items.
This is one of the most commonly seen errors. Somehow it’s just so darn easy to mess up. The thing is that its problem is that it’s confusing. Other things use an apostrophe to show possesssion. Why can’t it? As far as I know, though, it’s never really plural.
However is used to show that the line of thought is moving in a direction that contrasts what came before. Transitional words are used to connect ideas and to guide readers by showing them how the ideas go together. However, they can be overused.
Because this part of the sentence can stand alone, the clause before the comma is the main clause. The clause following the comma does not make sense by itself, so it’s not the main clause; it’s subordinate. When did you stop playing with dolls?
This is one of those terms that you forget as soon as you walk out of the middle-school classroom. An adverb clause gives more information about the verb of a sentence, answering why, how, when, and where. Since it’s a clause, it has a subject and a verb. Adverb clauses can be identified by the subordinate conjunction that begins the clause.
If you had braces, you know this very real fear. Another fear, perhaps, is that of being quizzed on grammar terms and finding that you’ve forgotten the names of rules, even if you know how to use them. In this case, the adverb phrase, “in his braces,” gives more information about where Rocky was afraid the food may be lurking.
Yup, another one of those words that you may have forgotten. Relative pronouns introduce adjective phrases and clauses and tell us more about the noun just described. In this case, the best choice is “who,” since we’re referring to a person, and because that person is the subject and not the object of the action.
The good, old semicolon is overused by almost all students middle school and up. It’s proper use is to combine two complete sentences whose meaning is closely connected, without a coordinating conjunction.
To whom it may concern, ‘whom’ is used to introduce information about a person that is the object of a verb. In this case, Marge was asked to the dance. She wasn’t dancing, but was the one being asked.
This sentence sounds funny because the listed items are not in the same form. All the verbs should be in the same tense—we ate popcorn, cheered for our friends, and played cards. While this rule may seem arbitrary, its purpose is to show that items in a list are of equal importance.
Rules for capitalization seem to stick a bit more easily than some of the more obscure middle-school grammar rules. In this case, the first word after a colon is the item mentioned that doesn’t get capitalized. What did they do to us to make us remember capitalization rules, while the others are so easily forgotten?
Rules for hyphenation are back in the set of the easily-forgotten. The rule of thumb to remember is that you hyphenate words that come before the word they modify and that work together as a single concept. Here, for instance, the sister is not seven, year, and old. She’s a seven-year-old sister.
Remember lockers? And combination locks? Ugh, such a hassle. And so stinky. Poor Katie left her books, which are the subject of the sentence, in her locker. Since the subject and verb must agree, the plural “books” needs the plural “were.” The prepositional phrase throws you off here, inserting “in her backpack,” with its singular object.
The perfect form shows that an action is completed, as in “I have finished all my homework,” or “I thought I had finished all my homework, until I opened my math folder.” Completed homework is the perfect homework.
Progressive had a different meaning back then. A progressive verb is a verb with continuing action, and this action is shown by add-ing the -ing to the ending of the verb.
It may seem to some middle schoolers (or high-school or college students) that they could successfully do homework while playing video games. However, it makes more sense to do the homework and then transition to playing games.
This dependent phrase needs to be set apart by a comma, which shows that the sentence could stand alone without it. If you walked to school or took the bus, going to middle school was dependent on whether or not you felt like it.
Yeah, this doesn’t sound too likely, does it? But, since this is a past-progressive verb construction, we can know for sure that the person means that they were doing homework, but now they have stopped.
Mothers and their intuition are the bane of many a middle schooler. “Which” is the appropriate relative pronoun to use here, because it shows that the clause is dependent and not essential to the meaning of the sentence.
Remember when homework was the most difficult thing about life? Seems like a simpler time. This sentence is simple because it has only one independent clause and no dependent clauses.
Contrary to common practice, the appropriate use of an exclaimation mark is to convey strong emotion or emphasis. It does work well, though, to communicate over text and social media that you are not secretly angry.
A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses and no dependent clauses. Trying to understand why these terms are important only compounds the problem.
Sometimes it’s hard to agree with your friends. Especially if your friends are verbs, and your friends are in different tenses. Then they just don’t agree, and everything is wrong.
A complex sentence is defined as such not by the ideas or words that compose it, but by the simple fact of having a dependent clause. The ideas in the sentence may be as inane as middle school itself, but if it has a dependent clause, they’ll call it complex.