Appendix 1: Grammar, Usage, and Style – Business Communication, 2nd Edition

Appendix 1

Grammar, Usage, and Style

“Linguistic study no longer lays down rules for correct grammar, but studies the rules that are actually adhered to by particular cultural groups. The aim is not to give laws for human utterance, but to understand the utterances that actually occur.”


Graham Hough


Lynne Truss has based the title of her popular book Eats, Shoots & Leaves on a joke about poor punctuation1:


A panda enters a café, eats a sandwich, and starts shooting at the people in the café. When an amazed waiter blurts out a “Why?” in the ensuing confusion, the panda throws a copy of a wildlife manual at him. And sure enough, he finds the following description against the word “Panda” in the manual: “Panda: Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves.”


This is a humourous account of how just one misplaced comma or, for that matter, any other minor punctuation error can completely change the meaning of a sentence. To write correctly, one doesn't need to specialize in grammer. One does, however, need to learn some basic rules of grammar and English usage. In addition, an eye for stylistic issues like punctuation, capitalization, and references helps. The focus of this appendix is on three broad issues—grammar, English usage, and style. These are issues that are often ignored, but can make a significant difference to the quality of a written document.


According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Current English, a comma is “the study of the rules of a language’s inflections or other means of showing the relation between words including its phonetic system”2. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English clarifies that “A dictionary lists the words, grammar states the rules”3.

You are already aware of the various parts of speech, such as nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. The following sections discuss how these parts of speech are used, beginning with the rule of concord or verb-subject agreement.

Rule of Concord or Agreement

In a sentence, the verb must agree in number and person with its subject. A verb, as explained later, is a word that expresses action or presents the state in which a thing or person is. A subject is that about which something is stated in the predicate. It is a mistaken notion that a subject is the “doer” of the action. Action can be done upon the subject (e.g., he is killed). A sentence will be correct only when the subject and verb endings agree in number. A singular verb should be used with a singular subject and a plural verb with a plural subject.

Singular and Plural Subjects

The subject of a sentence is either singular or plural, and this determines the verb’s ending. The ending of a verb is singular when it ends with s and plural when it has no s at the end. For example comes is a singular verb and come is a plural verb. It is correct to say, “She comes from Jaipur” but incorrect to say, “They comes from Jaipur”.


A sentence will be correct only when the subject and verb endings agree in number. A singular verb should be used with a singular subject and a plural verb with a plural subject.

Singular nouns, singular pronouns, and uncountable nouns (such as happiness, news, time, life, love) need singular verbs that end with s.


Ram plays.

She dances.


However, the following would be exceptions:


I pray.

You go.


Plural nouns and pronouns take plural verbs.


They play.

Girls dance.

You eat.


A good rule to remember is that a sentence cannot have two s endings, one with the verb and the other with the subject. Further, plural nouns have an s at the end, and they take plural verbs, which end without an s. Conversely, singular nouns are without an s at the end, and they take singular verbs, which have an s.



Note that the following phrases are not part of the subject. Therefore, they should not be considered when determining the number of the subject:

  • along with
  • accompanied by
  • except
  • including
  • no less than
  • together with
  • with

Compound Subjects

Compound subjects are two singular subjects joined by the conjunction and; they require a plural verb.


The boy and girl are…

The story and music are…


When the words joined by and stand together as a single unit and mean one single thing, they take a singular verb. For instance, it is correct to say “The horse and carriage has come”.

Either/or Subjects

When multiple subjects are joined by either, neither, nor, or not only… but also, the verb agrees in number with the nearest subject.



If one of the subjects is plural, the verb should be plural. Hence, the plural subject may be placed closest to the verb to make it plural.


Either he or his friends have done it.


If both the subjects are singular, the verb will be singular.


Neither he nor his brother is coming.


Phrase and Clauses as Subjects

When a phrase or an entire clause is the subject, a singular verb is used. For instance: Forgiving faultsis not easy.



In case the verb is a form of be and the noun placed after it is plural, the verb will be plural.


What he gave were letters.

(Here, what he gave = letters)

Collective Nouns as Subjects

When a collective noun (such as committee, class, team, group, family) is used in the sense of a single unit or as a whole, the verb used with it is singular.


Our class has won the match.


Sometimes, however, the collective noun refers to its members acting individually. In that case, a plural verb should be used.


The committee are divided in their opinion.


Note that even the (possessive) pronoun used here is plural (their), not singular (its).

Plural Words That End in S

Words such as news, economics, mathematics, and lives are considered single units and need a singular verb.


The news says…

Physics is…

Subjects That End in S

The list below includes words that refer to only one thing, but take a plural verb.


Eyeglasses are…

Clippers trim…

Jeans are…

Riches are…

Shears cut…

Thanks are due to…

Tweezers pull…

Scissors cut…

Amounts as Subjects

When the subject mentions an amount, the verb used is singular.


Anything more than 100 km is too high a speed.

Six bushels is…

Four hundred rupees is…

Company Names, Titles, and Terms as Subjects

Name of companies, titles of books, and words used as terms take singular verbs.


Hindustan Motors is changing its business model.

The New Realities is the latest book by Drucker.

Indefinite Words as Subjects

When words such as each, every, and any are used as subjects or placed before the subject in the singular sense, they require a singular verb.



Note that when none, some, most, or all are used as the subject, they take a singular or plural verb according to their meaning. For example, consider the following uses of all and some.



Some of the lecture is not clear. (In this case, the word some indicates a part of the lecture. It is therefore a single unit and needs a singular verb.)


Some of the guests are yet to come. (Some here refers to many guests and is therefore used in the plural sense. It takes a plural verb.)

The Use of One of Those, Who(m), and Which as Subjects

When the phrases one of those, one of who (m), and one of which are used, one should see whether the words who, which, or those refer to a whole group or only to one individual or thing. The phrase takes a singular or plural verb depending on this.


Manisha is one of those students who have the textbook.


Here, Manisha is only a part of a larger group of students who have the book. Who refers to those students and therefore is plural, Thus, it takes the plural verb have. One the other hand, consider the following sentence:


Manisha is the only student who is present today.


Here, the word who refers to Manisha as the only one student and not as a part of a larger group of students. Hence a singular verb is used.

Who, Which, and That as Subjects

The verb used with who, which, and that agrees in number with the number of the antecedent word (previous word) to which it refers.



It, There Is, and There Are at the Subject Position

It used as a subject always needs a singular verb, without considering the number of whatever follows the verb.


It was the songs that made the movie so popular.


But the use of there is or there are depends on the complement placed after the verb.


Exercise A1.A Correct Use of Verbs

Choose the correct verb from the options given in parentheses:

  1. Ten pieces of bread (is, are) too much for the two of us.

  2. There (was, were) a whole pile of files before him.

  3. Each of the students (was, were) awarded.

  4. The quantity of the books presented (vary, varies).

  5. The most popular of the Indian epics (is, are) the Ramayana.

  6. The cause for the delay (was, were) known to all.

  7. The president, along with his bodyguards, (is, are) coming.

  8. Politics (is, are) a subject for scoundrels.

  9. It (is, are) they who wanted to go.

  10. He is one of the managers who (is, are) attending the training programme.


A verb is a word or group of words that express action or present a state in which a thing or person is. It may join the subject with the rest of the sentence. It is not possible to write or speak a complete sentence without at least one verb in it. Some characteristics of verbs are discussed below.

  1. Verbs express action.


    I read poetry sometimes.

    She plays basketball daily.


  2. Some verbs (known as linking verbs) show the relationship of the subject to the rest of the sentence.


    They feel happy.

    The child is hungry.


  3. Verbs provide information regarding time.


    You are reading this book. (present)

    He went away. (past)

    I shall come tomorrow. (future)


  4. Verbs indicate the number of the subject.


    Our English teacher loves her students. (singular: there is one doer of the action)

    They always shout in the class. (plural: there are multiple doers)


  5. Verbs agree with the subject.


    I like to sing. (first person)

    We study together. (first person, plural)

    You like to sing. (second person)

    He/she likes to sing. (third person)

Verb Tense

Verb tense is the form of the verb that tells the reader the time of action. The verb tense indicates past, present, or future. There are four kinds of tenses each for present, past, and future:

  1. Simple or indicative
  2. Progressive or continuous: be + –ing form of the verb
  3. Perfect: have/has, had, shall + –ed form of the verb
  4. Perfect continuous: have/had + been + –ing form of the verb

Exhibit A1.1 shows how these verbs differ in usage.


Exhibit A1.1 Verb Tenses


Present tense   There are four types of present tenses.


Simple present describes things (situations or actions) which are present now and are habitually true.

  1. Simple or indicative present: The simple or indicative present tense describes situations or actions that are present now and are habitually true. At times, the simple present tense can express future time if there is another word in the sentence that clearly refers to the future.


    Here comes the train. (happening just now)

    He goes out on tour every month. (habitually true)

    The earth goes round the sun. (always true)

    The square of two is four. (always true)

    Tomorrow, Shweta goes abroad. (future)


  2. Present progressive (continuous): This is used in two situations.
    1. To mention a particular action that is taking place at the time of speaking and is in progress and unfinished.


      I am writing a letter. (an activity in progress)

      The train is running late.

      He is sleeping.


    2. To describe a situation—not an activity—that is temporary.

      He is sitting in the last row. (The present continuous form of the verb has two parts: is or are + –ing form of the verb)


      She is dancing.

      We are playing.


