Tag Archives: Learning

Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Conditional Tense

Conditional Tenses

Conditionals are a grammatical mood (remember moods) to express:

what happens

will happen

might have happened

would have happened

if you do

will do




In other words, they talk about the consequences of facts/hypothetical situations.

Example: If you read this article, your writing may improve.

In this example the improvement of your writing may happen, doesn’t just happen. It is a possible consequence of the condition of reading this article. Your writing may improve if you read this article. And yes, the sentence still means the same when you turn it around, but like always, you use a comma when you put the ‘if’ part before the main clause.

Conditional sentences have two parts:

  1. The main clause, stating what could/would/should happen (in past, present, or future)
  2. The conditional clause (the ‘if’ clause), stating what the condition is for the main clause to happen

Conditional tenses can be positive, mostly using ‘if’ in the condition, or negative, using ‘unless’ in the condition. The negative conditional tenses use the same sentence structure as the positive conditional tenses.

There are four types of conditional sentences, expressing different meanings.

Zero Conditional Tense

This is a commonly used form of the conditional tense.


For general truths/realistic expectations, not specific situations.


If clause –> simple present

Main clause –> simple present

Example: If you write, you are a writer.


First Conditional Tense


These refer to possible conditions and probable real-world results in the future, based on facts. They are often warnings.


If clause –> simple present

Main clause –> simple future (may contain modals)

Example: If you write today, you will finish your book tomorrow.

Example: If you don’t write today, you may not finish your book tomorrow.

The second example includes a modal in the main clause.

Note: For the next two Conditional tenses, you need to know:

The present conditional tense is formed by two elements: would + infinitive

Example: It would work.

The perfect conditional tense is formed by the elements: would have + past participle

Example: It would have worked.

Second Conditional Tense


To describe a situation anytime that is very likely unreal. The if clause is hypothetical and/or completely unrealistic, i.e. not based on facts. The main clause, i.e. the result of the conditional, is probable but not certain.

Usually, a modal auxiliary verb (must, shall, will, should, would, can could, may, and might) is used in the main clause to express the (un)likelihood of the result happening.


If clause –> simple past

Main clause –> present conditional/present continuous conditional

Example: If I won the lottery, I would share it with you.

Often, If I was… is replaced by If I were…

Example: If I were you, I wouldn’t do it.

Again, modals are usually used in the main clause.

Example: He might write a review if you paid him for it.


Third Conditional Tense


To describe how things would be different if something had changed in the past. The main clause describes a contrast of the current reality, but the if clause could have been real.


If clause –> past perfect

Main clause –> perfect conditional/perfect continuous conditional

Example: If only I had paid more attention at school, I would be a better writer now.


Mixed Conditional Tense

The ‘mixed’ refers to the different times of the two parts of the conditional sentence.


  1. When you express a present result of a past condition

Both parts of the sentence are a contrast of reality.


  • If clause –> past perfect
  • Main clause –> present conditional

Example: If I sold a million books for 99c, I would be rich.

This is not the same as the Third Conditional Tense, where you use the past perfect and perfect conditional.

  1. When you express a past result of a present/continuing condition.


  • If clause –> simple past (now or always)
  • Main clause –> perfect conditional (before now)

Example: If I wasn’t so distracted by social media, I would have finished my novel a long time ago.



Conditional sentence type Usage If clause verb tense Main clause verb tense
Zero General truths Simple present Simple present
Type 1 A possible condition and its probable result Simple present Simple future
Type 2 A hypothetical condition and its probable result Simple past Present conditional or Present continuous conditional
Type 3 An unreal past condition and its probable result in the past Past perfect Perfect conditional
Mixed type An unreal past condition and its probable result in the present

An unreal (current) condition and its probable result in the past

Past perfect


Simple past

Present conditional


Perfect conditional

(Table adapted from https://www.ef.co.uk/english-resources/english-grammar/conditional/)

6 Reasons to Attend a Writers’ Conference

I’m sorry not to have a ‘What to Watch’ blog post for you this week as I haven’t been watching TV all weekend. The reason being I attended the 4th Dublin Writers’ Conference, organised by BooksGoSocial. I flew to Dublin on Friday morning and returned back home on Monday morning. I didn’t blog at all yesterday as I had to catch up on my lack of sleep (I only got about eight hours of sleep over the whole weekend!).

