Tag Archives: Learning

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!


Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – The Comma, Part 2

I’ve been so busy doing all sorts, that I haven’t had a chance to work on my book at all. Today is the day I’m starting edit 4 (text-to-speech) and I’m not going to let anything disturb me :). If you’ve forgotten what a clause is, check out this blog. If you want to brush up on Part 1, check it out here. So, without further ado, here is part 2 of the crucial comma lesson.

That Crucial Comma


Do not use commas to set off essential elements of the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that (relative clauses)

That clauses after nouns are always essential. That clauses following a verb expressing mental action are always essential.

Example: The dog that attacked me scared me.

Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence to set off appositives; clauses, phrases, and words (who, that, which) that are not essential to the meaning of the sentence

Use one comma before to indicate the beginning of the pause and one at the end to indicate the end of the pause.

Example: I saw a finch, a kind of bird.

A kind of bird is the appositive, which gives more information about a finch.

Incorrect: Ben who is my brother called me.

Correct: Ben, who is my brother, called me.

Following are two instances of the need for an appositive comma with one or more nouns.

Incorrect: The three shopping items, a bottle of wine, a French bread stick, and some French cheese were in my bag.

Correct: The three shopping items, a bottle of wine, a French bread stick, and some French cheese, were in my bag.

If the appositive occurs in the middle of the sentence, like in the above sentences and in this one, both sides of the phrase need a comma. The closing comma is called an appositive comma. Many writers forget to add this important comma.

Example: Frances, who has a limp, was in a car accident.

If we already know which Frances is meant, the description is not essential and hence between commas.

Example: The boy who has a limp was in a car accident.

We do not know which boy is meant without further description; therefore, no commas are used.

This leads to a persistent problem. Look at the following sentence:

Example: My sister Jane is here.

Now, see how adding two commas changes that sentence’s meaning:

Example: My sister, Jane, is here.

Careful writers and readers understand that the first sentence means I have more than one sister. The commas in the second sentence mean that Jane is my only sister.

Why? In the first sentence, Jane is essential information: it identifies which of my two (or more) sisters I’m speaking of. This is why no commas enclose Jane.

In the second sentence, Jane is nonessential information—whom else but Jane could I mean?—hence the commas.

Comma misuse is nothing to take lightly. It can lead to lies like this:

Example: Jacky Dahlhaus’s book, Living Like A Vampire, is a delight.

Because of the commas, that sentence states that I wrote only one book. But I wrote four books so far.

If something or someone is sufficiently identified, the description that follows is considered nonessential and should be surrounded by commas.

Incorrect: My best friend Joe arrived.

Correct: My best friend, Joe, arrived.

Use commas to separate three or more words, phrases, or clauses written in a series

Example: I saw a bird, a worm, and a fallen tree when I went walking.

Note: When the last comma in a series comes before and or or, it is known as the Oxford comma.

Use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives that describe the same noun

Be sure never to add an extra comma between the final adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with non-coordinate adjectives.

Example: I saw a big, mean dog when I went walking.

Only coordinate adjectives require a comma between them. Two adjectives are coordinate if you can answer yes to both of these questions:

1. Does the sentence still make sense if you reverse the order of the words?

2. Does the sentence still make sense if you insert “and” between the words?

Since ‘I saw a mean, big dog’ and ‘I saw a big and mean dog’ both sound fine, you need the comma.

Sentences with non-coordinate adjectives, however, don’t require a comma.

Example: I eat the salty chicken soup.

Salty describes chicken soup as a whole phrase. This often occurs with adjunct nouns, a phrase where a noun acts as an adjective describing another noun — like ‘dance club’ or ‘summer sun.’

That’s it for today. Have a wonderful writing weekend!

Another Short Story – Ushanka

Yesterday we wrote a story including a rhetorical question. The idea was to put one form of a rhetorical question in there.

Forms of Rhetorical Questions:

Erothesis – the question that isn’t a question at all; the speaker doesn’t wait for an answer.

Epiplexis – a lament or an insult is asked as a question.

Anacoenosis – the question where a particular audience will answer in a particular way.

Hypophora – a rhetorical question immediately answered aloud, usually by the person asking the question.

Anthypophora – asking questions while knowing the answers.