    The progressive form is not used to express what someone sees, hears, smells, feels, or tastes (the sense perceptions) on a specific occasion, bur rather, refers to perceptions that are in progress. Sometimes the simple present tense is used (e.g., I see a bus coming.). Note that this can also be written with the help of can (e.g., I can see a bus coming.). If the progressive form is used to express sense perceptions, it indicates something that is continuous over a much longer period.


    I am seeing much better since my operation.


    The progressive present tense is generally used in the passive voice when it refers to the future.


    The progressive present tense is generally used in the passive voice when it refers to the future.


    The case is being discussed at the next board meeting. (not The case is discussed or The case is to be discussed)


    In addition, when the interrogative form is used, the progressive present tense is used.


    When are you going to meet them? (not When do you go to meet them?)


  3. Present perfect: The present perfect tense describes an action that began in the past and continues in the present.


    I have taught this class for three months.

    I have used a ball pen since I was in school.


    The present perfect tense can take the form: — has (or) have + third form (past participle) of the verb.


    They have gone.

    He has finished the letter.

    I have written a letter.


  4. Present perfect progressive (continuous): The present perfect tense describes action that began in the past, continues in the present, and may continue into the future (as it has not yet finished).


    I have been writing the letter for an hour.

    We have been living here since 1997.


    The present perfect progressive tense can take the form: — have or has + been + –ing form of the verb.


    He has been reading.

    She has been dancing.


Past tense   There are four types of past tenses.

  1. Simple past: The simple past is used to describe actions or conditions of the past.


    We attended the summer training last year. (completed action)

    I was cold yesterday. (completed condition)

    Ancient people believed that the sun moved around the Earth.

    The train arrived before time.

    I studied for two hours.


  2. Past continuous (progressive): The past continuous describes an action that took place in the past over a period of time.


    We were driving back when heavy rains came down.

    When we arrived, they were sleeping.


    The past continuous can take the form: — was or were + –ing form of the verb.


    She was dancing.

    He was eating.


  3. Past perfect: This tense is used for an action or event completed before another event in the past.


    When we reached, the train had already left the station.

    The past perfect takes the form: — had + ed form of the verb (past participle).


  4. Past perfect continuous: The past perfect continuous tense indicates a continuing condition in the past.


    My brother had been planning to come here when he fell ill.


Future tense   There are four types of future tenses.

  1. Simple future: The simple future tense expresses actions or events that will occur in the future. It takes the form: — shall or will + base form of the verb.


    I shall complete this letter tomorrow.

    I shall meet him.

    They will come.


  2. Future continuous: The future continuous tense refers to future action that will go on for some time. It takes the form: — shall or will + be + –ing form of the verb.


    I shall be expecting your reply.

    He will be playing.


  3. Future perfect: The future perfect tense indicates actions that will be completed by or before a specific time in the future.


    By Monday, the teacher will have covered this last chapter.


  4. Future perfect progressive: The future perfect continuous tense is used to express actions or conditions that will continuously take place until a particular time in the future. It takes the form: will or shall + have + been + –ing form of the verb.


    In December we will have been doing this course for a year.


When since denotes time, it refers to a specific point of time in the past, up to and including the present moment. It connects a past action or situation with the present.

Tenses with since   When since denotes time, it refers to a specific point of time in the past, up to and including the present moment. It connects a past action or situation with the present. Therefore, the word since is normally preceded by the perfect tense of the verb.


We have not seen any movies since March. (not did not see)

We have stayed in this house since 1996. (not we stay here)


If the activity or process described has been going on since the specified point and is still happening, the perfect continuous tense should be used.


I have been studying since 4 o’clock this morning. (not I am studying…)


When the specified point of time in the past is expressed by an adverbial clause beginning with since, the verb of this clause must be in the past tense.


He has not met me since we left Delhi. (not have left)

We have lived with our uncle since our father died. (not has died)

Since the move to the new house, he has been happier. (not has moved.)


When using since, the verb in the main clause is in the perfect tense and the word since is followed either by a word or a clause in the past tense or by a phrase showing past time (such as since the partition, since 1947, since last week).

Two exceptions to this general practice are:

  1. When the main clause refers to the duration of time between a certain point in the past and the present, the present tense and not the perfect tense is used in this (main) clause.


    It is twenty days since I met him. (not has been)

    How long is it since you had been there? (not has it been)


  2. When the point of time from which we consider the action or event in the past is the beginning of a situation that has continued and is still present, then the perfect tense is used in the since clause instead of the past tense.


    They have never been to that place since I have been away.


    In this sentence, since I have been away means “I am still away”; since I was away would have meant “I am no longer away”.


In an adverbial clause dependent on the main clause, the simple present tense is normally used.

The future tense in adverbial clauses   In an adverbial clause dependent on the main clause, the simple present tense is normally used.


I shall meet you when I come to Delhi. (not when I shall come)

We shall go on a tour as soon as the schools close. (not will close)

I shall not come if it rains.

You will miss the train unless you move faster.

I plan to buy a new car when the prices come down.


In reported speech, the verbs shall and will change to should or would in the main clause and the present tense of the subordinate clause is changed into the corresponding past tense.


He said he would wait until I come back.

My father told them that they should carry his umbrella in case it rained.


The helping verb will may be used in the subordinate clause, but not when referring to the future. Instead, it is used when referring to the present, for instance in the sense “if you are willing”.


He will sing if you join him.


Again, it is possible to use future tense in the adverbial clause. In these sentences, the second clause is not a subordinate clause; instead, it is an essential and restrictive modification to the main clause.


You may come tomorrow, when I shall have more time to meet you.

Go to the main market, where you will find a bookshop.


Sometimes, it is possible to use the present continuous form of the verb in the adverbial clause if the condition or activity is in progress at the time of making the statement.


I shall stay in if it is raining.

Do not go to your class if you are not feeling better.

Inform us if you are going to have guests.


Tense in sentences with conditions   In sentences with conditions, the tense of the verb has to be in accordance with the nature (kind) of the condition. There are three kinds of conditions:

  1. Probable condition (may or may not happen)


    In sentences with conditions, the tense of the verb has to be in accordance with the nature (kind) of the condition.

  2. Improbable condition (might have happened, but has not)
  3. Impossible condition (a supposed condition that cannot happen)
  1. Probable condition: A probably condition is one that is uncertain, meaning it may or may not be fulfilled. It is also called an open condition. For a probable condition that refers to the present, the present tense is used in both the main clause and the conditional clause.


    If it rains, I shall not go out.

    If water boils, it turns to steam.

    If I study for too long, I become tired.

    If it is only 6 p.m., we have a lot of time to pack for the trip.


    If the condition refers to the future, the present tense is used in the conditional clause and the future tense is used in the main clause.


    If I am free, I shall go to meet her.

    If I find a good book, I shall get it for you.


    If an instruction or order is expressed in the main clause, the imperative form of the word is used in place of the future tense.


    If you see him, ask him to call me.


    In the case of past events or actions, both the clauses (main and conditional clauses) take the past tense.


    If the director received any report about a student, he investigated it personally.


    On the other hand, if the sentence refers to a particular event or situation that was in the future when considered from a specific point in the past, then the past tense is used in the conditional clause and the future in its past form in the main clause.


    If I had some free time, I would spend it doing some social service.


  2. Improbable condition (a rejected condition): An improbable condition is one that could have been fulfilled, but has not been fulfilled. To express this kind of condition, the past subjunctive (conditional mood) is used in the conditional clause if the verb is of the “to be” form. The past simple (indicative) is used if it is any other verb. The future in the past form is used in the main clause.


    If she were alive, we would reunite.

    If his marks were not so poor, he would be promoted.

    If we had money, we would go shopping.


    If these sentences referred to the past, then they would be written as:


    If she had been alive we could have reunited.

    If we had had money, we could have gone shopping.


  3. Impossible condition: An impossible condition is a purely imaginary, hypothetical condition that could not be possibly true.


    If I were a king, I would rule by love, not by power or fear.

    If I had all the wealth in the world, I would still not be happy.

    If the sentence refers to the past, were changes to had been and would or should becomes would have or should have.

    I would have fought against this injustice if I were you.

    What would you have done if you had been caught taking a bribe?


Prepositions and Conjunctions

In English, the use of prepositions is by convention. There is no rule to explain why a certain verb, adjective, or noun is to be followed only by a particular preposition in a particular sense. Even native speakers of English sometimes have trouble sometimes choosing prepositions that follow certain words. Therefore, one should consult a dictionary for the correct use of prepositions when in doubt. Study the examples of idiomatic use of prepositions given in Exhibit A1.2.


Exhibit A1.2 Use of Prepositions

Incorrect Correct
accused for accused of
afraid from afraid of
apologize about apologize for
boast for boast about
capable to capable of
comply to comply with
excepting for except for
in search for in search of
independent from independent of
outlook of life outlook on life
similar with similar to

In English, the use of prepositions is by convention.