Laurence O'Bryan
Laurence O’Bryan giving his introduction speech of the fourth Dublin Writers Conference 2018

It was my first conference ever, and I had a ball. The cost of the conference wasn’t too bad, but the price soon ramped up as I had to fly to get there and had to organize accommodation for three nights. I made the mistake of not reading the itinerary properly and thought that the dinner with awards ceremony was on Sunday evening. The last plane back home on the Sunday was in the afternoon, so I booked myself another night and a Monday morning flight (it later appeared later that the dinner was on Saturday, and I didn’t need the extra night). I had anxiety attacks since booking for fear of missing my 7am flight (those who know me know I’m not a morning person).

So, if it was costing me a small fortune and causing me anxiety attacks, why would I recommend going to a writers’ conference? Let me count the ways…

1. Boost Your Self-esteem

The anxiety attacks mentioned above are caused by menopause (I only found this out recently). Yes, I have the hot flushes as well, but drinking (any) alcohol makes me wake up in the middle of the night panicking about some trivial thing. This undermined my self-esteem to the point I would let my husband take care of everything.

I put my fears aside and booked the conference, the flight, and the accommodation without any help from my husband. It gave me a tremendous boost knowing that I’m not a pathetic, dependent housewife. I am a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it! Yes, I made the mistake of not reading the itinerary properly, making coming home a tad more difficult, but I did it, and I’m here and still alive 😀 .

2. Making Friends

As you all know, writing is a lonely existence. I don’t know about your social life, but mine is as good as non-existent. And that’s okay. I’m quite happy with that. Alone doesn’t mean lonely. I kinda like having the day to myself, being my own boss, and making my own schedule. I don’t meet a lot of people this way, though.

Allie Marie and I out on the town
Allie Marie and I out on the town

Going to a conference makes you meet people face-to-face. You shake their hands, you see their facial expressions, you hug them when the conference is over. I hugged them as I was truly sad to leave them. These people are at the conference for the same reason as you. They all talk about what you talk about. No longer do you have to see people’s eyes glaze over when you start telling them about your protagonist’s latest character development. You know what I mean. It was emotional to meet all these people sharing the same love.

I’ve made some great friends this weekend, and I’m looking forward to chatting with them online about our stories and meeting them again next year!

3. Gaining Contacts

Not only is going to a conference great for making friends, it’s also great for laying contacts with people in the business. I chatted with a representative of publisher IngramSpark who gave me a discount code, I accidentally sat next to a US based publishing expert who told me the difference between an author and a successful author, and I gave my book to someone who does podcasts and hence interviewed me on Saturday. I even met someone who wanted to write my memoir!

It’s always nice to know the face that goes with the name you see online. When you meet in person, they get to know you and, hopefully, remember you and your books. You never know what may happen as a result 🙂 . One can always hope for some more reviews…

4. Branding Yourself

Wendy H. Jones and I
Wendy H. Jones and I

During the summer of 2016, I attended a workshop in Elgin, organized by the Scottish Writers’ Association. That’s when I met Wendy H. Jones for the first time. Her talk about branding yourself was so inspiring! Hence, before I went to this conference in Ireland, I got out my fangs, bought some ‘Victorian’ blouses, and branded myself all weekend. I think I was the only one who did, but I don’t care. I bet you most people attending the conference will remember ‘the vampire lady’!

