Category Archives: General Writing and Exam Skills.

Forming Complex Sentences with Subordinating Conjunctions

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Definitions

Independent Clause: An independent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb, expresses a complete thought, and can stand alone as a sentence.
Dependent Clause: A dependent clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb, does not express a complete thought, and cannot stand alone as a sentence.

Complex Sentence: A complex sentence is a sentence that contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.
Subordinate Clause: A dependent clause that begins with a subordinating conjunction. Since subordinate clauses are adverbial, they may appear at the beginning or end of a complex sentence.

Table of Subordinating Conjunctions

Time

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After, As, As soon as, Before, Once, Since, Until, When, While

Manner

As, As if, As though, Like

Cause and Effect

Although, Though, Whereas, While, Except, That

Condition

Because, In that, Now that, Since, So that

Condition

If, In case, Provided (that), Unless

Purpose

So that, In order that

Comparison

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As…as, More than, Less than, Than

Punctuating Complex Sentences with Subordinating Conjunctions

If a subordinate clause appears at the beginning of a complex sentence, it must be separated from the independent clause by a comma.

Example: After she finished her homework, Monica went shopping.
In general, if a subordinate clause appears after the independent clause in a compound sentence, no comma is needed.

Example: Monica went shopping after she finished her homework.
Note on punctuation: If the subordinating conjunction in a complex sentence is whereas, though, although, or even though, a comma is needed to show separation between the two clauses.

Exercises

Without looking at the above table, identify the subordinating conjunctions in the following sentences and identify how they are functioning. Then rewrite the sentences by changing the order of the clauses and punctuate as needed.

  1. John tried hard to finish his super fudgy-wudgy sundae, though it seemed an impossible task.
  2. I will pay you back as soon as I get the money.
  3. Until I started going to class regularly, I performed poorly on the weekly quizzes.
  4. Even though she had a ten-page paper to write, Mary went to the movies with friends.
  5. Before he was a famous writer, John Steinbeck was a maintenance man.
  6. After she graduates this year, Julie will work in her father’s law firm.

The Sore Thumb (subject-verb agreement.)

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Subject-verb agreement errors stick out like a sore thumb in your writing.

Here are 20 rules about subject-verb agreement.

1. Use verbs that agree with a subject, not with a noun that is part of a modifying phrase or clause between verb and subject:
“The pot of eggs is boiling on the stove.”
2. Use singular or plural verbs that agree with the subject, not with the complement of the subject:
“My favorite type of movie is comedies,” but “Comedies are my favorite type of movie.”
3. Use singular verbs with singular indefinite pronouns — each, the “-bodies,” “-ones,” and “-things” (anybody, everyone, nothing), and the like:
“Neither is correct.” (And, just as in rule number 1, the presence of a modifier is irrelevant: “Neither of them is correct.”)
4. Use plural verbs with plural indefinite pronouns:
“Many outcomes are possible.”
5. Use singular verbs with uncountable nouns that follow an indefinite pronoun:
“All the paint is dried up.”
6. Use plural verbs with countable nouns that follow an indefinite pronoun:
“All the nails are spilled on the floor.”
7. Use plural verbs with compound subjects that include and:
“The dog and the cat are outside.”
8. Use plural verbs or singular verbs, depending on the form of the noun nearest the verb, with compound subjects that include nor or or:
“Either the dog or the cats are responsible for the mess.” (“Either the cats or the dog is responsible for the mess” is also technically correct but is awkward.)
9. Use singular verbs with inverted subjects that include singular nouns:
“Why is my hat outside in the rain?”
10. Use plural verbs with inverted subjects (those beginning with the expletive there rather than the actual subject) that include plural nouns:
“There are several hats outside in the rain.”
11. Use singular or plural verbs with collective nouns depending on meaning:
“His staff is assembled,” but “Staff are asked to go to the conference room immediately.” (In the first sentence, the emphasis is on the body of employees; in the second sentence, the focus is on compliance by each individual in the body of employees.)
12. Use singular verbs for designations of entities, such as nations or organizations, or compositions, such as books or films:
“The United Nations is headquartered in New York.”
13. Use singular verbs for subjects plural in form but singular in meaning:
“Physics is my favorite subject.”
14. Use singular or plural verbs for subjects plural in form but plural or singular in meaning depending on the context:
“The economics of the situation are complicated,” but “Economics is a complicated topic.”
15. Use plural verbs for subjects plural in form and meaning:
“The tweezers are in the cupboard.”
16. Use plural verbs in constructions of the form “one of those (blank) who . . .”:
“I am one of those eccentrics who do not tweet.”
17. Use singular verbs in constructions of the form “the only one of those (blank) who . . .”:
“I am the only one of my friends who does not tweet.”
18. Use singular verbs in constructions of the form “the number of (blank) . . .”:
“The number of people here boggles the mind.”
19. Use plural verbs in constructions of the form “a number of (blank) . . .”:
“A number of people here disagree.”
20. Use singular verbs in construction of the forms “every (blank) . . .” and “many a (blank) . . .”:
“Every good boy does fine”; “Many a true word is spoken in jest.”