Non-native speakers of English must learn the large number of two-part verbs, with their different meanings, such as:


   add up: add

look for: seek

   breakdown: analyse

look into: investigate

   bring on: cause

look like: resemble

   bring to: revive

look out for: beware of

   burn down: destroy by burning

look up: search for

   burn up: consume by fire

look over: examine

   call off: cancel

pass out: distribute, faint

   call up: telephone

pick out: choose

   carry on: continue

put off: postpone

   carry out: fulfil, complete

put out: extinguish

   come back: return

run across: discover by chance

   come over: visit

run into: meet by chance

   come to: regain

run out of: exhaust one’s supply

   cross out: delete

run over: hit by a car

   cut down: reduce in quantity

show off: display

   cut off: interrupt, sever

show up: appear

   cut out: eliminate, delete

take down: record in writing

   cut up: cut into small pieces

take off: remove, undress

   get by: succeed with minimum effort

take up: bring up for discussion

   get out of: escape, evade

talk over: discuss

   get through: finish

try out: test

   give out: distribute

turn in: deliver, hand over

   give up: surrender

turn off: put out of operation

   go over: review

turn on: put into operation

   keep on: continue

use up: consume

Exercise A1.B Pattern Practice

  1. The following paragraph is in the present tense. Change it to the past tense by underlining the verbs and giving their past tense forms. Follow the example of the first sentence, in which this has already been done.

    Gandhi ji’s perception of his role in society as an upholder of the right and the rights of people inspires his social communication in the form of articles in Indian Opinion, Young India and Navajivan. [Gandhi ji’s perception of his role in society as an upholder of the right and the rights of people inspired his social communication in the form of articles in Indian Opinion, Young India and Navajivan.] As a social communicator, Gandhi ji always aims at establishing an intimate and clean bond between the writer and reader. This is why he writes his articles most thoughtfully, after carefully putting a curb on his pen. His articles in Indian Opinion, from 1904 to 1914, are, therefore, read with great trust and acceptance of the facts about his Satyagrah Campaign in South Africa in the early decades of the 20th century. In Auotbiography, Gandhi ji calls his readers’ letters, written in response to his articles, “outpourings of my correspondents’ hearts”.4

  2. In the following paragraph, select the correct verbs from those given in parentheses. Remember that the form of the verb should be in accordance with the meaning of the sentence.

    The next important element in the writing situation (are, is, will) the intended audience. On some occasions, your essay (will define, defines, is defining) how your readers (are, will) likely to respond. If you (will, have, are) writing an autobiographical essay, for example, readers (will, may, are) meet you on your own terms. On other occasions, however, you (will, must, have) accommodate your audience by knowing who they (is, are, have, will be) and what they (will, are, have) expecting. You (do, will, are) not want to bore your readers if you (will hope, have hope, hope) that they (will accept, accept) your proposal.

  3. Complete the following sentences with the correct tense of the verb given at the end.

    1. They_________nothing to drink or eat since 7 o’clock this morning. (have)

    2. She has not_________to our place since last Diwali. (come)

    3. Ever since she_________that fall, she_________with a walking stick. (have, move)

    4. Since my daughter_________to that school, she_________rapid progress. (go, make)

    5. I_________three jobs since I_________working three years ago. (have, start)

    6. You will not pass the class unless you_________harder. (work)

    7. Do not write to her until you_________from me. (hear)

    8. We had better carry some food with us, in case the shops_________closed. (be)

    9. If you_________him, he_________your attention to two dangers that threaten the wildlife of the world. (ask, draw)

    10. If we_________killing species after species of animals, we_________left with nothing of life on Earth. (go, will).

  4. Fill in the blanks in the following sentences with a verb to make them conditional sentences as indicated at the end of each sentence.

    1. If he_________Mumbai, he will meet his brother. (probable/open)

    2. If she_________into my house, my dog will bite her. (probable/open)

    3. If I_________my grandmother I should recognize her. (improbable/rejected)

    4. If the child_________into a pond, he would drown. (improbable)

    5. If I_________one minute earlier, I would have caught the bus. (improbable)

    6. If I_________eighteen, I would join the armed forces. (impossible/imaginary)

    7. If I_________you, I would have helped her. (impossible)

    8. If I_________you I'd nurture all these plants. (improbable)

    9. If I_________your exact arrival schedule I would have met you at the airport. (improbable)

    10. If she had fallen into the river she_________drowned. (imaginary/impossible)

Idiomatic Use of Prepositions

Note the use of correct prepositions in some common expressions:


He was accused of cheating. (not for cheating)

I am afraid of rats. (not from rats)

She was afraid to watch the horror movie. (No preposition is used when afraid is followed by the infinitive form of a verb.)


The teacher was very angry with her students. (not at or against her students)


He was angry at what I said. (One is angry with a person but at something.)

We do not approve of her remarks.

We always arrive at the office on time. (not arrive to the office)

I arrive home at nine o’clock daily.

It was quite late when we arrived at my sister’s home.


No preposition is required before the word home. However, if home is used as a possessive noun, as in the phrase “my sister’s home”, it is preceded by the preposition at.


A learned person should not boast of his knowledge. (not for his knowledge)

A learned person should not boast about his knowledge. (The use of about is also correct with the word boast.)

My father is very careful of his health. (not for his health)

He was careful not to fall ill. (When careful is followed by an infinitive, no preposition is used.)

He was careless of the consequences.

The medicine will cure you of your cold. (not from your cold)

She died of cancer.

He died from overeating.

They died from their injuries. (One dies of a disease but from doing something.)

He is different from his brother. (Not than his brother)

We disapprove of his conduct. (not about his conduct)

She was dressed in black.

The box was full of sarees. (not full with sarees)

I was glad of a break after my long journey.

I am glad to inform you that we plan to visit you soon. (No preposition is used before an infinitive.)

Your warning was very helpful to us. (not for us)

My grandson is interested in cricket. (not about cricket)

Goats live on grass.

He lived by robbing others. (If live refers to earning a living, then by is used to specify the method or means of living.)

Flour is made from wheat. (not of wheat)

The chair is made of steel. (not from steel)


When a new substance is made out of something, the word from is used, but when the original material is not changed in substance and is only given a new form, the preposition of is used.


I married my friend’s sister.


As a verb, marry can be either transitive or intransitive. As a transitive verb it takes no preposition. But when used as an adjective, married is followed by to.


I am married to my friend’s sister.


In these sentences, the second clauses is not a subordinate clause,; instead, it is an essential and restrictive modificationreally coordinate to the main clause.

Exercise A1.C Idiomatic Use of Prepositions

The correct forms of several prepositions are given below. Frame sentences to bring out their correct meaning.


Pleased with

Prefer to

Proud of

Rid of

Sit at

Sit on

Sit in

Sorry for

Sorry about

Take care of

Useful to

Useful for

Useless to

Useless for

Write in

Write with (When write refers to the act of writing and the object (pen/pencil) is the instrument of writing, the preposition used is with.)

Words Followed by Prepositions

Particular words are followed by specific prepositions in different contexts, even though there may be several other prepositions that have the same meaning. For instance, out of the many prepositions or prepositional phrases signifying cause, the verb die takes only of for indicating an illness that was the cause of death. Thus we say, “He died of fever”. We do not say, “He died through fever, or by fever, or from fever, or owing to fever, or on account of fever, or with fever”. In other contexts, all of these prepositions may be used to denote cause. Though we always say “died of fever”, we never say “sick of fever”, but always “sick with fever”, where with and of are both used to indicate causes.


Particular words are followed by specific prepositions in different contexts, even though there may be several other prepositions that have the same meaning.

The following examples show what the meaning of a verb is when it stands alone, and how its meaning is modified when a preposition is added to it.


Attend He attends (goes to) the meeting. He attends to the meeting (gives his mind to the business of the meeting).

Bear We must bear (endure, suffer) his reproaches. We must bear with (endure patiently, tolerate) his reproaches.

Begin Let us begin his song (start singing it). Let us begin with this song (sing this song before we sing any other).

Believe I do not believe this man (accept his statements to be true). I do not believe in this man (trust in his honesty).

Call I will call him (say his name out loud and ask him to come). I will call on him (visit him at his house).

Catch He caught (seized) the reins. He caught at (tried to seize) the reins.

Close This closes (finishes, concludes) the bargain. I cannot close with (accept) such a bargain.

Commence We must commence this work (begin to do it) today. We should commence with this work (do this work before doing any other).

Consult I must consult you (ask your advice) on this point. I must consult (take counsel) with you on this point.

Count Have you counted (added up) the money? I count on that money (depend on it).

Deal He dealt (distributed) the cards. He dealt in (sold or traded) cards and other kinds of games.

Dispense Dispense (distribute) your chores fairly. We can dispense with (we do not require) your charity.

Eat Do you ever eat cheese? The mice are eating into the cheese (making a hole in it by eating).

Feel Feel this table (examine it by feeling or touching it). The blind man is feeling for the table (trying to find the table with his hands).

Gain He finally gained the land (reached it safely). The sea is gaining on the land (washing it down) along this coast.

Grasp He grasped (seized and held tight) the money. He grasped at (attempted to seize) the money.

Guard Guard this man (protect him) from danger. Guard against (take every precaution against) this man.

Guess He guessed the facts (correctly hit upon the facts by guess or conjecture). He guessed at the facts (made a guess or conjecture concerning them).

Inquire He inquired about the reason for the delay (asked what was the cause). He inquired into the reason for the delay (investigated the reason for the delay by carefully examining the evidence).

Meet I met him as I was walking down the road. I met with him (set up a prearranged meeting) in the library.

Prepare He prepared (got the food ready) a feast. He prepared for the feast (got ready for the feast).

Repair Let us repair the house (fix the problems). Let us repair to (go to) the house.

Search Search that thief (examine his clothes and belongings). Search for that thief (try to find where he is).

See Do you not see (perceive) this danger? We must see to this danger (attend to it).