5. Pitching Experience

I put my name down for the Algonkian workshop and also for the movie pitch with a Hollywood producer. I learned so much from those two experiences. I knew my movie pitch was not going to be successful as vampire movies are not ‘in’ at the moment. But, I happened to find out that the podcast lady had done a pitching course and she gave me some hints and tips. Afterward, a lot of people told me my pitch was excellent which made it a great experience even though not successful.

6. Learning the Trade

Last but not least, you learn an awful lot from all those speakers. They’ve all been at it for longer than you have and share their wealth of information with you. They don’t want you to reinvent the wheel and want you to be as successful as they have been. That’s what I like about writers most; they are all such nice and helpful people.

I made lots of notes. Not only the hints and tips that applied to my book, but also the ones for others as maybe, one day, they could apply to a book I’ll write in the future. You can never learn too much! Now I have to apply what I’ve learned which is something altogether different 😀 .


There you have it; six reasons to attend a writers’ conference. Yes, it costs money, but it will be a an experience of a lifetime which will make your life richer in all possible ways!

Let me know if you have another reason to attend a writers’ conference 🙂



Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Future

Even though most novels are written in the simple past, the future tense often features in them. You need to be able to use it properly to convey exactly what you think is going to happen. Have a quick read of The Past and The Present if you missed them.

The Future Tense

There are four future tenses:

  • The simple future
  • The future continuous/progressive
  • The future perfect simple
  • The future perfect continuous/progressive

Simple Future

Use when:

  • a future action is predicted (using will or [be] going to)
  • a future action is planned/intended (using [be] going to)
  • an action is spontaneous (using will)
  • an action is offered/promised/threatened (using will), either given/made or talked about
  • an action is offered in a question (using shall…)
  • a future action is questioned (using what/where/how/why shall…)
  • the action is an order (using you will)
  • the action is an invitation

Shall is mainly used with ‘I’ and ‘we,’ use will for all other objects of the sentence.

Note: The simple future is used when the action in the future is not 100% certain to happen (it is predicted/planned/offered/promised, but not written in stone).

Note: Sentences beginning with time indications about arranged events together with others at a later date don’t use the present tense. In these cases, use the present continuous.

Example: When I’m attending this workshop tonight with my friend,  I am going to learn a lot.

Form: will/shall + verb root or   [be] + going to + verb root

Note that future tenses always use an auxiliary verb (will/shall or am/is/are + going to). These are verbs that help to convey the tense/aspect/mood of another verb.

Example: She is going to catch the train to get there in time.

Example: I will pick her up from the station.

Example: She will come every Wednesday to help us.

Example: Shall we pick her up from the station together?

Example: What shall we give her for helping?

Example: You will give her something!

Example: Will you accept our gift?

Example: I would like to, but I can’t.

Signal or Key words:

There are no specific signal or key words for future tenses. The future is indicated when:

  • Using certain verbs (would like, plan, want, mean, hope, expect, etc.)
  • Using modals like may, might, and could if the future isn’t certain
  • Using should to indicate you want something to happen or something is likely to happen

Future Continuous/Progressive

Use when:

  • An action is going to start at an unspecific time in the future and will still be happening at a specific time in the future (often accompanied by a future time indication)
  • An action is certain to happen
  • An action is being questioned
  • Two actions will be happening at the same time in the future

The future continuous stresses an action in the future that is/can/will/should be interrupted by another future action.

Form: will + [be] + present participle (= verb root + -ing)


[be] + going to be + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: I will be addressing the media at noon tomorrow when I need to take my anti-stress pills.

Example: I am going to be working on the final chapter next week.

Example: Will you be helping me with my grammar?

Example: I will be writing and he will be reading.

Future Perfect Simple

Use when:

  • An action at a certain point in the future will have finished

Form: will + have + past participle (= verb root + -ed)

Example: I will have learned all tenses by the time I get to the end of this article.

Signal or Key words:

By Before

Future Perfect Continuous/Progressive

Use when:

  • An action has already happened at a certain time in the future and is unfinished in a more distant future, often used with a time indication

Note: When using the future perfect continuous, you are stressing the duration of the action.

