Monday, September 12, 2005

This One's For Grady

Topic idea! I don't know if it's easy, but I was wanting to know the importance of grammar/sentence structure technicalities. If a mugger jumps out and screams at gunpoint, "What is an adjective!" I would have to reply; "Being shot is less painful than trying to remember!" –Grady Houger

There once was a BG named Grady,
Who cried, “All this grammar stuff’s shady!
I don’t know a noun
From a hole in the ground.
I know! I’ll go ask blogger lady.”

Oh, boy, a grammar lesson. How wonderfully . . . boring. But necessary.

I shall do what I can to keep it entertaining. We'll go at a rather fast clip. So strap on your seatbelt, keep your hands inside the car, and don’t forget to b r e a t h e . . .

A noun is a person, place, or thing. Could be a common noun or a proper noun. No, common nouns do not refer to the non-elites. Necessarily. And proper nouns do not refer to the impeccably mannered. Necessarily. But they could. Common nouns are nouns that are, um, common. As in having all their letters share the same commonality—not capped. UNLESS YOU ARE SHOUTING AT YOUR DOG!! In which case dog—a common noun—would be not only capped, but all capped, although it still wouldn't be proper. (I’ve never seen a proper dog. They tend to have some rather interesting habits that preclude such distinction.) Proper nouns, on the other hand—hand is a common noun, by the way—are capitalized. Like the names of people. Grady is a proper noun. (However improper you may choose to act at the moment.) Timbuktu is a proper noun. (I have no idea how proper Timbuktu is because I’ve never been there.)

A pronoun stands in place of a noun. He instead of Grady. Them instead of the baby deer frolicking on our lawn in Idaho. It instead of our rumored neighborhood bear, which we finally saw, sauntering down our driveway like it owned the place. (Actually, as long as it was around, it did.)

A verb does something. There are two kinds of verbs—action verbs and state of being verbs. Action verbs—you guessed it—commit an action. Work. Jump. Talk. Eat. Sleep. (Hey, they’re getting better as we go along.) State of being verbs don’t do nuthin’ but just be. Sort of like couch potatoes. Without the television. These are—hey, there’s one of 'em now. Are. The plural use of is. Which is (hey, there’s another one!) the singular use of to be. Hamlet liked this verb a lot.

A noun usually serves as the subject of a sentence, whether common or proper. Grady is a BG. Grady is the subject. Grady is also a proper noun. Two definitions for the price of one. Sometimes, however, a subject comes from a verb. This happens when you take a verb and add ing. This turns the word from a verb into a gerund. Why it’s called a gerund is beyond me. It should be called verbouning. Writing makes me crazy. Writing’s a gerund, and the subject of the sentence. I took the verb write, added ing, and, voila! a noun. A common noun. Although there is nothing common about writing. Especially fiction. Especially fiction when a deadline approacheth.

Nouns also often serve as the direct object in a sentence. The direct object is the object directly affected by what the subject does with the verb. (Have I lost you yet?) Grady asked me about grammar. Me is the direct object. Grady reads my blog. Blog is the direct object. I kicked a cabinet yesterday. Actually, I didn’t, but cabinet remains the direct object whenever I decide to kick one next.

An adjective modifies a noun. In other words, tells us something about that noun. Think of adjectives as gossipy sorts—always adding details. BTW, sorts is a noun. Gossipy is an adjective. Student Grady Houger. Student is the adjective. It helps define Grady (whether you are acting studious or not). Grady Houger remains the proper noun (or perhaps the improper, nonstudious student, but we won’t ask too many questions).

An adverb modifies an adjective or a verb. If an adjective is gossipy, an adverb is very gossipy. In fact, very is an adverb. Why? Because it’s giving us a detail about just how gossipy the adjective is. It makes more sense when an adverb modifies a verb. It adds to the verb—hence, its name. I suppose we could call it an adadjective, but that’s rather cumbersome. When an adverb modifies a verb, there’s often an ly at the end. Editors don’t like these words muchly. They veritably, happily, and grinningly X ’em out in manuscripts. At least mine does.

My husband recently bought a new 2005 metallic red Corvette.

Can you handle this, Grady?

Not the car, the conjugation.

Husband is the subject. It’s also a common noun. Although I can say without an ounce of prejudice that there’s nothing common about my husband. He is a man extraordinaire.

Bought is the verb. An action verb, since it’s something he did. As in shelled out money. In Phoenix. Because he couldn’t find the color he wanted in California. Then he had to fly down to Arizona to pick said car up and drive it home.

But I digress.

Corvette is a proper noun. And boy, is it proper. As in fine. Fine, indeed.

Corvette is also the direct object. Husband (subject and noun) bought (action verb) what? He bought Corvette—the object directly affected by the verb.

Red is an adjective. It describes the noun Corvette. Although there’s no such thing as a proper adjective, this is one, in my opinion. Because if you’re going to buy a Corvette, it’s only proper that it be red.

Metallic is an adverb. In this case, an adadjective. It describes the red. It ain’t just any red. Not cherry (another adverb) red. Not dull (an adverb you’d never find associated with a ’Vette) red. Metallic red. As in sparkly under the sun.

2005 is an adjective. You see why? Even though it’s separated from Corvette, it’s describing the car. The metallic is not 2005. (Although, who knows, maybe they didn’t have this particular metallic in 2004.) The red is not 2005. (Ditto on previous parenthetical statement.) The Corvette is 2005.