Send Send (despatch) the doctor at once. Send for the doctor (call the doctor).

Snatch He snatched the book (seized it by a rapid movement of the hand). He snatched at the book (attempted to seize it).

Strike He struck the dog. He struck at (aimed a blow at or endeavoured to strike) the dog.

Taste He tasted the salt. This water tastes of (has a flavour of) salt.

Touch He has not yet touched that point (come to the point under debate). He touched upon the point (briefly alluded to it).

Work He worked (managed) the machine. He worked at (was busily engaged with) the machine.


Sometimes there is no appreciable difference of meaning between a verb standing alone and the same verb followed by a preposition. Here are some such examples:


Join, or join in, a game Know, or know of, a fact
Beg, or beg of, a person to do something Penetrate, or penetrate into
Confess, or confess to, a fault Enter, or enter into, a house
Succeed, or succeed to, some goal Judge, or judge of, a person

Exercise A1.D Correct Use of Prepositions

Insert the correct prepositions or prepositional phrases in the sentences below.

    1. I acquit you________all complicity________the crime and hope you will be compensated the________troubles inflicted________you________the groundless imputation.

    2. I was horrified________the sight________so much distress.

    3. He did not die________ cholera, but________the effects ________ overexposure ________the sun________an unhealthy time________the year.

    4. This shopkeeper deals________grain, but he did not deal honestly________me, and I shall have no more dealings________him in the future.

    5. You will have to answer________me________your misconduct.

    6. Forty students competed________each another________a single scholarship.

    7. I must consult________you________that matter.

    8. Do not exult________the victory you have won________your rival.

    9. He is not possessed________much wisdom, but is possessed________a very high notion ________his own importance.

    10. Will you entrust me________that letter? No, I will entrust nothing________you.

    11. Always be prepared________the worst.

    12. That motive prevails________me.

    13. I prevailed________him to make the attempt, but he could not prevail________his adversary.

    14. I rejoiced not only________my own success, but________yours too.

    15. We must provide________our children.

    16. All nations are trying to stop industry________polluting the environment.

    17. Why do you stare me________the face? It is bad manners to stare________one in that manner.

    18. The ship docked________Gibraltar.

    19. He touched________the subject of tides.

    20. He supplied money________the men; in return, they supplied his horses________ provender.

    21. He could smile________their threats for fortune continued to smile________him.

    22. They proceeded________discuss the matters that had come up yesterday, before they proceeded________the consideration of new questions.

    23. Do not live_______riches, but whatever you live, live________honesty; and if you have to live________a small income, live________your means.

    24. He is labouring________a misapprehension, but he thinks he is labouring________a good cause and________the public welfare.

    25. He once helped me________an obligation, and therefore I am very unwilling to lay the blame of this affair________him.

    26. He not only intruded________my property, but________my leisure, for I was engaged ________that time________reading an interesting book.

    27. The railway lines intersect________each other________this place.

    28. Let me intercede________you________my friend.

    29. I inquired________that matter.

    30. He is impressed________that notion, and he desires to impress it________me.

    1. The river________which I went fishing________my brother abounds________fish; we took a boat and rowed________the stream________the opposite bank.

    2. He promised to abide_______the contract, and they relied_______his honour_______ its fulfilment. But they were disappointed_______this decision and found they could never trust their work_______him again.

    3. He lives________very little and does so________abstaining________every kind of luxury and accustoming himself________humble fare such as is suitable________a person ________small income.

    4. The person who stood________the judge yesterday was accused________throwing a stone ________his neighbour’s window; but nothing more came________the matter and he was acquitted________the charge.

    5. A man________integrity will adhere________his convictions and act________a sense ________duty, even if men rail________him and think him weak________his understanding and common sense.

    6. The intentions________that man admit________no doubt; we must agree________his terms, whether we approve________them or not, and there is no reason to be anxious ________the result.

    7. Aim________doing your duty________all risks, and do not be uneasy in mind________ the consequences.

    8. He was much alarmed________what he had just heard and alluded________it as soon as he arrived________my house and alighted________his carriage.

    9. The ship stopped a little away________the shore, and an experienced man was at once appointed________the post of pilot________bringing her________port.

    10. He had a great affection________his parents, but he had no taste________hard work and was not attentive________his studies.

    11. One man complained________the magistrate________Ashish’s dishonesty; another brought a complaint________Ashish that he had some debt; in fact, Ashish had made many enemies________himself.

    12. When you are in school, attend________your studies. What has been the cause________ your idleness hitherto? Surely there was no just cause________such laziness.

    13. He took advantage________my ignorance, but he gained no real advantage________ me in the end.

    14. I am vexed________him________what he has done.

    15. A man is adapted________any occupation that is adapted________his capacities.

Structural Use of the Infinitive, Gerunds, and Participles

The Infinitive

To + verb (to walk)   A verb that is used with “to” does not have any number or person as it does not combine with any subject. This mood denotes an action, without referring to the doer.

There are four forms of the infinitive mood; two are in the present tense and two are in the past tense as shown in Exhibit A1.3.


Exhibit A1.3 Forms of the Infinitive


An infinitive has no future form. However, the future can be expressed in the infinitive by a phrase such as “to be about to write” and “to be on the point of wiring”.

Use of the infinitive without to   To is usually used with an infinitive verb, but it can sometimes be omitted.

  1. The word to is not used after the following main verbs: please, hear, see, feel, watch, behold, know, let, bid, dare, need, make.
    1. Please hear me.
    2. I hear you speak of a better future.
    3. I saw her take the oath solemnly.
    4. She feels the hot sand strike against her body.
    5. They watched us leave and come back.
    6. We watched the sun set.
    7. Let the past remain buried.
    8. She bade me tell her the whole story.
    9. I dare not say this to my father.
    10. The seniors made the juniors sit and get up a hundred times.
  2. If dare is being used as an affirmative verb (without not), the word to is used after dare.


    She dares to do it herself.

    He dares to challenge his elder brother.


  3. To is used after the adjective better.


    Better to be late than absent.

    Better to live on dreams.


  4. To is not used after the verb had in phrases like “had sooner”, “had better”, and “had rather”.


    She had better not remain here.

    I had rather read this book than that journal.

    I had as soon walk as run.


    (Please note that “had” here is used in a subjective sense “would have”. “I had rather read this book than that journal” means I would prefer to read the book instead of the journal.)

  5. To is not used after the conjunction than.


    I am better able to sing than dance. (than I am able to dance)


  6. To is left out after the preposition but if it follows the verb do.


    They did nothing but talk.


    The sentences below use verbs that do not require to when used in the infinitive:

    1. Let us/go for a walk.
    2. Do not let his threats/stop you.
    3. She lets her students/read what they want.
    4. I felt the table/shake.
    5. He will not have his sons/spoil themselves.
    6. I heard someone/come in.
    7. I watched the train/disappear from my sight.
    8. She made her students/repeat the lessons.
    9. They did not notice anyone/come out of the door.
    10. Many people saw the thief/snatch her chain.

    The words help and know can take the infinitive form with or without to.


    A driver helped me start my car.

    A driver helped me to start my car.

    I felt the suggestion to be excellent. (Here, felt is used in the sense “to think”.)


Two types of infinitives   Infinitives are of two kinds:

  1. The simple infinitive, also called the noun infinitive
  2. The qualifying infinitive or the gerundial infinitive

The noun infinitive acts as a noun and can be used as (a) the subject of a verb; (b) the object to a verb; (c) the complement to a verb; or (d) the object to certain prepositions.

  1. As the subject of a verb:


    To forgive is to forget. (The noun is forgiveness.)


  2. As the object to a verb:


    A brave man does not fear to die. (The noun is death.)


  3. As the complement to a verb:


    The Supreme Court ordered him to be released.

    She appears to be an intelligent student.


  4. As the object to the prepositions about, except, but, and than:


    The train was about to depart. (The noun is departure.)

    He aimed at nothing but to succeed (success).

    She did nothing other than sing.


The gerundial or qualifying infinitive can be used to (a) qualify a verb, (b) qualify a noun, (c) qualify an adjective, or (d) introduce a parenthesis.

  1. It can qualify a verb by modifying its sense of purpose, cause, or result.


    They came to meet me. (qualifies purpose)

    She wept to see her ailing mother (qualifies cause).

    I studied hard to be selected in the last round. (qualifies result)


  2. It can qualify a noun by modifying its sense of purpose. The infinitive can be attributive or predicative.


    A house to let. (attributive)

    This house is to be sold (predicative, complement to verb is)


  3. It can qualify an adjective by modifying its sense of purpose or respect.


    She is quickto learn and quick to forget.


  4. An example of the gerundial infinitive being used to introduce a parenthetical statement is:


    I am, to tell you the truth, sick of all these discussions.

    Thus, a gerundial infinitive can work both as an adverb and an adjective.


It is generally used as the subject and followed by an infinitive, in apposition to “it” after the adjective. Study the basic pattern of this structural use of the infinitive as given in Exhibit A1.4.


Exhibit A1.4 Structural Use of the Infinitive

Subject Adjective Infinitive
It is wrong to kill
It is unsafe to cross the road
It is difficult to believe a liar
It is foolish to waste your time
It is selfish to consume more than you deserve
It is silly to talk like that
It is impossible to live without water
It is rude to interrupt someone
It is dangerous to swim in a flooded river

The same structure may also be used with a noun in place of an adjective before the infinitive, as shown in Exhibit A1.5.


