How to Speak and Write Correctly
By Joseph Devlin

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Public Domain Books

Chapter II


Divisions of Grammar–Definitions–Etymology.

In order to speak and write the English language correctly, it is imperative that the fundamental principles of the Grammar be mastered, for no matter how much we may read of the best authors, no matter how much we may associate with and imitate the best speakers, if we do not know the underlying principles of the correct formation of sentences and the relation of words to one another, we will be to a great extent like the parrot, that merely repeats what it hears without understanding the import of what is said. Of course the parrot, being a creature without reason, cannot comprehend; it can simply repeat what is said to it, and as it utters phrases and sentences of profanity with as much facility as those of virtue, so by like analogy, when we do not understand the grammar of the language, we may be making egregious blunders while thinking we are speaking with the utmost accuracy.

Divisions of Grammar

There are four great divisions of Grammar, viz.:

Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody.

Orthography treats of letters and the mode of combining them into words.

Etymology treats of the various classes of words and the changes they undergo.

Syntax treats of the connection and arrangement of words in sentences.

Prosody treats of the manner of speaking and reading and the different kinds of verse.

The three first mentioned concern us most.


A letter is a mark or character used to represent an articulate sound. Letters are divided into vowels and consonants. A vowel is a letter which makes a distinct sound by itself. Consonants cannot be sounded without the aid of vowels. The vowels are a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes w and y when they do not begin a word or syllable.

Syllables and Words

A syllable is a distinct sound produced by a single effort of [Transcriber’s note: 1-2 words illegible] shall, pig, dog. In every syllable there must be at least one vowel.

A word consists of one syllable or a combination of syllables.

Many rules are given for the dividing of words into syllables, but the best is to follow as closely as possible the divisions made by the organs of speech in properly pronouncing them.

The Parts of Speech


An Article is a word placed before a noun to show whether the noun is used in a particular or general sense.

There are two articles, a or an and the. A or an is called the indefinite article because it does not point put any particular person or thing but indicates the noun in its widest sense; thus, a man means any man whatsoever of the species or race.

The is called the definite article because it points out some particular person or thing; thus, the man means some particular individual.


A noun is the name of any person, place or thing as John, London, book. Nouns are proper and common.

Proper nouns are names applied to particular persons or places.

Common nouns are names applied to a whole kind or species.

Nouns are inflected by number, gender and case.

Number is that inflection of the noun by which we indicate whether it represents one or more than one.

Gender is that inflection by which we signify whether the noun is the name of a male, a female, of an inanimate object or something which has no distinction of sex.

Case is that inflection of the noun which denotes the state of the person, place or thing represented, as the subject of an affirmation or question, the owner or possessor of something mentioned, or the object of an action or of a relation.

Thus in the example, “John tore the leaves of Sarah’s book,” the distinction between book which represents only one object and leaveswhich represent two or more objects of the same kind is called Number; the distinction of sex between John, a male, and Sarah, a female, and book and leaves, things which are inanimate and neither male nor female, is called Gender; and the distinction of state between John, the person who tore the book, and the subject of the affirmation, Mary, the owner of the book, leaves the objects torn, and book the object related to leaves, as the whole of which they were a part, is called Case.


An adjective is a word which qualifies a noun, that is, shows or points out some distinguishing mark or feature of the noun; as, A black dog.

Adjectives have three forms called degrees of comparison, the positive, the comparative and the superlative.

The positive is the simple form of the adjective without expressing increase or diminution of the original quality: nice.

The comparative is that form of the adjective which expresses increase or diminution of the quality: nicer.

The superlative is that form which expresses the greatest increase or diminution of the quality: nicest.

or An adjective is in the positive form when it does not express comparison; as, “A rich man.”

An adjective is in the comparative form when it expresses comparison between two or between one and a number taken collectively, as, “John is richer than James"; “he is richer than all the men in Boston.”

An adjective is in the superlative form when it expresses a comparison between one and a number of individuals taken separately; as, “John is the richest man in Boston.”

Adjectives expressive of properties or circumstances which cannot be increased have only the positive form; as, A circular road; the chiefend; an extreme measure.

Adjectives are compared in two ways, either by adding er to the positive to form the comparative and est to the positive to form the superlative, or by prefixing more to the positive for the comparative and most to the positive for the superlative; as, handsome, handsomer, handsomestor handsome, more handsome, most handsome.

Adjectives of two or more syllables are generally compared by prefixing more and most.

Many adjectives are irregular in comparison; as, Bad, worse, worst; Good, better, best.