ATTEMPT THE FOLLOWING 25 QUESTIONS. THEN CHECK YOUR ANSWERS 

Directions: In the blank, use the correct present tense form of the infinitive given at the beginning of each sentence. Also, underline the corresponding verb for each sentence. The first one has been done for you.

1. to have: The cracked windshield, in addition to the torn upholstery and rusted body, ___??__ (ans: has) made Ruth’s ’88 Honda Civic a difficult vehicle to sell.

2. to be: This week’s National Inquisitor claims that there __________ photographs of the Loch Ness Monster eating Elvis.

3. to work: At the McDonald’s on Colonial Drive __________ friends who will stuff four or five extra Chicken McNuggets in a six-piece box for Dante.

4. to crawl: On the tables in the library __________ the many germs that have escaped in the hot breath of hardworking students.

5. to be: None of this breakfast that you cooked __________ fit to eat.

6. to taste: None of these chocolate-broccoli muffins __________ good, either.

7. to have: The whole ant colony, including the queen and all of her drones, __________ swarmed over Tommy’s feet, stinging his ankles.

8. to make: Fifteen gallons of chocolate milk __________ Herbert the elephant a happy pachyderm.

9. to hope: Everyone on the roller coaster, including Martha and Angie, __________ that the hot dogs, onion rings, funnel cake, and cotton candy will stay down during the twisting ride to come.

10. to bother: Neither Fred’s ratty clothes nor his sullen attitude __________ Esmeralda, who lets Fred pick up the check every time they dine out.

11. to hug: That pair of jeans __________ the curves of your body as nicely as the waxed paper on a Tootsie Pop.

12. to annoy: Neither the coughing muffler nor the squeaky brakes __________ Ruth as much as the broken radio in her ’88 Honda Civic.

13. to get: In Florida, alligators usually __________ severe indigestion after eating poodles.

14. to cling: Every cat hair, candy wrapper, and loose thread __________ to the super-charged polyester pants that Theodora loves to wear.

15. to know: Any one of Ms. Orsini’s students __________ the rules that govern subject-verb agreement.

16. to take: The shine on my hardwood floors __________ abuse from the ragged toenails of Floyd, my dog.

17. to have: Neither of those students __________ a clue about the rules governing subject-verb agreement. Pity them both during the quiz.

18. to make: Patience and compassion, in addition to a wallet bulging with money, __________ everyone want Jordan as a friend.

19. to require: Statistics __________ so much homework that Michelle’s poor fingers have permanent indentations from the calculator pads.

20. to come: The committee ___________ from all parts of the city, so we usually have to start late because so many members get stuck in traffic.

21. to believe: The committee ___________ that waiting until everyone arrives is more important than starting on time.

22. to be: When Dad is angry, there __________ fire flickering in his eyes as well as smoke escaping from his ears.

23. to brighten: When Matthew is having a bad day, old episodes of The X-Files always __________ his mood.

24. to hit: Each of those opera singers regularly ___________ notes high enough to break glass and rupture eardrums.

25. to be: Either the fried oyster sandwich or shrimp pizza __________ the best choice for lunch at Crusty’s Seafood Restaurant.

