2.2 Grammar

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Like spelling issues, grammar violations in a business document can reflect negatively on a professional or a company. You will find many practice activities as you move through this lecture to check your understanding and refresh your memory about some of these frequently overlooked grammar rules. A colon is used to make note of what follows, and is typically succeeded by elaboration, summation, interpretation of what it proceeds.

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Like spelling issues, grammar violations in a business document can reflect negatively on a professional or a company. Take care that all of your business documents are grammatically correct. Poor grammar can be seen as a negative reflection of your competence. In this lecture I will address subject-verb agreement, verb tense, noun-pronoun agreement, double negatives, and some common punctuation rules. You will find many practice activities as you move through this lecture to check your understanding and refresh your memory about some of these frequently overlooked grammar rules. Subject-Verb agreement is a grammar rule that is generally straight forward. But there are a few instances in which people can become confused. I’m thinking specifically of the use of he, she, or them as the subject. And when there is more than one person in the subject. Generally speaking though, singular subjects go with singular verbs and plural subjects go with plural verbs. Also, the singular form of most subjects contains the suffix s or es. Except for those that have unusual plural form. Such as the word medium with the plural medium. And the plural form of men. And man with the plural form of men. The opposite is true for verbs. It’s the singular verbs that ends with s. For example, look at these two sentences. In the first sentence the subject is singular, boy, and the verb is singular, walks. In the second sentence the subject is plural, boys, and the verb is plural, walk. One rather awkward situation occurs when you’re referring to a single person but you’re not specifying any particular person. For example, each child took his or her dog for a walk. Many people use him or her, or his or her, but this can make the sentence sound awkward. You can avoid this by using a plural noun, such as them or their. But this can also sound awkward if it’s obvious from the sentence the subject is an individual. For example, each child took their dog for a walk. Best is if you can avoid it by reworking the sentence. For example, the children took their dogs for a walk. In business writing, there are standard tenses used depending on the type of document you’re writing. Business cases, for example, may be written in past or future tense, depending on whether the purpose is to discuss how a project was executed or propose how it would be executed. Verb tenses can also vary within the same business document. The organization overview section of a proposal may be written in perfect tense, while the financial projection section, written in present tense. Modern English has six tenses, each of which has what is called a corresponding continuous tense. The first three present, past, and future, are less problematic. For those who studied foreign languages, like Latin, French, and Spanish, you probably learned about these tenses primarily as part of your language studies. The other three tenses perfect, past perfect, and future perfect, are formed with helping verbs have, has, and had. Perfect tense is used to express and event that happened in the past but still has an effect on the present. For example, Mr. Michael Johnson has managed this company for the past five years. Has managed is the verb in perfect tense. Past perfect tense is used to express an event that took place before another action, also in the past. For example, Mr. Meyers had been sitting on a meeting when the client called. Had been sitting is the verb in past perfect tense. Future perfect tense is used to express an event that will have taken place at some time in the future. For example, I will have finished by 10 PM. Will have finished is the verb in future perfect tense. Regardless of which tense you are using, the verb tense must match the meaning of the sentence and be consistent within a sentence. Another topic for your attention is noun, pronoun agreement. Here are a few rules to keep in mind. A pronoun must have the same gender and number as its subject. Sometimes the best option is to write the sentence in a gender neutral way. A particular point of confusion for some appears to be when there are multiple nouns in a sentence, but the subject is a singular pronoun, such as either neither, each or every. If this is the case when subject of the sentence is a singular pronoun, other nouns that accompany it have no effect on the number of the verb, so the verb remains singular. For example, if I were to say each of us were responsible for the tasks assigned, I would be incorrect. The subject is each and other nouns in this sentence in this case don’t alter the verb. The verb remains singular. Therefore, the sentence should be each of us is responsible for the tasks assigned. The last common grammatical error is double negatives. Some are quite obvious, but some are not. For example, a fairly obvious one is, I don’t have no pencil. I think most of us would see that as incorrect grammar. However, some double negatives are less obvious. Those tend to be the ones in which the sentence includes the word not. With another word with a negative sense. For example, she couldn’t help but call her friend to tell her about the party. The word but implies a negative in this sentence and therefore combines with the negative contraction couldn’t to make a double negative. A better sentence would be, she couldn’t help calling her friend about the party. To finish up our brief lesson on grammar, watch your noun and verb agreements, your noun and pronoun agreements, use the appropriate verb tense, and avoid double negatives. Take a few moments to check your understanding of double negatives before moving on to punctuation. Finally a brief reminder about punctuation marks. Use your punctuation wisely. It’s an important component of the flow of your document. Following is a reminder of the use of common punctuation marks. A period is used to end a sentence, indicating a full stop. Periods are also used after initials and abbreviations. Question mark indicates that the sentence is a question. Exclamation points are used after statements expressed with strong emotion. They should be used sparingly. Excessive use of exclamation points suggests immaturity. Commas are used to separate items in a series. Also used before and, but, or, nor, for, so, and yet, when they join independent clauses. It is also used to separate items that interrupt a series. Take care not to use a comma where a period is a better choice. If you find you have a sentence with too many commas, reread it to see if there’s a way to break it into multiple sentences. A colon is used to make note of what follows, and is typically succeeded by elaboration, summation, interpretation of what it proceeds. An apostrophe is used to show belonging or to indicate the omission of letters in a word. A semicolon is used to link independent clauses that aren’t joined by coordinating conjunctions such as and or but. To finish up our brief lesson on grammar, watch your noun and verb agreements, your noun and pronoun agreements. Use the appropriate verb tense and avoid double negatives.

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