A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun; as, “John gave his pen to James and he lent it to Jane to write her copy with it.” Without the pronouns we would have to write this sentence,–"John gave John’s pen to James and James lent the pen to Jane to write Jane’s copy with the pen.”

There are three kinds of pronouns–Personal, Relative and Adjective Pronouns.

Personal Pronouns are so called because they are used instead of the names of persons, places and things. The Personal Pronouns are I, Thou, He, She, and It, with their plurals, We, Ye or Youand They.

I is the pronoun of the first person because it represents the person speaking.

Thou is the pronoun of the second person because it represents the person spoken to.

He, She, It are the pronouns of the third person because they represent the persons or things of whom we are speaking.

Like nouns, the Personal Pronouns have number, gender and case. The gender of the first and second person is obvious, as they represent the person or persons speaking and those who are addressed. The personal pronouns are thus declined:

                             First Person.
                               M. or F.

                               Sing.       Plural.
                      N.         I           We
                      P.       Mine         Ours
                      O.        Me           Us

                             Second Person.
                                M. or F.

                               Sing.       Plural.
                      N.       Thou          You
                      P.       Thine        Yours
                      O.       Thee          You

                             Third Person.

                               Sing.       Plural.
                      N.        He          They
                      P.        His        Theirs
                      O.        Him         Them

                             Third Person.

                               Sing.       Plural.
                      N.        She         They
                      P.       Hers        Theirs
                      O.        Her         Them

                             Third Person.

                               Sing.       Plural.
                      N.        It          They
                      P.        Its        Theirs
                      O.        It          Them

N. B.–In colloquial language and ordinary writing Thou, Thine and Thee are seldom used, except by the Society of Friends. The Plural form You is used for both the nominative and objective singular in the second person and Yours is generally used in the possessive in place of Thine.

The Relative Pronouns are so called because they relate to some word or phrase going before; as, “The boy who told the truth;” “He has done well, which gives me great pleasure.”

Here who and which are not only used in place of other words, but who refers immediately to boy, and which to the circumstance of his having done well.

The word or clause to which a relative pronoun refers is called the Antecedent.

The Relative Pronouns are who, which, that and what.

Who is applied to persons only; as, “The man who was here.”

Which is applied to the lower animals and things without life; as, “The horse which I sold.” “The hat which I bought.”

That is applied to both persons and things; as, “The friend thathelps.” “The bird that sings.” “The knife that cuts.”

What is a compound relative, including both the antecedent and the relative and is equivalent to that which; as, “I did what he desired," i. e. “I did that which he desired.”

Relative pronouns have the singular and plural alike.

Who is either masculine or feminine; which and that are masculine, feminine or neuter; what as a relative pronoun is always neuter.

That and what are not inflected.

Who and which are thus declined:

Sing. and Plural Sing. and Plural

                  N.      Who        N.     Which
                  P.     Whose       P.     Whose
                  O.      Whom       O.     Which

Who, which and what when used to ask questions are called Interrogative Pronouns.

Adjective Pronouns partake of the nature of adjectives and pronouns and are subdivided as follows:

Demonstrative Adjective Pronouns which directly point out the person or object. They are this, that with their plurals these, those, and yon, same and selfsame.

Distributive Adjective Pronouns used distributively. They are each, every, either, neither.

Indefinite Adjective Pronouns used more or less indefinitely. They are any, all, few, some, several, one, other, another, none.

Possessive Adjective Pronouns denoting possession. They are my, thy, his, her, its, our, your, their.

N. B.–(The possessive adjective pronouns differ from the possessive case of the personal pronouns in that the latter can stand alone while the former cannot. “Who owns that book?” “It is mine.” You cannot say “it is my,"–the word book must be repeated.)

The Verb

A verb is a word which implies action or the doing of something, or it may be defined as a word which affirms, commands or asks a question.

Thus, the words John the table, contain no assertion, but when the word strikes is introduced, something is affirmed, hence the word strikesis a verb and gives completeness and meaning to the group.

The simple form of the verb without inflection is called the root of the verb; e. g. love is the root of the verb,–"To Love.”

Verbs are regular or irregular, transitive or intransitive.

A verb is said to be regular when it forms the past tense by adding ed to the present or d if the verb ends in e. When its past tense does not end in ed it is said to be irregular.

A transitive verb is one the action of which passes over to or affects some object; as “I struck the table.” Here the action of striking affected the object table, hence struck is a transitive verb.

An intransitive verb is one in which the action remains with the subject; as “I walk,” “I sit,” “I run.” Many intransitive verbs, however, can be used transitively; thus, “I walkthe horse;” walk is here transitive.

Verbs are inflected by number, person, tense and mood.