 ANSWERS AND EXPLANATIONS

1. has
[Windshield is the subject. Ignore the words in the prepositional phrase beginning with in addition to …. The subject of a sentence is never part of the prepositional phrase.]
2. are
There can never be a subject. The plural noun photographs is the subject for the plural verb are.]
3. work
[Prepositional phrases like at the McDonald’s and on Colonial Drive never contain the subject of the sentence. The plural noun friends is the subject for the plural verb work.]
4. crawl
[Prepositional phrases like on the tables and in the library never contain the subject of a sentence. The plural noun germs is the subject for the plural verb crawl.]
5. is
The indefinite pronoun none is referring to dinner, so none is singular and requires a singular verb.]
6. taste
[The indefinite pronoun none is referring to muffins, so none is plural and requires a plural verb.]
7. has
[Ignore the interrupting phrase that begins with including …. The subject of the sentence is colony, a singular thing that requires a singular verb.]
8. makes
Quantities representing a total amount are singular.
9. hopes
[Everyone, a singular indefinite pronoun, requires a singular verb. Martha and Angie follow including, so they are not part of the subject of the sentence.]
10. bothers
[When you have neither … nor, the subject closest to the verb–in this case attitude–counts. Because attitude is singular, use bothers, the singular form of the verb.]
11. hugs
[That pair, which is singular, requires a singular verb.]
12. annoy
[When you have neither … nor, use the subject closest to the verb, in this case brakes. Because the noun brakes is plural, use annoy, a plural verb.]
13. get
The noun alligators, a plural subject, requires get, a plural verb.]
14. clings
[The indefinite pronoun every requires a singular verb.]
15. knows
Any one, a singular indefinite pronoun, requires a singular verb.]
16. takes
On my hardwood floors is a prepositional phrase and does not contain the subject. Shine, a singular noun, is the subject and thus requires a singular verb.]
17. has
[Neither, a singular indefinite pronoun, requires a singular verb.]
18. make
Patience and compassion, a plural subject, requires a plural verb
19. requires
[Statistics, a single area of study, requires a singular verb.]
20. come
[Committee, a collective noun, can be either singular or plural. When the members are NOT acting as a unit, treat the collective noun as plural and use a plural verb.]
21. believes
[Committee, a collective noun, can be either singular or plural. When the members are acting as a single unit–everyone doing the same thing at the same time–treat the collective noun as singular and use a singular verb.]
22. is
There can never be the subject of the sentence. Fire, a singular noun, is the subject for the singular verb is.]
23. brighten
Episodes, a plural subject, requires a plural verb.]
24. hits
Each, a singular indefinite pronoun, requires a singular verb.]
25. is
When you have either … or, use the subject closest to the verb, in this case pizza. Because pizza is singular, use is, a singular verb.

Managing Your Time In The Exam

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TIMING FOR PAPER 2 – 2 HOURS

15 mins – Read questions, underline keywords and read the 2 passages

30 mins – select points and complete the summary QUESTION 3

40 mins – Directed writing question including planning QUESTION 1

25 mins – Writer’s effect (DON’T spend more than 25 mins on this. Not worth the time and marks) QUESTION 2

10 mins – EDIT paying attention to DW and summary

TIMING FOR PAPER 3 – 2 HOURS

Section 1 – Directed Reading

10 mins – Read through stimulus material, question and select points, plan

40 mins – Write

Section 2 – Narrative

10 mins – Read question, identify key words, brainstorm on the topic, plan (including planning the ending)

40 mins – Write out

Remaining 20 mins – EDIT (VERY IMPORTANT)

EIGHT EXAMPLES OF PUNCTUATED DIALOGUE.

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1. “After breakfast tomorrow morning we will have to leave early to catch the train.”

RULE: The spoken words and the punctuation go inside the inverted commas.

2.  He said, “After breakfast tomorrow morning we will have to leave early to catch the train.”

RULE: There is a comma AFTER the ‘saying verb’ (e.g. He said), and BEFORE the inverted commas. The dialogue (spoken sentence) begins with a capital letter.

3. “After breakfast tomorrow morning we will have to leave early to catch the train,” he said.

RULE: If the ‘saying verb’ comes after the dialogue, we place a comma at the end of the dialogue. We use a small letter for the “saying verb’ after the dialogue (‘he’ NOT ‘He’).

4. “After breakfast tomorrow morning,” he said, ” we will have to leave early to catch the train.”

RULE: If the ‘saying verb’ interrupts the dialogue, then it is punctuated as above. We use a small letter for the ‘saying verb’. And the second dialogues (which is a continuation of the first) begins with small letter.

5.  “We must get up early tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve a train to catch.”

RULE: The above example has two dialogues (each dialogue is a complete sentence) Small letter for the saying verb.

Second dialogue begins with a capital letter.

6. “We saw your smoke. What have you been doing? Having a war or something?”

Ralph nodded.

“Nobody killed, I hope? Any dead bodies?”

“Only two. And they’ve gone.”

“Two? Killed?”

Ralph nodded again.The officer knew, as a rule, when people were telling the truth. He whistled softly.

RULE: Each speaker is given a new paragraph, no matter how long or short his or her speech may be.

RULE: Start a new paragraph when you switch from the narrative tract to the dialogue and vice versa. (Note: If the narrative tract after the dialogue is about the same speaker of the dialogue, there is usually no need for a new paragraph.)

RULE: Use block form: leave a line blank between paragraphs (speakers).

RULE: Open and close inverted commas only at the beginning and end of the spoken words, even if the speaker talks for the length of a whole paragraph!

7. That was such a frivolous outfit, I thought to myself VS “That is such a frivolous outfit,” I thought to myself.

8. Oh great, Mrs Siew had to ruin my afternoon by appearing at the door with that obnoxious brat of hers, I muttered to myself. VS “Oh great, Mrs Siew has to ruin my afternoon by appearing at the door with that obnoxious brat of hers,” I muttered to myself.

RULE: When writing in the 1st person, your readers hear your thoughts. Therefore you do not need to punctuate your thoughts. You also do not need to punctuate “things” which you say to yourself.