It is not a very often used tense in the English language.

Form: will + have + been + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: My novel will have been praised by many this time next year.


[be] + going to have been + present participle (= verb root + -ing)

Example: My novel is going to have been praised by many this time next year.


Beside the four future tenses, you can also talk about the future without a future verb tense by:

  • Using the simple present when an action is in the immediate future

Example: I throw the ball, you catch it.

  • Using the simple present when an action is a scheduled event

Example: You arrive on Thursday evening for the meeting Friday morning.

  • Using the present continuous when an action is a future arrangement

Example: She is working the night shift.

  • Using the verb going to

Example: We are going to do this!

  • Using future obligations

Example: She is to be wed to the old man.

I am aware that this explanation of tenses is far from complete/perfect, but I hope it will get the beginner writer a long way.

Here is a timeline graph that I made that I hope puts things into perspective.


Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Present

Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. This post is all about the present tense. Read up about The Past here.

The Present Tense

Most novels are written in past tense, but some authors prefer the present tense. It is the tense commonly used in dialogue.

For the following explanation of the tenses, please note that the root of a verb is the base form of a verb (= whole verb minus –ing).

Simple Present

Use when:

  • an action is happening right now
  • an action happens regularly/never stops (and hence is sometimes called the present indefinite)
  • an action refers to timetables.

Form:  Verb root

If that word ends in a consonant; you need to add an ‘e’). You also need to add an ‘s’ or ‘es’ in the third person (use ‘es’ when the root form ends in o, ch, sh, th, ss, gh, or z).

Example: I write novels, but she writes thrillers.

Example: He goes to work when she comes home.

Example: We always watch movies on Fridays, but he watches movies on Saturdays.

Signal or Keywords:

Always Seldom After work
Often Never/Hardly ever First
Usually Every … Then
Sometimes On Mondays

Note that most of them indicate a frequency and the others a recurring time frame.

Present Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action is happening now
  • an action is certain to continue/stop in the near future.

Form: [be] + present participle (= verb root + -ing).

Example: I am writing tonight.

Example: He is finishing his novel this weekend.

Signal or Keywords:

Now For a few days Tonight
At the moment Always Later
Currently Forever This weekend
These days Constantly Little by little
Gradually Look, Listen,
Still At present Even now
Any longer Any more

Present Perfect

Use when:

  • an action has happened in the past but at an unspecified time
  • an action has an unfinished time (i.e. the action is happening all the way up to the present time)
  • an action has been recurring in the past up until now
  • an action has been completed in the very near past (usually indicated by ‘just’)

The present perfect explains why things are the way they are now; there is a connection between the past and the present. It is used to emphasize the result of a(n) (finished)  action.

Form: have/has + past participle (= verb root + -ed)

Example: She has published five novels during her life.

Note that during her life doesn’t indicate exactly when; it is an unspecified time.

Example: I have finished my book and can rest now.

Example: Why is he happy? Because he has sold one hundred books.

Note that he is happy is written in the simple present, and the reason Because he has sold one hundred books is written in the present perfect as it is the reason for the current state.

Signal or Keywords:

Today This week This year
In my lifetime Just Yet
Never Already Ever
So far Up to now Recently
Since For Not yet
Lately Recently Once
It’s the first time

Present Perfect Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action has begun in the past (sometimes at an unspecified time) and has lasted up until now, but could still be going on.

In contrast to the present perfect, the action of the present perfect continuous isn’t finished. It could be seen as a time indication of the near past (lately, recently) and the result of that action is still visible, heard, or felt. It puts emphasis on the duration of the action, which is often temporary.

Form: has/have + been + present participle (=verb root + -ing)

Example: I have been writing this last hour and have a cramp in my hand now.

Example: She has been teaching English for ten years, so she knows her grammar.