Number and person as applied to the verb really belong to the subject; they are used with the verb to denote whether the assertion is made regarding one or more than one and whether it is made in reference to the person speaking, the person spoken to or the person or thing spoken about.


In their tenses verbs follow the divisions of time. They have present tense, past tense and future tense with their variations to express the exact time of action as to an event happening, having happened or yet to happen.


There are four simple moods,–the Infinitive, the Indicative, the Imperative and the Subjunctive.

The Mood of a verb denotes the mode or manner in which it is used. Thus if it is used in its widest sense without reference to person or number, time or place, it is in the Infinitive Mood; as “To run.” Here we are not told who does the running, when it is done, where it is done or anything about it.

When a verb is used to indicate or declare or ask a simple question or make any direct statement, it is in the Indicative Mood. “The boy loves his book.” Here a direct statement is made concerning the boy. “Have you a pin?” Here a simple question is asked which calls for an answer.

When the verb is used to express a command or entreaty it is in the Imperative Mood as, “Go away.” “Give me a penny.”

When the verb is used to express doubt, supposition or uncertainty or when some future action depends upon a contingency, it is in the subjunctive mood; as, “If I come, he shall remain.”

Many grammarians include a fifth mood called the potential to express power, possibility, liberty, necessity, will or duty. It is formed by means of the auxiliaries may, can, ought and must, but in all cases it can be resolved into the indicative or subjunctive. Thus, in “I may write if I choose,” “may write” is by some classified as in the potential mood, but in reality the phrase I may write is an indicative one while the second clause, if I choose, is the expression of a condition upon which, not my liberty to write, depends, but my actual writing.

Verbs have two participles, the present or imperfect, sometimes called the active ending in ing and the past or perfect, often called the passive, ending in ed or d.

The infinitive expresses the sense of the verb in a substantive form, the participles in an adjective form; as “To rise early is healthful." “An early rising man.” “The newly risen sun.”

The participle in ing is frequently used as a substantive and consequently is equivalent to an infinitive; thus, “To rise early is healthful” and “Rising early is healthful” are the same.

The principal parts of a verb are the Present Indicative, Past Indicative and Past Participle; as:

Love Loved Loved

Sometimes one or more of these parts are wanting, and then the verb is said to be defective.

Present Past Passive Participle

                  Can        Could         (Wanting)
                  May        Might             “
                 Shall       Should            “
                 Will        Would             “
                 Ought       Ought             “

Verbs may also be divided into principal and auxiliary. A principalverb is that without which a sentence or clause can contain no assertion or affirmation. An auxiliary is a verb joined to the root or participles of a principal verb to express time and manner with greater precision than can be done by the tenses and moods in their simple form. Thus, the sentence, “I am writing an exercise; when I shall have finished it I shall read it to the class.” has no meaning without the principal verbs writing, finished read; but the meaning is rendered more definite, especially with regard to time, by the auxiliary verbs am, have, shall.

There are nine auxiliary or helping verbs, viz., Be, have, do, shall, will, may, can, ought, and must. They are called helping verbs, because it is by their aid the compound tenses are formed.

To Be

The verb To Be is the most important of the auxiliary verbs. It has eleven parts, viz., am, art, is, are, was, wast, were, wert; be, beingand been.


The active voice is that form of the verb which shows the Subject not being acted upon but acting; as, “The cat catches mice.” “Charity covers a multitude of sins.”

The passive voice: When the action signified by a transitive verb is thrown back upon the agent, that is to say, when the subject of the verb denotes the recipient of the action, the verb is said to be in the passive voice. “John was loved by his neighbors.” Here John the subject is also the object affected by the loving, the action of the verb is thrown back on him, hence the compound verb was loved is said to be in the passive voice. The passive voice is formed by putting the perfect participle of any transitive verb with any of the eleven parts of the verb To Be.


The conjugation of a verb is its orderly arrangement in voices, moods, tenses, persons and numbers.

Here is the complete conjugation of the verb “Love"–Active Voice.

Principal Parts

               Present       Past        Past Participle
                Love         Loved            Loved

Infinitive Mood

To Love

                            Indicative Mood
                             PRESENT TENSE

                                 Sing.      Plural
                   1st person    I love     We love
                   2nd person   You love   You love
                   3rd person   He loves   They love

Past Tense

                                 Sing.       Plural
                  1st person    I loved     We loved
                  2nd person   You loved   You loved
                  3rd person   He loved    They loved

Future Tense

                               Sing.           Plural
              1st person   I shall love    They will love
              2nd person   You will love   You will love
              3rd person   He will love    We shall love

Present Perfect Tense

                              Sing.            Plural
             1st person    I have loved     We have loved
             2nd person   You have loved   You have loved
             3rd person    He has loved    They have loved

