I can’t tell you how many times somebody has stopped me on campus recently and asked “David, what’s so important about grammar?” I could tell you, but then, that would make this a math question, and I’m writing about grammar.
It’s pretty clear that students today have little understanding of even the basics of grammar. Probably not one in ten could explain the distinction between the alluvial tense and the parsimonious mood. And probably not one in a hundred could back it up with action. I suspect not one in a thousand could explain when the avuncular distributive is appropriate and when it is not. Correct: “Yes you may buy me a cup of coffee.” Incorrect: “No, I don’t want any of that hazelnut flavored dreck.” And neither of these is to be confused with the alveolar fricative, which is an entirely different thing.
Herewith follows a brief but basic grammar lesson. Learn these fundamentals and you will be able to impress your neighbors, those with whom you talk grammar at least, the guy at Starbucks over there in the corner muttering to himself, or, in the summer, the 16 year old lifeguard at your pool. So let’s begin with
There are two types of verbs: active verbs and passive verbs. Active verbs are the ones needed to form committees. Passive verbs are the ones needed by the committee once the committee is formed. “I think the first thing we need to do is establish our committee’s charge” is a sentence with a passive verb. “We should probably develop a sub-committee to do that” includes another active verb. From here on, all verbs used by the committee or the sub-committee will be passive ones. Until another sub-committee of the sub-committee needs be formed.
Some of the most common verbs are called verbs of declension, verbs that can be declined, such as “no way,” “uh-uh,” “not a chance,” and “none for me, thanks.”
Though it has not always been true, most nouns these days can be declined as well, as in the sentence “get that tofu away from me,” or “no vegan cookies for me, thanks. They taste like cardboard.” Which brings us to
With the rise of Amazon and delivery drones and our ability to buy anything at any moment and have it delivered anywhere, nouns are playing a more and more important role in our speech, lives, and language patterns, so a clear understanding of the four noun cases is critical.
Nouns, rather than appearing in mood and tense – tense moods depending on your PSA score – can appear in a variety of cases
- Nominative case, used primarily when speaking in large convention halls
- Dative case, used before proms and only with the listener’s consent
- Accusative case, used between parents and children
- Genitive case, which modesty prevents me from describing, though if you must know send me your cell number and I will text you.
There is much more to grammar than just these basics, termed by us English teachers “the basics.” Notice the proposition “us” in the previous sentence. Propositions matter too, but this is enough for today.