Signal or Key words:

All day Since For
The whole time (…week, year, etc.) How long (used in a question)


Brush Up On Your Tenses – The Past

It’s been a while since I mentioned writing some grammar articles on the English tenses, but I’m finally back into (some sort of) a routine. Today, I’ll be discussing the past tense. If you’d like to read up on the introduction again before diving into this one, you can find it here.

The Past Tense

The past tense is used when we write about what happened before now, what happened right up until now, and what happened right up until now and is still happening.

The past tense can be divided into:

  • the simple past
  • the  past continuous
  • the past perfect
  • the past perfect continuous

Simple Past

Use when:

  • an action has happened once in the past
  • an action happened repeatedly in the past
  • an action was true for some time in the past
  • the word ‘ago’ is used in the sentence.

The action could have happened once, never, or several times, but both the beginning and the end of the action(s) lie in the past.

Form: verb root + -ed

Example: I worked all night to finish the chapter.

Example: He attended several workshops on writing.

Example: We lived there for years.

Example: It was a long time ago when she kissed him for the first time.

Signal or Key words:

Often Always Sometimes
Last (time frame; day, week, etc.) When Yesterday
(period of time) ago The other day In (year)

Past Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action was happening before, during, and after another action or specific time in the past
  • an action is interrupted by another action
  • an action was happening for a while in the past
  • an action happened repeatedly in the past
  • an action was evolving/growing in the past
  • you want to indicate a change of mind in the past
  • two actions happened at the same time in the past
  • (you are wondering about something)

When you are wondering about something, you use the past continuous, but it is not a true time on the time line.

Form: was/were + verb root + -ing

Example: He was lying in the grass when he had an epiphany.

Example: I was writing a paranormal novel when I was asked to write an article on grammar.

Example: She was working on that book for ages.

Example: He was reading to us every night.

Example: Their grasp of the English language was improving.

Example: We were thinking about entering a writers’ competition, but we don’t think we’re good enough.

Example: I was writing while he was making dinner.

Example: (I was wondering if you could help me with my grammar.)

Signal or Key words:

While When

Past Perfect

Use when:

  • an action happened before another action or specific time in the past
  • an action happened before and up until another action in the past (example: live, work, teach, study)
  • using reported speech
  • (using if)

It is possible to use the simple past instead of the past perfect if ‘before’ or ‘after’ is used in the sentence to indicate the time the action happened.

You can’t use the past perfect if there is no specific time indication.

Form: had + past participle (= verb root + ed)

Example: She had always walked to work until she had the accident.

 Example: He had lived in a student flat for years until he got his first job.

 Example: I had thought her to be helpful before, but she wasn’t.

 Example: (If he had worked harder, he would have finished his novel by now.)

Signal or Key words:

When After Before
By the time Already Just
Never Not yet Until … (in the past)

Past Perfect Continuous / Progressive

Use when:

  • an action began at a certain time in the past and continued up until another specific time in the past
  • showing cause of an action (using ‘because’)
  • using reported speech
  • (using if)

Form: had been + present participle

Example: I had been buying books in the book store when I discovered online stores.

Example: She had been working all night because she didn’t work enough hours before.

Example: I had been reading my book before I looked up to see him standing there.

Example: (If he had been paying attention, he would have gotten there faster.)

Signal or Key words:

For Since

Next week, I’ll be discussing the present tense.


Tenses – An Overview

In the weeks to come, I will address tenses as part of my grammar blog on Fridays. To most English-bred writers, tenses come naturally, but not to writers to whom English is a foreign language.

A few writers write in the present tense, but most prefer the past tense as it gives more options to describe what is happening. I myself prefer the past tense. Sometimes, however, I find that a simple present tense sneakily slips in. Hence, I love my beta-readers, and I edit and edit and edit…


Tenses in language are used for time reference. There are many different constructions for time reference and not all languages use the same one. Basic tenses have a past, a present, and a future. Some languages have a past and a non-past (which is both the present and the future), while other languages have a future and non-future (which is the past and the present). Some languages don’t weave time into their verbs at all. Some languages differentiate near and remote pasts or near and remote futures.