Exhibit A1.5 Structural Use of the Infinitive

Subject Noun Infinitive
It was a shame to insult the parents
It was fun to attend the circus
It is a pleasure to meet a healthy old person
It is a mistake to postpone things for tomorrow
It is a pity to neglect historical buildings

All the statements made in sentences with the form “adjective + the infinitive” are general. They can be applied to anyone. If they are to be applied only to a particular group of people, then a restrictive phrase beginning with for is used between the adjective and the infinitive. By doing this, the noun or pronoun that follows for becomes the subject of the infinitive. For example, see the sentences in Exhibit A1.6.


Exhibit A1.6 Restrictive Use of the Infinitive with for

It + Adjective For Infinitive
It is impossible for you to live there alone
It is rude for a child to speak those words
It is difficult forme to forget the accident
It is easy for anyone to find that place
It is not safe for you to stay there.
It is absurd for them to expect so much
It is dangerous for children to play on the roof
It is early forme to go to office.

In some cases, for can be used even after a noun (not an adjective) to emphasize the doer and not the action. Examples are shown in Exhibit A1.7.


Exhibit A1.7 Use of for to Emphasize the Doer

Exercise A1.E Use of It

  1. Rewrite the following sentences, using the introductory it.

    1. To take what belongs to you is your right.

    2. To follow what he said was easy.

    3. To abuse someone is rude.

    4. To read your handwriting is impossible.

    5. To go by road will be best.

    6. To miss this chance would be a pity.

    7. To cheat your parents is immoral.

    8. To postpone your programme is difficult.

    9. To miss your lectures is not easy.

    10. To give such a big advance was a big mistake.

  2. Complete the following sentences by using for followed by an infinitive verb.

    1. It is wise.
    2. Will it be impossible________?
    3. It is bad.
    4. It is easy.
    5. Is it safe________?
    6. It is a shame.
    7. It is a good thing.
    8. It is a hope.
    9. It is natural.
    10. Is it fair________?
  3. Complete the following sentences by adding an infinitive with or without to.

    1. You should not let him________.
    2. As I entered the room I felt something________.
    3. Most of them felt the idea________.
    4. A change in weather enabled us________.
    5. No one heard them________.
    6. I saw a person in black________.
    7. The law requires all citizens________.
    8. By chance I happened________there.
    9. I can, perhaps, persuade my father________.
    10. I never let any one________.

A participle consists of two parts of speech combined in one phrase. For instance, in the sentence “An experienced teacher is required”, a verb and adjective are combined.

The Participle

A participle is a double or two parts of speech combined in one: a verb and adjective combined. For instance, in the sentence “An experienced teacher is required”, a verb and adjective are combined. The word experience acts as a verb here, for it is a form of the verb to experience. It acts also as an adjective because it qualifies the noun teacher. Therefore, a participle is a verbal adjective.

The forms of participles are as follows:

Transitive verbs

  Active Voice Passive Voice
Present or continuous tense Writing Being written
Past tense (X) Written
Perfect tense Having written Having been written

Intransitive verbs

  Active Voice
Present or continuous tense Rising
Past tense Risen
Perfect tense Having risen

As part of a finite verb, all the tenses of the passive voice are formed from the “to be” form of the verb and the past participle (“The letter is written”, “The letter was written”, “The letter will be written”). All the continuous tenses in the active voice are formed with the help of the “to be” form of verb followed by the present participle (“I was writing a letter”, “I shall be writing a letter”). Again, all the perfect tenses in the active voice are formed with the verb “to have” followed by the past participle (“I had written”, “I shall have written”).

When a participle acts as an adjective, it is generally a descriptive adjective. Like any descriptive adjective it can (a) qualify a noun, (b) be qualified by an adverb, (c) change according to degrees of comparison, and (d) be used as a noun.

  1. Being tired of writing, I went for a walk.
  2. The injured were rushed to the hospital in.
  3. The colour of my shirt is more faded than that of his shirt.
  4. The witness could not recall the past.

When a participle acts as a verb, it can have an object, which can be of five kinds:


Having finished the work, he went home. (Direct object)

She stays there, teaching her friend’s children English. (Indirect object)

Having been taught English so thoroughly, he was an effective teacher. (Retrieved object)

I saw Iraqis fighting a losing battle. (Cognate object).

Having sat herself down, she began to drink. (Reflective object)


The use of past participles in active or passive voice depends upon whether the verb is transitive or intransitive. In the case of a transitive verb, the past participle is always used with the passive voice, never in the active voice.


The use of past participles in active or passive voice depends upon whether the verb is transitive or intransitive.


The much-awaited news turned out to be disappointing.


If the verb is intransitive, the past participle is not used at all in most cases. But if it is used, it is placed before its noun and not after it. Examples are: the lost leader, the retired general, the fallen tower, a failed student, a departed friend, a faded lily, a withered plant, the dead soldier.

The past participle of verbs sometimes expresses some permanent habit, state, or character.


An outspoken person (a person who always speaks his/her mind).

A well-behaved boy (a boy whose habitual behaviour is good).

A well-read scholar (a scholar who has read a lot).


A gerund is a term that combines a verb and a noun.


I dream of becoming a great scholar.


In this sentence becoming is a part of the verb become, and it is also a noun as it is the object to which the preposition of refers. A gerund is called a “verbal noun”.

Because a gerund is a kind of noun, it has to be the subject to some verb or the object to some transitive verb; or the complement to some intransitive verb; or the object to some preposition.


Subject of a verb: Walking is good for one’s health.

Object to a verb: I enjoy walking early in the morning in the park.

Complement to a verb: His first interest was eating.

Object to a preposition: He was interested in eating.


A gerund is like an abstract noun or a noun infinitive.


Gerund: Walking is good for one’s health.

Noun-infinitive:To walk is good for one’s health.

Abstract Noun: An early morning walk is good for health.

As verbal noun, the gerund to be is preceded by the and followed by of.

I am busy in the writing of a new book.

I am busy in writing a new book.


When used as a part of a verb, a gerund can be followed by an object, which may be of the following kinds:


Direct (with transitive verb): He is good at teaching English.

Indirect (with transitive verb): He is good at teaching his sister English.

Retained (with passive voice): She is pleased at being taught English.

Cognate (with intransitive verb): We are ashamed of having fought a poor fight.

Reflective (with intransitive verb): He is fond of praising himself.


Some verbs can be used either with a gerund or an infinitive as an object. However, there is a difference in the way they are used. The infinitive refers to a specific occasion or a specific instance, whereas the gerund refers to something that is more general.


She does not like to write to the newspapers. (on a specific subject or point in time)

She does not like writing to the newspapers. (a general dislike)

We prefer to stay together. (on a particular occasion)

We prefer staying together. (general preference)

The infinitive used with afraid (of) refers to the thing that fear discourages one from doing.

The old man was afraid to cross the street.

Arun was afraid to touch the cobra.


The gerund indicates a possible result that causes the particular fear. In these examples, the old man was afraid of being run over by a vehicle when crossing the street and Arun was afraid of being bitten by the cobra.

The gerund is the only part of a verb that follows a preposition.


I was punished for disturbing the class.


The typical examples of this pattern are given below.


We locked the gates/before going out.

The thief entered the house/by breaking the door.

We cannot live/without sleeping.

She was congratulated/on winning the gold medal.

The magistrate fined/me for speeding.

She is very clever/at designing dresses.


Adjectives and verbs (fond of, interested in, object to) that are always used in a specific combination must be followed by a gerund, not an infinitive.


My son is interested in reading novels (not to read novels)

She objects to doing it. (not objects to do it).

Exercise A1.F Selecting the Correct Form of Verb

Fill in the blank with the correct form of the verb given in parentheses.

  1. No one can stop me from________what is right. (do)

  2. Do not let me prevent you from________. (go)

  3. We were surprised at________your father there. (find)

  4. By________early, they avoided the heavy traffic, (leave)

  5. On________the news, they decided to postpone the meeting. (hear)

  6. This milk is not fit for________. (drink)

  7. He was charged with________into a house. (break)

  8. He fell ill by________stale food. (eat)

  9. She was disqualified for________. (cheat)

  10. The whole class was punished for________so much noise. (make)


In this section, we shall discuss some common pitfalls that need to be avoided in order to write correct and complete sentences.

Dangling Modifiers


Expecting a large crowd, extra chairs were provided by the management. (This is a dangling modifier because the modifier does not logically and sensibly refer to the subject of the main clause. It is not the “extra chairs” (subject) that are “expecting a large crowd”.)


Expecting a large crowd, the management provided extra chairs.


Since a large crowd was expected, extra chairs were provided by the management.

Vague References of This, That, and Which


He wants to begin immediately and to make his first sale before the end of the year. As a result of this, he will probably become a successful salesman.


He wants to begin immediately and to make his first sale before the end of the year. As a result of this attitude, he will probably become a successful salesman. (This must not refer to a cause, sentence, or idea; it must refer to one specific word.)

Lack of Parallel Construction


The man liked meeting and to talk to people. (And joins one gerund and one infinitive construction here.)


The man liked to meet and talk to people. (And joins parallel infinitive constructions here.)


The man liked meeting and talking to people. (And joins parallel gerund constructions that express ideas of equal importance.)


Note that parallel construction is equally important in the enumeration of points in lists, as shown by the following example.



  1. The company should increase the price of all products.
  2. Increase the variety of products.
  3. Provide more services.
  4. They should review their advertising programme.