Past Perfect Tense

                               Sing.           Plural
              1st person    I had loved     We had loved
              2nd person   You had loved   You had loved
              3rd person   He had loved    They had loved

Future Perfect Tense

                            Sing.                 Plural
        1st person   I shall have loved    We shall have loved
        2nd person   You will have loved   You will have loved
        3rd person   He will have loved    They will have loved

                            Imperative Mood
                          (PRESENT TENSE ONLY)

                                 Sing.        Plural
                  2nd person   Love (you)   Love (you)

                            Subjunctive Mood
                             PRESENT TENSE

                                Sing.         Plural
                1st person    If I love     If we love
                2nd person   If you love   If you love
                3rd person   If he love    If they love

Past Tense

                               Sing.          Plural
               1st person    If I loved     If we loved
               2nd person   If you loved   If you loved
               3rd person   If he loved    If they loved

Present Perfect Tense

                             Sing.               Plural
          1st person    If I have loved     If we have loved
          2nd person   If you have loved   If you have loved
          3rd person    If he has loved    If they have loved

Past Perfect Tense

                             Sing.              Plural
           1st person    If I had loved     If we had loved
           2nd person   If you had loved   If you had loved
           3rd person   If he had loved    If they had loved


                         Present     Perfect
                         To love  To have loved


                     Present   Past      Perfect
                     Loving    Loved   Having loved

                        CONJUGATION OF “To Love"
                             Passive Voice
                            Indicative Mood

Present Tense

                               Sing.           Plural
              1st person    I am loved      We are loved
              2nd person   You are loved   You are loved
              3rd person    He is loved    They are loved

Past Tense

                              Sing.            Plural
             1st person    I was loved      We were loved
             2nd person   You were loved   You were loved
             3rd person    He was loved    They were loved

Future Tense

                             Sing.               Plural
          1st person   I shall be loved    We shall be loved
          2nd person   You will be loved   You will be loved
          3rd person   He will be loved    They will be loved

Present Perfect Tense

                            Sing.                 Plural
        1st person    I have been loved     We have been loved
        2nd person   You have been loved   You have been loved
        3rd person    He has been loved    They have been loved

Past Perfect Tense

                            Sing.                Plural
         1st person    I had been loved     We had been loved
         2nd person   You had been loved   You had been loved
         3rd person   He had been loved    They had been loved

Future Perfect Tense

                         Sing.                      Plural
   1st person   I shall have been loved    We shall have been loved
   2nd person   You will have been loved   You will have been loved
   3rd person   He will have been loved    They will have been loved

                            Imperative Mood
                          (PRESENT TENSE ONLY)

                               Sing.            Plural
              2nd person   Be (you) loved   Be (you) loved

                            Subjunctive Mood
                             PRESENT TENSE

                              Sing.             Plural
            1st person    If I be loved     If we be loved
            2nd person   If you be loved   If you be loved
            3rd person   If he be loved    If they be loved

Past Tense

                             Sing.               Plural
          1st person    If I were loved    If they were loved
          2nd person   If you were loved   If you were loved
          3rd person   If he were loved     If we were loved

Present Perfect Tense

                          Sing.                    Plural
     1st person    If I have been loved     If we have been loved
     2nd person   If you have been loved   If you have been loved
     3rd person    If he has been loved    If they have been loved

Past Perfect Tense

                           Sing.                   Plural
      1st person    If I had been loved     If we had been loved
      2nd person   If you had been loved   If you had been loved
      3rd person   If he had been loved    If they had been loved


                Present                     Perfect
              To be loved              To have been loved


            Present            Past               Perfect
          Being loved       Been loved       Having been loved

(N. B.–Note that the plural form of the personal pronoun, you, is used in the second person singular throughout. The old form thou, except in the conjugation of the verb “To Be,” may be said to be obsolete. In the third person singular he is representative of the three personal pronouns of the third person, He, She and It.)


An adverb is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Thus, in the example–"He writes well,” the adverb shows the manner in which the writing is performed; in the examples–"He is remarkably diligent” and “He works very faithfully,” the adverbs modify the adjective diligent and the other adverb faithfully by expressing the degree of diligence and faithfulness.

Adverbs are chiefly used to express in one word what would otherwise require two or more words; thus, There signifies in that place; whence, from what place; usefully, in a useful manner.

Adverbs, like adjectives, are sometimes varied in their terminations to express comparison and different degrees of quality.

Some adverbs form the comparative and superlative by adding er and est; as, soon, sooner, soonest.

Adverbs which end in ly are compared by prefixing more and most; as, nobly, more nobly, most nobly.