The TAM system

The English language uses the ‘TAM’ system; the Tense-Aspect-Mood system.

Verbs mark in what tense the action is happening: the past, present, or future (the tense proper).

The aspect shows if the action is happening (continuous), is completed before another action (perfect), is an action that had been ongoing but is completed at a certain point (perfect continuous), or is an action that is just stated (simple).

The four moods are:

  • indicative (assertion, denial, question of actuality, or strong probability)
  • imperative (request, direct order, permission, and strong suggestion)
  • conditional (if sentences, hypothetical results, reporting dialogue, polite speech)
  • subjunctive (desires, wishes, assumptions).

The indicative is the most used mood form in the English language.

English is a Germanic language that has a past and a present (non-past) and these tenses are formed morphologically (the tense is created with the verb only). The future tense is made with auxiliaries, i.e. it is made of the same non-past tense with a supplementary supporting word (will or shall).

The table below may help you understand.

Morphological With auxiliaries
Present Past Future







I work I worked I will work



I am working I was working I will be working



I have worked I had worked I will have worked

Perfect continuous


I have been working I had been working I will have been working

Tenses in verbs are a large subject in the English language. Therefore I will limit the forms in the posts to come to regular verbs and the examples to positive sentence structures (no negatives or questions). I won’t go into abbreviations either.

For the following explanation of the tenses, please note that the root of a verb is the base form of a verb (= whole verb minus –ing).

Example: working – verb root = work

An overview of posts to come


  • Simple Past
  • Past Continuous
  • Past Perfect
  • Past Perfect Continuous


  • Simple Present
  • Present Continuous
  • Present Perfect
  • Present Perfect Continuous


  • Simple Future
  • Future Continuous
  • Future Perfect
  • Future Perfect Continuous


Timeline Graph












Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – Passive Voice

This is the last article I have up my sleeve in the Grammar series, for now. I’ll write another one as soon as I have my books in print-condition, something that has priority at the moment.

The article is a short one, but oh so important! As I’m re-editing my first book (for the so-maniest time), I still find passive voice sentences…

Passive Voice.PNG

In passive voice, the object becomes the subject. Obviously, you can only have passive voice sentences with transitive verbs (verbs that act upon an object).

Example 1: The famous writer gave a signed book to his greatest fan.

Example 2: The signed book was given by the famous writer to his greatest fan.

Example 3: His greatest fan was given the signed book by the famous writer.

In Example 1, the sentence is active; the writer gave the book. In Examples 2 and 3, however, the subjects are The signed book and His greatest fan resp., but they don’t do the writing. They were the direct objects and indirect objects resp. in the active sentence. Hence, sentence 2 and 3 are passive sentences. Note that the verb used in these sentences is was which is a dead giveaway.

Passive voice sentences are frowned upon and should be avoided if possible. There are a few instances in which this isn’t possible though.

Example: The baby was born at midnight.

Being born is a passive process; you can’t ‘actively birth’ yourself, hence the sentence containing someone/some animal being born will always be in the passive form.

When to use passive voice

Sometimes the passive voice is useful:

  • When you want to be deliberately vague

Example: The man was killed by one of the guests.

  • When you really don’t know who did it

Example: The man was killed by someone.

  • When it doesn’t matter who did it

Example: The man was killed.

Ask Me Anything Author Session

It’s now Monday, 12 March 2018, and I’m live to answer your questions. You can ask me anything!

Go to my AMA session site to type your question 🙂


I wrote some grammar articles for One Stop Fiction last year, and I’m going to share them with you. This week I’ll start talking about the subject of a sentence.



Most sentences have a verb and a subject. The subject of a sentence is the person, animal, place, thing, or idea that is ‘doing’ or ‘being’ the verb.