I drive the Corvette when hubby is traveling. I play my CDs very loudly. Classic rock. This embarrasses my fifteen-year-old. Apparently I’m not acting my age. Which I forget anyway, so what difference does it make?

Grady, wanna tackle one or two of three of those sentences? Come on now, man, let’s see a little conjugation sensation. As for the rest of you BGs, anything in the grammar lesson I missed? Do make sure your additions are entertaining.


Grady Houger said...

Wow! I was expecting a one line 'you should learn grammar because X'. Awesomeness!

I(pronoun subjectA) drive(action verb) the(article) Corvette(proper noun objectA) when hubby(common noun objectB) is(state verb) traveling(verb subject(gerund) subjectB), embarrassing(verb) my fifteen-year-old(common noun(built of adjectives) subjectC) with(preposition!!) loud(adverb) classic(adjective) rock(noun objectC).
Apparently(adverb) I'm(pronoun+state verb? subject) not acting(verb) my age(noun object), but(conjunction) since(preposition!!) I(pronoun subject) forgot(verb) that(pronoun object) anyway(adjective?), what difference[effect consequence, result] does(action verb?) it(pronoun) make(action verb)?

Prepositions! I had an index card in grade school listing them: about, above, across, after, against… I memorized that thing because it told such a cool story about two guys who went Above their city, Across the plain, climbing on rocks, getting lost in a cave and finding their way out except now they're on the opposite side of the mountains from home….. I never learned what a preposition was, until now! AArrrgg! It's 3 in the morning and I know what a preposition is!

Ok, thanks for the effective grammar lesson. (You deserve a hug!) I'm starting to remember how this all goes. Everybody else probably knows grammar, so let's say I go out (I will) to one of the zillions of websites I just found that teach basic grammar (with interactive quizzes no less!) and learn it. How does a person use grammar to refine, revise, find mistakes, 'rite betta'?

Or instead take a break and talk about how fun the conference is. (That's what I'd do.)


Ron Estrada said...

Just buy a Strunk and White, Grady, and call it even. Can't we stick with something simple, like multiple POV's on one scene? Or maybe a lovely root canal?

Okay, I'm hitting the road for a VERY leisiurely drive to Nashville in about three hours. See y'all (a little Tennessee lingo there) later.

Anonymous said...

does is a helping verb. "what difference does it make?" it does make a difference. does "helps" the verb make.

BTW that was the most entertaining grammar lesson I have ever had in my life. Rock on.

Gina Holmes said...

All right, I'm in awe.
Only you could teach grammar and make it immensely entertaining.

And I learned a new word:gerund.

I like gerunds but try not to like them too much.

Thanks, that was great!

Becky said...

Outstanding, Brandilyn. I'm teaching a seminar in Nov. to secondary teachers called "Demystifying Grammar." I may call on you as a guest speaker! Hahah! Seriously, though, you have given me some good ideas.

As to Grady's question—how grammar helps a person "rite betta"—I'd say it's kinda like taking your car in to get fixed and finding that the mechanic doesn't know the name of the parts. In actuality, I suppose the editor is the word mechanic and we're the drivers (those published authors are OWNERS of a fine vehicle, or even a fleet of fine vehicles!), so the question remains, what help is grammar to the writer with no aspirations for editing?

Stay with the analogy. The more you know, the more you can fix without professional help. And when you do get professional help, you understand what the changes are (and that you're not getting your original words arbitrarily ripped off).

Gina said...

Since I started homeschooling my 3rd and 5th grader I have learned so much about grammar. I am no longer confused and can figure out prepositions, adverbs, indirect objects, verb tranistives (okay, I still need my teacher's notes for the last two.) But it's amazing how much you learn when you have to teach it to someone else.

Brandilyn, thanks for the lesson. I'm happy to say I underestood everything you wrote about grammar. Now if I can just eliminate those dangling participles in my WIP, I'll be fine.

Cara Putman said...

A bit off topic, and if I missed something while I was out of town last week I apologize: Are the BGs getting together at ACFW to meet? It would be fun to put faces with handles :-)


Karen Wevick said...

Thank you so much Brandilyn. I didn't care much for grammar, and only really learned it when I learned French, but that was a few eons ago. My big problem is ending a sentence with a preposition. How do you find graceful ways to avoid that without sounding stilted?
See y'all in Nashville. BTW - It's been on the warm side here, so don't plan on bringing anything much heavier than a sweater for the air conditioning. (80's during the day/sometimes 90's like today and mid-60's at night. Maybe rain on Thursday, but who knows?)

C.J. Darlington said...

I beg your pardon, but my dogs are very proper, thank you very much. (Unless they're being bad.)

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with this sentence:
"Grady, wanna tackle one or two of three of those sentences?"

Wayne said...

One of the marks of an outstanding teacher is that they find ways to make dry material interesting to their students. Brandilyn, you are OUTSTANDING! The folks at Schoolhouse Rock have nothing on you. Conjunction Junction? Pffft. This is high praise, B, for I LOVED Conjunction Junction. Of course, now that darned song is going to be stuck in my head all day. Again.

Anonymous said...

When you add 'ing' to any verb does it always become a gerund? For instance in 'The Second Coming' it starts:
"Turning and turning in the widening gyre"
In this instance I would have assumed turning to be a verb in both cases and widening to be an adjective. Is this correct?
Hurts my small brain sometimes working out grammatical features

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Anonymous, you are correct.

A verb with "ing" is a gerund. But verbs can be turned into adjectives, as is the case here.