A few adverbs are irregular in the formation of the comparative and superlative; as, well, better, best.


A preposition connects words, clauses, and sentences together and shows the relation between them. “My hand is on the table” shows relation between hand and table.

Prepositions are so called because they are generally placed before the words whose connection or relation with other words they point out.


A conjunction joins words, clauses and sentences; as “John andJames.” “My father and mother have come, but I have not seen them.”

The conjunctions in most general use are and, also; either, or; neither, nor; though, yet; but, however; for, that; because, since; therefore, wherefore, then; if, unless, lest.


An interjection is a word used to express some sudden emotion of the mind. Thus in the examples,–"Ah! there he comes; alas! what shall I do?" ah, expresses surprise, and alas, distress.

Nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs become interjections when they are uttered as exclamations, as, nonsense! strange! hail! away! etc.

We have now enumerated the parts of speech and as briefly as possible stated the functions of each. As they all belong to the same family they are related to one another but some are in closer affinity than others. To point out the exact relationship and the dependency of one word on another is called parsing and in order that every etymological connection may be distinctly understood a brief resume of the foregoing essentials is here given:

The signification of the noun is limited to one, but to any one of the kind, by the indefinite article, and to some particular one, or some particular number, by the definite article.

Nouns, in one form, represent one of a kind, and in another, any number more than one; they are the names of males, or females, or of objects which are neither male nor female; and they represent the subject of an affirmation, a command or a question,–the owner or possessor of a thing,–or the object of an action, or of a relation expressed by a preposition.

Adjectives express the qualities which distinguish one person or thing from another; in one form they express quality without comparison; in another, they express comparison between two, or between one and a number taken collectively,–and in a third they express comparison between one and a number of others taken separately.

Pronouns are used in place of nouns; one class of them is used merely as the substitutes of names; the pronouns of another class have a peculiar reference to some preceding words in the sentence, of which they are the substitutes,–and those of a third class refer adjectively to the persons or things they represent. Some pronouns are used for both the name and the substitute; and several are frequently employed in asking questions.

Affirmations and commands are expressed by the verb; and different inflections of the verb express number, person, time and manner. With regard to time, an affirmation may be present or past or future; with regard to manner, an affirmation may be positive or conditional, it being doubtful whether the condition is fulfilled or not, or it being implied that it is not fulfilled;–the verb may express command or entreaty; or the sense of the verb may be expressed without affirming or commanding. The verb also expresses that an action or state is or was going on, by a form which is also used sometimes as a noun, and sometimes to qualify nouns.

Affirmations are modified by adverbs, some of which can be inflected to express different degrees of modification.

Words are joined together by conjunctions; and the various relationswhich one thing bears to another are expressed by ’prepositions. Sudden emotions of the mind, and exclamations are expressed by interjections.

Some words according to meaning belong sometimes to one part of speech, sometimes to another. Thus, in “After a storm comes a calm,” calm is a noun; in “It is a calm evening,” calm is an adjective; and in “Calm your fears,” calm is a verb.

The following sentence containing all the parts of speech is parsed etymologically:

“I now see the old man coming, but, alas, he has walked with much difficulty.” I, a personal pronoun, first person singular, masculine or feminine gender, nominative case, subject of the verb see.

now, an adverb of time modifying the verb see.

see, an irregular, transitive verb, indicative mood, present tense, first person singular to agree with its nominative or subject I.

the, the definite article particularizing the noun man.

old, an adjective, positive degree, qualifying the noun man.

man, a common noun, 3rd person singular, masculine gender, objective case governed by the transitive verb see.

coming, the present or imperfect participle of the verb “to come" referring to the noun man.

but, a conjunction.

alas, an interjection, expressing pity or sorrow.

he, a personal pronoun, 3rd person singular, masculine gender, nominative case, subject of verb has walked.

has walked, a regular, intransitive verb, indicative mood, perfect tense, 3rd person singular to agree with its nominative or subject he.

with, a preposition, governing the noun difficulty.

much, an adjective, positive degree, qualifying the noun difficulty.

difficulty, a common noun, 3rd person singular, neuter gender, objective case governed by the preposition with.

N.B.–Much is generally an adverb. As an adjective it is thus compared:

              Positive       Comparative       Superlative
                much            more              most


Chapter I  •  Chapter II  •  Chapter III  •  Chapter IV  •  Chapter V  •  Chapter VI  •  Chapter VII  •  Chapter VIII  •  Chapter IX  •  Chapter X  •  Chapter XI  •  Chapter XII  •  Chapter XIII  •  Chapter XIV  •  Chapter XI

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