Aporia – asking a question you really don’t know the answer to.

I have tried to put all of these in my new short story, Ushanka. Can you find them all?


Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – The Comma, Part 1

I’m nearly finished with my third edit of Book 3 of the Suckers Trilogy. Only two chapters to go! After that, I’ve got two more edits to do (listening to it and reading it on paper) before it is reading worthy. So, in the meant time, here’s my rehash about that crucial comma.

That crucial comma


Even though the comma is such a tiny thing, it holds enormous power, able to completely change a sentence. ‘Let’s eat, Grandma,’ gets a totally different meaning when you omit the comma; ‘Let’s eat Grandma.’ It can even make the difference between winning court cases or not (see this article).

This first lesson will be on the placement of commas between independent and dependent clauses.

Use commas to separate independent clauses when they are joined by any of the seven coordinating conjunctions

The coordinating conjunctions being, of course; for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (it’s easy to remember when you use the acronym FANBOYS).

Example: I had a coffee, and I had a donut.

If the subject does not appear in front of the second verb, a comma is generally unnecessary.

Example: I had a coffee and had a donut.

But sometimes a comma in this situation is necessary to avoid confusion.

Confusing: I saw that he was leaving and had a donut.

Clearer with comma: I saw that he was leaving, and had a donut.

Without a comma, the reader is liable to think that ‘he’ was the one who had a donut.

Some writers omit the comma if the clauses are both quite short.

Example: I drink and he eats.

Many inexperienced writers run two independent clauses together by using a comma instead of a period. This results in the dreaded run-on sentence or, more technically, a comma splice.

Incorrect: He ate all the donuts, he drank all the wine.

There are several simple remedies:

Correct: He ate all the donuts. He drank all the wine.

Correct: After he ate all the donuts, he drank all the wine.

CorrectHe ate all the donuts, and he drank all the wine.

Use commas after dependent clauses and introductory clauses, phrases, words or adverbs that come before the main (independent) clause

When starting a sentence with a dependent clause, use a comma after it. A comma is usually unnecessary when the sentence starts with an independent clause followed by a dependent clause.

Example: If you aren’t staying for dinner, let me know now.

Example: Let me know if you aren’t staying for dinner.

Follow the same policy with introductory phrases.

Example: Having finally decided on the menu, we ordered our meals.

Example: We ordered our meals having finally decided on the menu.

However, if the introductory phrase is clear and brief (three or four words), the comma is optional.

Example: When in town we go partying.

But always add a comma if it would avoid confusion.

Example: Last Sunday, evening classes were canceled.

(The comma prevents a misreading.)

When an introductory phrase begins with a preposition, a comma may not be necessary even if the phrase contains more than three or four words.

Example: Into the sparkling pink champagne she gazed.

If such a phrase contains more than one preposition, a comma may be used unless a verb immediately follows the phrase.

Example: Between your red wine on the left and my white wine on the right, the man’s beer glass stood proudly.

Example: Between your red wine on the left and my white wine on the right stood the man’s beer glass.

Also, insert a comma when “however” starts a sentence as well. Phrases like “on the other hand” and “furthermore” also fall into this category. Starting a sentence with “however,” however, is discouraged by many careful writers. A better method would be to use “however” within a sentence after the phrase you want to negate, as in the previous sentence.

Many adverbs end in “ly” and answer the question “how?” How did someone do something? How did something happen? When you start your sentence with these adverbs, they are also followed by a comma.

Example: Majestically, he walked up to me.

Next week I’ll talk about how to incorporate a comma into a sentence more creatively.

Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!




Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – The Independent and Dependent Clauses

Today, I thought I’d rehash my post on commas but then realized you need to understand what dependent and independent clauses are first. When I read indie author’s work, I often find they don’t always know what the difference is. Hence, here is my old post from February 2016 again. I have updated it slightly and made sure all links are active (at least the ones mentioned in the text).

The Independent and Dependent Clauses

When I first read about ‘the clause’ I had to suppress a giggle. With no literary education apart from my high school English, the only clause I had ever heard of was, of course, Santa Clause. But as I read on, I realized how important the clause is, and I admit I have made many mistakes regarding this little-but-oh-so-important part of literature. I will try to give you a simplified explanation of ‘the clause’ and will start with the ‘independent clause’ vs. the ‘dependent clause.’