The company should:

  1. increase the price of all products
  2. increase the variety of products
  3. provide more services
  4. review their advertising programme

Inconsistent Use of Verb Tenses

The verb tense should be consistent within the sentence (as in the example below) and from sentence to sentence within the paragraph.



He usually makes sensible decisions although he frequently changed his mind. (Tense shifts from present tense in the main clause to past tense in the subordinate clause.)


He usually makes sensible decisions although he frequently changes his mind.

Choosing the Mood

Generally speaking, the imperative mood should be avoided in report writing. The imperative expresses a command or a strong request; a report should suggest or recommend rather than command.



Do this work carefully; you should also do it slowly. (Verb shifts from imperative to indicative mood.)


You should do this carefully; you should also do it slowly.


Do this work carefully; also, do it slowly.

Separation of Related Sentence Elements


I, hoping very much to find Mrs Singh at home and to sell her one of our new products, knocked at the door. (Separation of subject, I, and verb, knocked, is not necessary.)


Hoping very much to find Mrs Singh at home and to sell her one of our new products, I knocked at the door.


I only telephoned those men. (Separation of adverb only and those men, which only modifies, is not necessary.)


I telephoned only those men.

Lack of Subject-Verb Agreement


The price of the new products were reasonable.


The price of the new products was reasonable. (A singular verb is used to agree with the singular subject, even though a plural word intervenes.)


The advantage of Product A and Product B are the profits.


The advantage of Product A and Product B is the profits.


There are a man and some women waiting to see me.


There is a man and some women waiting to see me. (When a sentence begins with ‘there’, the verb agrees with the subject that immediately follows it.)


Everyone on the top three floors work for one company.


Everyone on the top three floors works for one company (A singular verb is used to agree with a singular subject, especially when the subject is “everyone” or “each”.)


Only one of the girls who play the sitar came today.


Only one of the girls who plays the sitar came today. (A singular verb is used to agree with one, the singular word to which the subject who refers. This is important when the subject of the verb is who, which, or that.)


Neither the report nor its appendix were published.


Neither the report nor its appendix was published. (A singular verb is used to agree with singular subjects joined by or or nor.)

Note that if one subject is singular and one is plural, the verb agrees with the nearest subject. For example, it is correct to say, “Neither the report nor the books were published”. Also, note that the plural subject is kept after or or nor, near the verb.

Lack of Pronoun Agreement


Everyone brought lunch to work.


Everyone brought his lunch to work. (One must use a singular pronoun to agree with everyone, the singular word to which the pronoun refers.)


He does not usually make those kind of errors.


He does not usually make that kind of error. (Singular pronoun is used to agree with kind, the singular noun that the pronoun modifies. This is important when this, that, these, or those modify kind or sort.)


He does not usually make these kinds or errors. (Here, a plural pronoun modifies the plural noun.)


Neither the manager nor his favourite employee could do their work alone.


Neither the manager nor his favourite employee could do his work alone. (A singular pronoun is used to agree with the singular words, which are joined by nor and to which the pronoun refers.)

If or or nor joins one singular word and one plural word, the pronoun agrees with the one nearest to it.

Neither the manager nor the workers were aware of their error.

Confusing Adjectives and Adverbs

The words hard, hardly, late, lately, most, and mostly need to be used carefully. As adjectives, hard, late, and most have two adverb forms, which should be clearly understood.

Hard, when used as an adverb means “strenuously” or “diligently”. It is normally placed after the verb and is an adverb of manner.


I worked hard yesterday. (not hardly)

She worked hard to pass the examination. (not hardly)


Sometimes, for emphasis, hard can be used at the beginning of a sentence. However, this usage is relatively rare.


Hard as she tried, she could not get through.


Hardly, an adverb, means “not much” or “scarcely”. It is an adverb of degree and is used before the verb. If the verb is used with an auxiliary, the adverb is placed between the auxiliary and the next part of the verb.


He sang so softly that the audience could hardly hear him.

He was so shrunken that I hardly recognized him.

This pen has hardly been used.

Hardly had he gone when his wife reached here.


The adverb late means two things:

  1. “after the expected time” or “after the time by which something should have happened or been done”.


    Every Sunday morning they wake up late.

    Three times this week he has come to office late.


  2. “towards the end of a specified period of time”


    Doctors refuse to visit patients late at night.

    I called her late in the afternoon.

    She did not have a child until quite late in life.

Lately means “recently”.


Have you seen any good movies lately?

Have you met your brother lately?


Most, as an adverb, means “to the greatest extent”.


The thing that I admire most is simplicity. (not mostly)

He who boasts most is often one who does least.


Mostly means “for the most part”.


The lecture mostly covered recent trends in politics.

The paper consisted mostly of old questions.

Exercise A1.G Usage of Adverbs

Complete the following sentences with one of the words given in parentheses:

  1. The student could________get passing marks. (hardly, hard)

  2. She could________raise her arms. (hard, hardly)

  3. The child can________lift the school bag. (hardly, hard)

  4. It has rained________this year. (hardly, hard)

  5. He had________entered the road when he was injured. (hard, hardly)

  6. She studies________into the night. (lately, late)

  7. The train arrived ten minutes________. (late, lately)

  8. The examinations will be held________in April this time. (late, lately)

  9. I reached home very________last night. (late, lately)

  10. We have not heard anything from them________. (late, lately)

  11. The great singers have been________women. (mostly, most)

  12. Join the course that will help you________. (mostly most)

  13. I have books that are________novels. (mostly, most)

  14. It was________my elder brother who guided me to this position. (most, mostly)

  15. In this computer course, the students are________girls from a renowned school. (mostly, most)

Adverbs Ending in-ly

Consider the adverbs formed by adding ly to an adjective: gladly, slowly, foolishly, wisely, nicely.


If an adjective itself ends with ly, it cannot normally be changed into an adverb. Such words can act both as adjectives and/or adverbs.

These adverbs are usually adverbs of manner. But if an adjective itself ends with ly, it cannot normally be changed into an adverb. Such words can act as both adjectives and/or adverbs.

  1. Words that act both as adjectives and adverbs, without any modification, include cowardly, daily, early, fortnightly, hourly, surely, nightly, only, weekly, and yearly.


    She has arrived via an early flight. (adjective)

    She has come early. (adverb)

    There is an hourly change of classes. (adjective)

    The classes change hourly. (adverb)

    The Statesman is a daily newspaper. (adjective)

    The Statesman is published daily. (adverb)


  2. Words ending in ly that are used only as adjectives include brotherly, fatherly, motherly, friendly, gentlemanly, godly, goodly, homely, likely, lovely, manly, seemly, unseemly, and womanly. These can be changed into adverbs by using a phrase such “in a brotherly manner” or “in a lovely fashion”, or “in a manly way”.


    He is a very friendly boss. (adjective)

    She received us in a very friendly manner. (adverb)


    Note that the word kind (an adjective) has kindly as its adverb. But kindly is also an adjective.


    My father had a kindly nature. (adjective)

    My father always talked to us in a very kindly manner. (adjective)


Exercise A1.H Words Used as Both Adjectives and Adverbs

In each of the following pairs of sentences, complete the second sentence by using an adverb or an adverbial phrase having the same meaning as the adjective in the first sentence.

  1. She is an early bird. She rises________.

  2. From here, there is an hourly bus service to Delhi. The buses to Delhi run________.

  3. That was a cowardly action. That was acting________.

  4. I have hired this car on a monthly basis. I pay the car charges________.

  5. The tutor held daily classes. The tutor holds classes________.

  6. Most magazines are monthly publications. Most magazines are published________.

  7. She is a very gentle person. She always behaves________.

  8. He gave us friendly advice. He advised us________.

  9. My friend noticed my fatherly smile at the child. My friend noticed my smiling at the child________.

  10. He is a very gentlemanly person. He always behaves________.

Errors in the Use of Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectival complements

  1. Study the following sentences:


    The sky became bright. (not brightly)

    This year good apples are rare. (not rarely)

    She got angry. (not angrily)

    The tea became bitter. (not bitterly)

    The job is difficult though it appears easy. (not easily)

    The price seems to be low. (not lowly)


In these sentences, the verbs to be, to seem, to become, and so on (appear, feel, look, grow, turn) need an adjective and not an adverb to act as a complement that qualifies the subject to complete the meaning of the sentence. No adverb is required to modify the verb. Note that when the verbs turn, grow, and appear are used in a different sense, they are followed by an adverb, not an adjective.


The ship appeared suddenly on the horizon.

These plants have grown quickly.

She turned and left unexpectedly.


In these sentences, appear means “come into sight”, grow means “increase in size”, and turn means “move in a particular direction”.

On the other hand, an adjective, not an adverb, is used after verbs such as feel, sound, taste, and smell, to show a quality experienced by one of the physical senses.


This cloth feels smooth.

These pipes sound nice.

This orange tastes sour.

That rose smells sweet.

Exercise A1.I Usage of Adverbs and Adjectives

Fill in the sentences below using the adjective or adverb given in parentheses.

