Entries Tagged as 'Parts of Speech'

Your vs. You’re

It never hurts to review this topic:

your = possessive adjective

you’re = you are

Use your before a noun when the noun belongs to the person you are speaking to (possessive).  For example:  Did you bring your coat? Are all of your documents in this file? Did you call your mother?

Use you’re when you mean “you are”.  For example: You’re not leaving without a hug.  Did you say you’re riding with us?

Test yourself!  Are the following correct or incorrect?

  1. Your having dinner at our house.
  2. Your baby is so cute.
  3. You’re pregnant.
  4. Your the father!


  1. incorrect
  2. incorrect
  3. correct
  4. incorrect

Parallelism in Writing

Understanding and identifying parallelism is common in grammar reviews as well as on standardized tests.

Parallelism can be achieved by making sure there is balance on both sides of a conjunction (and, but, yet, & so).  Conjunctions are typically found between independent clauses and in lists.

First, find the conjunction.  Then look for balance.  You can tell if something is not balanced if the parts of speech are different or if there is a modifier on one side and not the other.  If you see an imbalance, correct it.

For example:

My favorite meals are pizza, spaghetti, and ordering subs. 
Pizza and spaghetti are nouns.  Ordering subs?  That is an action.

Fix the imbalance:  My favorite meals are pizza, spaghetti, and subs. 


Using Reflexive Pronouns

The reflexive pronouns in English are:

  • myself
  • yourself
  • himself
  • herself
  • itself
  • ourselves
  • yourselves
  • themselves

The very basic rule to follow when deciding to use a reflexive pronoun is this:

If the subject and the object are the same, use a reflexive pronoun.

Look at this example:

Bill tried to call me.  His phone rang.  He realized that he called himself.

  • Bill = he = subject
  • Bill = himself = object

Certain phrases in other languages use reflexive pronouns where English does not.  This may cause some confusion if you are translating directly, so having some knowledge of what those phrases are in your language will help when you are studying English.

Lose vs. Loose

Lose and loose are commonly misspelled.  There are often mispronounced, too, so maybe this will help:

The ‘s’ in lose (a verb) is pronounced with a /z/ sound.  Lose means that you have misplaced something.  Example: Where did you lose your keys?  If I knew where I lost them, I would still have them!

The ‘s’ in loose (an adjective) is pronounced with a /s/ sound.  Loose means the opposite of tight.  Example:  I have to tie my shoe because my shoestrings are loose.

The -ing Ending: Gerund or Present Participle?

You may notice that -ing appears after verbs sometimes.  When the -ing is affixed to a verb, the verb is in a progressive form if the verb to be is also used.  This -ing form is called the present participle.

Sometimes the -ing ending appears after a verb, but the verb to be doesn’t appear in the sentence.  This is one way you can identify the difference between a progressive verb tense and a gerund.  Gerunds look like verbs, but they function as nouns.

Which of these sentences contain the gerund?

a) I like eating.

b) I am eating.

Sentence A contains the gerund.  Sentence B contains the verb to be (am) before the -ing form.  Now you try:

  • Why is the microwave oven glowing?  Are you cooking something?
  • Cooking at home instead of eating out is a good way to save money.

Speaking of…

You’re talking with your friend.  Your friend is talking about one topic…restaurants, for example.  You also want to mention a restaurant.  Interrupt by saying, “Speaking of restaurants…I went to a great restaurant on Friday.”  This is a great way to participate in the conversation and to bring up a new topic.

There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to use “Speaking of…”

When you want to bring up a noun (like restaurants), the noun must be plural.

  • Incorrect: Speaking of restaurant…
  • Correct: Speaking of restaurants…

When you want to bring up a verb (like eating), the verb must be a gerund (the –ing form)

  • Incorrect: Speaking of eat…
  • Correct: Speaking of eating…

Commenters’ Corrections Answers to 1-14-11

Here was the comment from Friday 1-14-11:

there use to be a better one what happen to it

  1. Punctuation should appear at the end of both clauses.  A period (.) should appear after one, and a question mark (?) should appear after it.
  2. Once new sentences are created, make sure you have capitalized the first word in each sentence.  The T in there and the W in what should be capitalized.
  3. When “use” + “to” is intended for a past ongoing action that no longer happens, “use” should appear in the past:  used to.
  4. Since there used to be one, and now it’s gone, something happened (in the past) to it.  The commenter is asking what happened, so happen should be in the past simple.
  5. Finally, a better what?  The person uses the word one, but doesn’t specify what one represents.  Basically, you’re looking at a pronoun without an antecedent.  Make sure your pronouns have nouns they can easily refer to.

A corrected version might look like this: 

There used to be a better one.  What happened to it?

Tip for Tuesday: Focus on Auxiliaries

Today’s tip is to focus on auxiliaries.  Do you need to review auxiliaries?  Simply put, they are the “helping verbs” that aid in forming questions, negatives, and short answers.


  • Do you like coffee? (question)
  • I don’t like coffee. (negative)
  • Yes, I do. (short answer)

When you hear a question from an English speaker, pay close attention to the auxiliary used.  When you answer, don’t use just one word.  Instead, include the auxiliary in your answer.

Focusing on auxiliaries in questions and including them in your reply will help you with verb tense, grammatical accuracy, listening skills, and language analysis.

Have a native English speaking partner ask you these questions in their most natural speech, and practice answering with the correct auxiliary:

  • Can you come over on Sunday?
  • Have you had lunch yet?
  • Will you have enough time to do your homework?
  • Is it going to rain tomorrow?
  • Did you see Avatar?
  • Do you have a Twitter account?
  • Can you mail these packages on your way out?

Read this post about You!

Have you noticed that sometimes a sentences (like the subject line) doesn’t actually start with a subject?

The reason is that the speaker or narrator is talking to you.  The pronoun you is the subject.  If the speaker directs you to do something (Look at that! Click here and save!), they omit the subject, and it is your job to understand that they are directing the command at you.


  • Usually, commands like these appear with the verb at the beginning of the sentence.
  • Don’t use the past tense.
  • The pronoun you is always the subject when there are no other subjects, so conjugate the verb accordingly.

(You) Have a nice day!

Using Verbs as Adjectives

From reading English, you may have noticed that the participle form of a verb appears before nouns sometimes.  You’re not hallucinating.  It really is a verb there…sometimes with an -ing ending, and sometimes in the past participle form (you know, the form in the imminent third column of your irregular verb list?).

Well, when the -ing isn’t coupled with the verb “to be”, it means there is no progressive tense.  Likewise, when the -ed, or past participle, form isn’t accompanied by the verb “to have” or “to be”, it means there is no perfect or passive form.  What does it mean, then?

If the verb is followed by a noun or is part of a noun phrase, it is functioning as an adjective.  It modifies or describes a noun, like adjectives usually do.  They just look like verbs.

Look at this example:

The ringing phone caused my scrambled eggs to burn.

Now ask yourself these questions:

1. Is the verb “ring” in a participle form? Answer:  Yes (-ing)

2. Is the verb “ring” part of a progressive verb phrases (example: is ringing, was ringing)? Answer: No

3. Is there a noun near the verb “ring”?  Answer: Yes (phone)

What you have, then is an adjective.

Now, test yourself.  Use the same questions with the word “scrambled”.

Knowing this can help you increase your vocabulary and sentence variety very quickly.  Try changing common verbs to adjectives by turning them into participles and using them to describe nouns.   Listen to other English speakers and notice how often they use this form.