Easter Egg 3png

For those who don’t know (yet), the clause is the smallest way to make a sentence; it contains a subject and a verb. I walk. They sat. We read. These are all sentences made by a single clause. They contain a subject and a verb. You can have one or two clauses in a sentence and, if you’re wise with words, even more. Have a look at this 239-words sentence, it’s amazing! (You’ll have to search for it on this website, just enter ‘239 words sentence’ into the search function and follow the prompts).

Every sentence must have at least one (main) clause otherwise, you will have something called a fragment, which is, obviously, not a sentence.

Example of one clause: We drank a lot of wine. (We = subject; drank = verb)

Example of two clauses: We drank a lot of wine, and we danced all night. (We, we = subjects; drank, danced = verbs)

Example of three clauses: We drank a lot of wine, although I didn’t really like the vintage, and we danced all night. (We, I, we = subjects; drank, didn’t like, danced = verbs)

Example of a fragment: Drank a lot of wine. (? = subject; drank = verb; hence no clause)

Clauses can be independent or dependent/subordinate.

An independent clause can make a sentence on its own.

Example: We drank a lot of wine.

dependent/subordinate clause can’t stand on its own; it is dependent on an independent clause.

ExampleBecause we drank a lot of wine, we danced all night.

The underlined first clause in the above example is now a dependent clause as because we drank a lot of wine is not a proper sentence on its own; because of this, something happens, i.e. we danced all night. Because we danced all night can be a separate sentence on its own it is an independent clause. We drank a lot of wine would have been an independent clause, but because we added because to it, it isn’t any longer. It now is dependent on the independent clause we danced all night, and hence is now a depended clause. Confused yet?

Connecting independent clauses

You can connect two independent clauses in three ways;

  • with coordinating conjunctions. They are: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so; or FANBOYS.
  • with a semicolon (;) or colon (:)
  • with a semicolon, a transition word, and a comma (Example: I like wine; however, I don’t like dry wines) (see this page for transition words like after, as although, unless, and more, too many to mention 🙂 , so check out this page)

Connecting a dependent clause to an independent clause

You can connect a dependent clause to an independent clause in two ways: by using a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun.

Subordinate conjunction

You use another type of conjunction to connect a dependent/subordinate clause to an independent clause; the subordinate conjunction (although, as, because, etc.). You can find a list of the most used subordinate conjunctions here.

You can start the sentence with the independent clause or with the dependent clause. If using the former, don’t use a comma to combine the two clauses. When using the latter, separate the two clauses with a comma. These two last sentences here are good examples of the latter sentence structure (dependent before independent clause).

Example of former: We danced all night because we drank a lot of wine. (dependent clause first, so no comma)

By the way, there is a fine line between transition words and conjunctions. Some words can even be used as both. Have a look at this page for further information.

Relative pronoun

Another way to connect a dependent clause to an independent clause is with a relative pronoun; that, which, whichever, who, whoever, whom, whomever, whose, and of which. These words take over the role of the subject in the dependent clause and integrate the conjunction word. Look at the next two examples.

Example 1: We drank a lot of wine, but the wine was horrible, and we danced all night.

Example 2: We drank a lot of wine, which was horrible, and we danced all night.

In the second example which takes the place of the conjunction but and the noun wine from the first example. which was horrible is not an independent clause, it is dependent on we drank a lot of wine and refers to the word wine.

Have a Wonderful Writing Week(end)!

Websites used to compile this text:

Another Short Story – Rescue

This week’s story didn’t have any keywords. During our meeting last week, we discussed how we can improve our sentences. We used the article titled ‘How to write better sentences’ by Daniel David Wallace. You can’t find the article online, though. I’m afraid you’ll have to sign up to get it here. I can assure you it’s worth it as it has very interesting information. Check it out and see how it can help improve your sentence structure.

Anyway, one of the topics in the article is about verb sentences vs. noun sentences. It stresses to use strong verbs to improve action in your sentences. So we set our homework to write a story about mermaids using verb sentences. It’s called ‘Rescue‘ and can be found in the short story section of the menu. It’s a typical mermaid story, nothing special, no unexpected twists or anything, but has a lot of verbs in it. Enjoy!