  1. It feels very________in this room. (cold, coldly)

  2. The weather has turned________. (hot, hotly)

  3. At her call, I turned around________. (sudden, suddenly)

  4. He seems very________at this result. (sad, sadly)

  5. Some trees grow very________. (slow, slowly)

  6. She looks________in this dress. (pretty, prettily)

  7. His story is to appear very________. (short, shortly)

  8. Her signature does not appear to be________. (genuinely, genuine)

  9. If you feel________, remove the shirt. (warm, warmly)

  10. The director congratulated the award winners________. (warm, warmly)

  11. The girl was very________to catch the robber by herself. (brave, bravely)

  12. The audience became________when the winners of the Best Film award came on stage. (excited, excitedly)

  13. Her room smells________of sandalwood. (strong, strongly)

  14. Our new teacher seems very________. (strict, strictly)

  15. This food smells very________. (appetizing, appetizingly)


In this section, we shall discuss some stylistic aspects that need to be considered in written communication—punctuation, capitalization, and footnotes and endnotes (documentation styles). The writer should have an eye for the finer nuances of style, without which a document may appear very informal and unpolished.


Of all punctuation symbols, the four discussed below are the ones most commonly misused.

The Comma

A comma is used to:

  1. Set off main clauses joined by and, but, or, nor, and for.


    The first alternative certainly offered the company many advantages, but the second was probably more economical.


    However, if the clauses are short, the comma separation is unnecessary.


    She bought him a nice shirt but lost it.


  2. Separate long introductory elements from the rest of the sentence.


    When all the proposals had been fully investigated and discussed, we were able to make the final decision.


    However, when the introductory element is particularly short, a comma is not required.


    On Friday we were able to make the final decision.


  3. Separate words in a series of three or more. The last comma in the series is optional and depends on the writer’s preference.


    The controller of accounts, vice-president and president took part in the investigation.


    The last comma in the series may be required in some cases, for clarity.


    The controller of accounts, vice-president and general manager, and the president took part in the investigation. (The second comma in this sentence indicates that one person holds the dual position of vice-president and general manager.)


  4. Set off parenthetical expressions from the rest of the sentence.

    A parenthetical expression is one that is inserted into a sentence; therefore, the latter must be grammatically complete without it. Unless it begins or ends a sentence, a parenthetical expression should be set off by two commas.


    Ram, unlike his brother, was a good salesman.


    Sometimes, if the expression does not cause an abrupt interruption, the comma separation is unnecessary (especially with the words also, too, indeed, at least, perhaps, and likewise).


    Ram’s personality was indeed more pleasing than his brother’s.


    When a parenthetical expression (particularly a lengthy one) causes an abrupt interruption, dashes or parentheses may be used instead of commas. Like the comma, dashes and parentheses must be used in pairs. However, they should be used much less frequently than commas.


    Ram was a good salesman—he sold more than anyone else in the company—and had a pleasing personality. (emphatic.)

    Ram was a good salesman (he sold more than anyone else in the company) and had a pleasing personality. (less emphatic.)


  5. Set off non-restrictive elements

    Non-restrictive elements are parenthetical (see iv above) and are not essential to the meaning of the sentence. They must be set off by two commas.


    Ram, who sold more than anyone else in the company, was awarded the salesmen’s trophy.


  6. Set off a direct quotation from the rest of the sentence.


    The foreman replied, “I have done all I can” and left the room.


    A comma is not used to:

    1. Separate the subject and the verb or the verb and the object.



      The company with the best reputation in this area, was awarded the contract. (subject-verb separation)


      The company with the best reputation in this area was awarded the contract.


      The company knew last week, that it had been awarded the contract, (verb-object separation)


      The company knew last week that it had been awarded the contract.


      If words requiring punctuation (see points (d) and (e) above) intervene between the subject and the verb or between the verb and the object, the comma is then necessary.


      ABC Company, which has a good reputation in this area, was awarded the contract. (Non-restrictive phrase intervenes between the verb and object.)

      The company knew last week, probably by Wednesday, that it had been awarded the contract. (Non-restrictive phrase intervenes between the verb and the object.)


    2. Join two main clauses unless and, but, or, nor, or for comes between them.



      The salesman displayed his goods, then he talked about the newest product.


      The salesman displayed his goods. Then he talked about the newest product.


      The salesman displayed his goods, and then he talked about the newest product.


    3. Separate two words or phrases joined by and, but, or, nor, or for.


      Incorrect: I cannot remember whether the head office is in Calcutta, or in Bombay.

      Correct: I cannot remember whether the head office is in Calcutta or in Bombay.


    4. Separate an adjective from the noun it modifies.


      Incorrect: We should choose an economical, flexible, plan.

      Correct: We should choose an economical, flexible plan.


    5. Separate parentheses from the rest of the sentence.



      Several miscellaneous items are included in the total expense, (see Exhibit I).


      Several miscellaneous items are included in the total expense (see Exhibit I).


      Although several miscellaneous items are included in the total expense, (see Exhibit I), they are not important.


      Although several miscellaneous items are included in the total expense (see Exhibit I), they are not important. (Second comma is necessary to set off the introductory element.)

The Colon

A colon is used to:

  1. Introduce a list (often preceded by “the following” or “as follows”).


    The following men were nominated for the top honour: Singh, Jain, Basu, and Jha.


  2. Separate two main clauses where the second clause explains the first.


    The purpose of his speech was obvious: he wanted to present a concise outline of company policy.

The Semi-Colon

A semi-colon is used to:

  1. Separate two main clauses that are not joined by the conjunctions and, but, or, nor or for.


    At this time last year, Mr Singh was the company’s general manager; he is now the president. (A full stop could be substituted for the semi-colon, but the latter is preferable when the clauses are short and closely related in thought).


  2. Separate two main clauses joined by however, therefore, moreover, consequently, also, furthermore, nevertheless, then, thus, or likewise.


    We thought that Ram would be the new president; however, his brother was chosen instead.


  3. Separate two independent clauses when the second clause is preceded by “for example”, “that is”, or “namely”.


    We do not like the attitude of the new manager; that is, we resent his air of superiority.


  4. Separate items in a series when the items within the series contain commas.


    Wecalledon Mr Singh, the president; Mr Jain, thevice-president and general manager; Mr Basu, the controller of accounts; and Mr Jha, the secretary.

    We chose these people because they held responsible positions, both within the company and in organizations outside; because they had valuable experience; because they had the ability to work well with others; and because they all had the time for outside work.


    A semi-colon should not be used to separate a main clause from a subordinate clause.


    Incorrect: Mr Singh was named honorary president; because of his long association with the firm.

    Correct: Mr Singh was named honorary president because of his long association with the firm.


    Except in cases where it separates items in a series, the semi-colon always separates one main clause from another main clause.

The Apostrophe

The apostrophe is used to show possession in the following instances:

  1. For possessive singular nouns such as “manager’s salary” and “man’s character” (an s is added to the noun).
  2. For possessive plurals of nouns, such as “managers’ salaries” (only the apostrophe is used if the plural form of the word ends in s) and “men’s salaries (where an s is added after the apostrophe as the plural does not end in s).
  3. For the possessive form of the pronouns one, someone, somebody, everyone, everybody, anyone, anybody, none, and nobody. An example is anyone’s, in which an s is added to the pronoun.

    An apostrophe should not be used for the pronouns his, hers, ours, yours, theirs, or whose because they are already possessive.


    Incorrect: It’s meaning was clear (“It’s” means “it is”)

    Correct: Its meaning was clear


The rules for the capitalization of words in English are simple and not especially numerous. The first word in a sentence, the first word in any quotation included within a sentence, and the first word of any phrase that is used as a sentence should be capitalized.


The rules for the capitalization of words in English are simple and not especially numerous.


The office building is fully air-conditioned.

She answered the telephone and said, “Good morning! May I help you?” (This is an example of capitalization in a sentence, a quotation, and a phrase used as a sentence.)


In addition, the following should be capitalized: the names of people; specific geographical locations; calendar indications such as the days of the week, the months of the year, and holidays; the names of organizations, including government bodies; and historical events and documents. When capitalizing the names of people, one may sometimes encounter parts of names that are not capitalized, such as Emil von Hoffman, Leonardo da Vinci, and Simone de Beauvoir. Generally, all parts of a person’s name are capitalized, including any initials. If titles are used with the name, these titles are also capitalized.


    Ram Chandra Mrs Deepti Chaturvedi
    John S Morgan Mr H F Khan
    Rev. Samel Wilkins Senator William Kaufmann


In written English, only proper nouns are capitalized. It is incorrect to capitalize common nouns such as woman, man, boy or girl. Unless a specific person is named, capitalization is not required. The same is true for geographical locations. A specific location, site, or area requires capitalization. When a word such as street, building, park, mountain, or river is included in the name of a particular place, it becomes specific because it names a distinctive thing or place rather than a general location. When the location is mentioned in specific terms, it should be capitalized. When it is given in general terms, it should not be capitalized.


The Times Building was built in 1936. (specific)

The building that houses our office has been sold. (general)

The southeast part of the United States is known for its cotton production. (general)

South India has a temperate climate. (specific)

The river was muddy after several days of rain. (general)

The Ganges flooded last year. (specific)


All calendar designations and names of holidays should be capitalized, but the names of seasons are not.


   July Monday Christmas
   March Friday Teachers' Day
   winter   Diwali

The names of organizations, companies, and government bodies should be capitalized, but if they are preceded by the word the, it is not capitalized unless it is a part of the official name.


   the United Nations the Bank of Korea
   the Rialto Theater the University of Delhi
   the Advertising Council, Inc. the Better Business Bureau
   the Internal Revenue Service the RAND Corporation


All names of continents, countries, states, and cities and the adjectives derived from these are capitalized.


The western part of Russia is in Europe, but its eastern part is in Asia.