There are multiple forms of subjects. Have a look at this table from Wikipedia:

Noun (phrase) or pronoun The large car stopped outside our house.
A gerund (phrase) His constant hammering was annoying.
to-infinitive (phrase) To read is easier than to write.
A full that-clause That he had traveled the world was known to everyone.
A free relative clause Whatever he did was always of interest.
A direct quotation I love you is often heard these days.
Zero (but implied) subject Take out the trash!
An expletive It is raining.
Acataphoric it It was known by everyone that he had traveled the world.

A subject can be a simple subject, a complete subject, or a compound subject.

Simple Subject

Example: I read a book.

In the above example, the verb is read. To find the subject, ask ‘who or what does the reading?’ The person in this sentence who does the reading is I. Therefore, I is the subject.

The subject in this sentence is called a simple subject; there are no modifiers of the subject noun. The subject isn’t always a single word though.

Example: What he wanted to learn about writing was not going to be found in the library.

What he wanted to learn about writing is the subject of this sentence, not just he or writing or what he wanted to learn. Even though it consists of multiple words, it’s a simple subject as there are no modifiers.

Complete Subject

The complete subject contains all the modifiers of a subject.

Example: The hardworking, persevering, tenacious writer finally published her first book.

In the above example, the subject who does the publishing is the hardworking, persevering, tenacious writer. It is the complete subject as all together they describe who does the publishing. The simple subject in this sentence is the writer as hardworking, persevering, tenacious are modifiers of the simple subject.

Compound Subject

A compound subject is a subject consisting of more than one element. This could be pronouns, noun phrases, and noun clauses. The individual subjects are put together with the help of coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).

Example: She and I are collaborating on a book. (pronouns)

Example: Imagination, typing skills, and perseverance are needed to be a writer. (noun phrase)

Example: Whoever publishes my book shall not be disappointed. (noun clause)

When using ‘and’ as the coordinating conjunction, the subject can be replaced by ‘they’ so use the verb that goes with ‘they.’

Example: Joe and Jane work together.

The Proximity Rule

When using ‘or,’ ‘neither/nor,’ ‘as well as,’ or ‘alongside,’ the verb used goes with the subject that is closest to the verb. This is called ‘the proximity rule.’

Example: Joe or Jane is writing the story.

Example: The Smiths as well as the Joneses are preparing the picnic.

Example: A novel or a maximum of two short stories are accepted.

Subject-Verb Inversion

Usually, the subject comes before the verb. Sometimes, however, the subject is mentioned after the verb. This is called locative inversion or subject-verb inversion. There are many situations when this is used. Here are a few:

Example: Did you finish reading the book yet? (question)

Example: Here is my version. (expletive)

Example: “Don’t do it!” said the girl. (attributing speech)

Example: More important is this particular reason. (give prominence)

Example: Never in my life was I so frightened. (sentence begins with adverbial phrase/clause or adverb)

Example: I don’t get it, nor does she. (negative construction)

Example: I get it, so does he. (after ‘so’)

Example: Doomed was he. (literary effect)

No Subject

Not all sentences have a subject. Statements, questions, imperatives (orders, commands, warnings, or instructions), and exclamations don’t always have a subject.

Example: Not a lot of writing today. (statement)

Example: Who published your book? (question)

Example: Write that down! (imperative)

Example: Great story! (exclamation)

Prepositional phrases

The subject is never part of a prepositional phrase (that part of a sentence starting with an indication of location; a preposition, and ending in a noun, pronoun, or gerund).

Example: Neither of these books is liked by the students.

You would almost think that these books is the subject of this sentence, but as it is part of the prepositional phrase of these books, the subject is actually neither (as is emphasized by the singular form of the verb).

Linking Verbs

Not all verbs convey an action. Sometimes they describe the subject and are called linking verbs. Am, is, are, was, were, seem, etc. are examples of these. They link the subject to something said about it.

Example: Jane’s book is excellent.

Excellent says something about the book, not Jane, hence book is the subject of this sentence.


Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – That Crucial Comma, Part 3

I’m still busy editing my WIP. It’s nearly finished though, I’ve now printed it out and am working my way through it. I thought I’d only be looking for typos, but everything looks so different on paper, and I find myself changing at least five sentences per two pages (I printed two pages on a paper to save paper). But enough talk about my work, here’s the last part about commas for you to improve your work.

That Crucial Comma – Part 3


Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a distinct pause or shift / to offset negation in a sentence

 Example: I read a romance, not a thriller, last weekend.

In this case, you still need the comma if the negation occurs at the end of the sentence.

Example: I read a romance, not a thriller.

Use a comma to separate a statement from a question.

Example: I can write, can’t I?

Use a comma to separate contrasting parts of a sentence.

Example: That is my book, not yours.

Also, use commas when any distinct shift occurs in the sentence or thought process.

Example: That was a fantasy story, perhaps even a dark fantasy one.

Use commas to set off expressions that interrupt the sentence flow (nevertheless, after all, by the way, on the other hand, however, etc.).

Example: I am, by the way, sure about this.

Use commas to set off all geographical names, items in dates (except the month and day), and addresses (except the street number and name)

Example: September 11, 2001, was a scary day.

Even if you add a weekday, keep the comma after 2001.

Example: Tuesday, September 11, 2001, was a scary day.

Example: Tuesday, September 11, was a scary day.

You don’t need to add a comma when the sentence mentions only the month and year.

Example: September 2001 was a scary month.

Example: I work at 666 Park Ave. South, New York, N.Y. 60606.

Example: Portland, Maine, is a wonderful city.

Use a comma to shift between the main discourse and a quotation

If attribution comes before the quote, place the comma outside the quotations marks.

Example: The reader said, “I read a book.”

If attribution comes after the quote, put the comma inside the quotation marks.

Example: “I read a book,” said the reader.

If the attribution is within the quote, put the first comma within the first quotation marks and the second comma immediately after the attribution, outside of the second quotation marks.

Example: “Why,” I asked, “won’t you tell me?”

If a quotation functions as a subject or object in a sentence, it might not need a comma.

Example: Is ‘I don’t mind’ all you can say to me?

If a quoted question ends in midsentence, the question mark replaces a comma.

Example: “Will you still be my friend?” she asked.

Use commas wherever necessary to prevent possible confusion or misreading

Example: I called you my darling.

Example: I called you, my darling.

Use a comma after certain words that introduce a sentence, such as well, yes, why, hello, hey, etc.

Example: Why, I can’t believe you!

Example: No, you can’t have a raise.

Use a comma before and after certain introductory words or terms, such as namely, that is, i.e., e.g., and for instance, when they are followed by a series of items.

Example: You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bag, tent, and a mat.

A comma should precede the term etc. Many authorities also recommend a comma after etc. when it is placed midsentence.

Example: You may be required to bring many items, e.g., sleeping bag, tent, mat, etc.

(Please note there is no extra full stop when the sentence ends with an abbreviation ending in a full stop)

Example: Sleeping bag, tent, a mat, etc., are required.

Use a comma to set off the name, nickname, term of endearment, or title of a person directly addressed

Example: My boss often asks, “Jody, is that article up yet?”

Example: Will you, Aisha, do that assignment for me?

Example: Yes, old friend, I will.

Example: Good day, Captain.

Traditionally, if a person’s name is followed by Sr. or Jr., a comma follows the last name.

Example:  Martin Luther King, Jr.

This comma is no longer considered mandatory. However, if a comma does precede Sr. or Jr., another comma must follow the entire name when it appears midsentence.

Correct: Al Capone Sr. is here.

Correct: Al Capone, Sr., is here.

Incorrect: Al Capone, Sr. is here.

Similarly, use commas to enclose degrees or titles used with names.

Example: Al Mooney, M.D., is here.

Use commas before every sequence of three numbers when writing a number larger than 999

(Two exceptions are writing years and house numbers)

Example: 10,000 or 1,304,687.

Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!