Grammar Review for Police Officer Exam Study Guide

Updated on Jul 5, 2011

The basis of everything you read and everything you will be asked to write is a complete sentence. A paragraph is a collection of complete sentences. Although many portions of police reports require you only to fill in or check boxes, almost all reports require some narrative. Narrative means you will be asked to write about what happened, what others did or said, and what action(s) you took. All this information must be in standard, proper English, with no slang or jargon (police-talk that others will not understand), and in complete sentences. Poorly written reports will most likely be sent back to you by a supervisor for you to rewrite. If you concentrate on what you want to say and then on how you want to say it, you are less likely to make the kinds of grammar and spelling errors that will cost you points on the exam and that will later cause you to have rewrite your work.

Sentence Fragments

You probably recall from high school or college English classes that the basis of a sentence is a subject and a verb that join together with other words to form one complete idea. A sentence fragment generally lacks a subject or a verb and does not contain a complete idea. Look at the following pairs of word groups. The first in each pair is a sentence fragment; the second is a complete sentence.

Many exams test your grasp of sentences by giving you four examples from which you will have to select the proper, complete sentence. To get you in the mindset for these questions, look at the word group pairs below and select the ones that are complete sentences.

  1. We saw the squad car approaching.
  2. When we saw the squad car approaching.
  1. Before the prison was built in 1972.
  2. The prison was built in 1972.
  1. Because we were on duty in the morning.
  2. We were on duty in the morning.

If you chose 1. a, 2. b, 3. b, you were correct. You might have noticed that the groups of words are the same, but the fragments have an extra word at the beginning. These words are called subordinating conjuctions. If a group of words that would normally be a complete sentence is preceded by a subordinating conjunction, something more is needed to complete the thought.

In the following three sentences, the thoughts have been completed.

  • When we saw the squad car approaching, we flagged it down.
  • Before the prison was built in 1972, the old jailhouse was demolished.
  • Because we were on duty in the morning, we went to bed early.

Here is a list of words that are frequently used as subordinating conjunctions. Use each in a sentence to get a better idea of the rule. Be careful, though. Sometimes a group of words that begin with a subordinating conjunction can still be a complete sentence. You must read the entire sentence before deciding if it is correct or incorrect.

  • after
  • although
  • as
  • because
  • before
  • if
  • once
  • since
  • than
  • that
  • though
  • unless
  • until
  • when
  • whenever
  • where
  • wherever
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