Our company has branch offices in Seattle, Phoenix, Kansas City, Memphis, and Cleveland.

I plan to study the history of the Spanish-speaking people in the West Indies.

Cézanne and Renoir were French artists.


The names of commercial products should also be capitalized, but do not capitalize the generic name when it is not part of the brand name. For example, Esquire Boot Polish and Lipton Cup-A-Soup are the correct brand names, but Maxwell House Coffee and Van Heusen Shirts are not correct, although Maxwell House makes coffee and Van Heusen makes shirts.


Any report or document that relies on other sources of information (books, journals, diaries, interviews, and so on) needs to identify its sources clearly. Ethical considerations and copyright norms make it essential to document the sources or references of a text, but the styles of documentation may vary.

Documentation of cross-references should be done in a way that does not disturb the flow of argument and reading. The writer can provide references in footnotes or can describe all references together in endnotes, which is a list of all references at the end of a report. In both cases, the reader can find all the necessary details about sources mentioned in the report and can check the correctness of facts by consulting the original sources. Endnotes are usually preferred, as they are easier to refer to when desired. Also, footnotes make it more difficult to space the material on the page.

Each reference to be cited in endnotes or footnotes is numbered consecutively, as 1, 2, 3, and so on. Each reference should have the same number when mentioned in the body of the discussion. The reference is documented in the body of the text as:


“The marketing strategist described by Lovatt uses a computer to design his concepts of virtual markets for products”.3


Here, the superscript 3 refers to the third endnote in the list of references. One way to format the reference in the list of endnotes is:


3. Lovatt, Frederick G. et al. Management is No Mystery, 2nd Ed. Ed. Robt B. Arpin. Trent, Ariz.: Bonus Books, 1975.


A writer may refer to a wide range of published (and unpublished) sources when writing a report or preparing a document, be it a book by one author, a chapter in a book by multiple authors, a magazine article, or a report. He or she may also use any of the wide variety of styles of documentation—the American Psychological Association (APA) style, the Modern Language Association (MLA) style, or the Chicago style, for instance.

Regardless of which style the writer chooses, the complete publishing details of the work should be documented. Such details include the authors’ full names, the name of the article or book, the name of the publisher/magazine/journal, the year (or date) of publication, and the page numbers.

The APA Style

The APA style was developed by the American Psychological Association (APA).

In-text citation   In the social sciences, the APA style indicates the source of information within the body of the report/paper by using parenthetical references mentioning the author, date, and page number in the parentheses placed immediately after the matter quoted or referred. This running method is now generally used in making references, as it allows for smooth reading.

When quoting material, the page number should be indicated with “p.” for one page or “pp.” for more than one page, immediately after the quotation. This should be done even if the sentence in which the quotation occurs does not end immediately after the quotation.

If the sentence mentions the name of the author and year, only the page number is given within parentheses at the end of the sentence.


Schindler in Business Research Methods, 1998, says “_______” (p. 14).


If the sentence mentions the author’s name, then only the year and page number should be given immediately after the name.


Schindler (1998, p. 120) says…”


In other cases, all three pieces of information should be given in parentheses.


“(Schindler, 1998, p. 120)”.


Note that a comma is used after the author s name and after the year of publication. The page number can appear separately as well:


Schindler (1998) considers research “too narrowly defined if it is restricted to the basic research variety” (p. 12).


The purpose of mentioning all three details—author, year, and page—at the end of the quoted or referred material is to help the reader locate the material in the original source if required. Sometimes in survey reports, figures are inaccurate or exaggerated. In such cases, specific references to sources of information help readers check the information given in the report.

Reference list   A list of sources arranged in alphabetical order is given at the end of the report, paper, or chapter. The entries are arranged according to the author’s name. If the author’s name is not given in the original source of information, the entry is put in alphabetical order according to the first significant word of the title, not including articles (a, an, and the). Exhibit A1.8 shows a few samples of the APA style of referencing and its in-text citations.

Exhibit A1.8 The APA Style of Referencing


Reference list

Caney, S. (2005). Justice Beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

In-text citation

(Caney, 2005, p. 6).


Reference list

Bhasin, Kamla, & Khan, Nighat Said. (1986). Some Questions on Feminism and its Relevance in South Asia. New Delhi: Kali for Women.

In-text citation

(Bhasin & Khan, 1986, p. 56). [In works containing 3–5 authors, cite the last names of all authors/editors at the first instance; in subsequent citations, use et al. after the name of the first author/editor. In works containing 6 or more authors, cite only the last name of the first author, followed by et al.]


Reference list

Matthew, K.S. (1992). Cuddalore in the Eighteenth Century. In I. Banga (Ed.), Ports and their Hinterlands in India, 1700–1950 (pp. 77–87). New Delhi: Manohar Publishers.

In-text citation

Matthew, 1992.


Reference list

Bassett, D.K. (1989). British “Country” trade and local trade networks in the Thai and Malay states c.1680–1770. Modern Asian Studies, 23(4), 625–43.

In-text citation

Bassett, 1989.


Reference list

Gwetu, Thando D. (2004, July). Patterns and Trends of Urbanization in Botswana and Policy Implications for Sustainability. Paper presented at ‘City Futures: An International Conference on Globalism and Urban Change’, held at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved from

In-text citation

Gwetu, 2004. [In case of missing or unknown page numbers, use paragraph numbers: (Gwetu, 2004, para 7).]


Reference list

Brunk, A.C. (n.d.). Balodgahan Village (Manuscript IV-17–21, Box 28, Charitable Institutions, fol. 1). Goshen, Indiana: AAMC.

In-text citation

Brunk, n.d.


Reference list

Centre for Science and Environment. (2003). Sacred Groves: Last Refuge. Down to Earth, Electronic document. Retrieved from Accessed 26 June 2005.

In-text citation

(Centre for Science and Environment, 2003). [The organization becomes the author.]


Reference list

Iliffe, John. (1988). The Socio-economic and Political History of the Herero of Mahalapye, Central District, 1922–1984 (Unpublished BA thesis). Department of History, University of Botswana.

In-text citation

John, 1988.

The MLA Style

The MLA style is similar to the APA style in that both styles use parenthetical citations in the text. However, while APA citations provide the author name and year within parentheses, MLA citations provide the author name and the page details [for example: (Caney 25)]. The list of references at the end of the document is usually titled References in the APA style and Works Cited in the MLA style.

Exhibit A1.9 shows a few samples of the MLA style of works cited and in-text citations.

Exhibit A1.9 Works Cited in the MLA Style


Caney, S. Justice Beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. [In-text citation: (Caney 25).]


Bhasin, Kamla and Nighat Said Khan. Some Questions on Feminism and its Relevance in South Asia. New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1986.

[In-text citation: (Bhasin and Khan 45). Note that no et al. is used; the last names of all authors are provided.]


Matthew, K.S. “Cuddalore in the Eighteenth Century.” Ports and their Hinterlands in India, 1700–1950. Ed. I Banga. New Delhi: Manohar Publishing, 1992. 77–87.

[In-text citation: (Matthew 79).]


Bassett, D.K. “British ‘Country’ trade and local trade networks in the Thai and Malay states c.1680–1770.” Modern Asian Studies. 23.4 (1989): 625–643.

[In-text citation: (Bassett 625).]


Gwetu, Thando D. “Patterns and Trends of Urbanization in Botswana and Policy Implications for Sustainability. “Proc. of ‘City Futures: An International Conference on Globalism and Urban Change’, July 2004. University of Illinois at Chicago. Retrieved from

[In-text citation: (Gwetu 3)]


Brunk, A.C. Balodgahan Village. Manuscript IV-17–21, Box 28, Charitable Institutions, fol. 1. Goshen, Indiana: AAMC, n.d.

[In-text: (Brunk n.d.). In case there is no author, or the author is a government agency, mention both the name of the agency and the title in parenthesis.]


Sacred Groves: Last Refuge. Centre for Science and Environment, Down to Earth. 2008. Accessed 26 June 2005.

[In-text: Follow the same style; if the source lacks page numbers, indicate para (par.), section (sec.), chapter (ch.) numbers.]


Iliffe, John. “The Socio-economic and Political History of the Herero of Mahalapye, Central District, 1922–1984. “Thesis, Department of History, University of Botswana, 1988.

[In-text: Same as above.]

The Chicago Style

The Chicago Manual of Style suggests two styles of documentation: (1) the documentary-note or humanitiesstyle, whichmay or may not be accompanied by a bibliography, and (2) the author-date system, where the in-text author-date citations are amplified in a list of references. The humanities style is popular in literature, history, and the arts and provides bibliographic citations in notes. The author-date system is popular in the physical, natural, and social sciences and humanities.

In this appendix, we shall discuss the humanities system. The Chicago humanities style uses either endnotes (at the bottom of the document) or footnotes (at the bottom of the page) for citations. As mentioned earlier, endnotes are usually preferred.

Notes are numbered in sequence, beginning with 1. The superscript numerals used for note references in the text are usually placed after punctuation marks, except in the case of dashes. Here are some examples:


Companies with reputations as good places to work (such as the companies that are included among the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America”) have been found to generate superior financial performance.1

These findings were published in Personnel Psychology2—and have since been substantiated by many other studies.


The superscripts guide the reader to the source details given in the endnotes (or footnotes). Exhibit A1.10 presents some sample endnotes in the Chicago humanities style.


Exhibit A1.10 Endnotes in the Chicago Humanities Style