Word Usage: GED Test Prep (page 2)
On the GED Language Arts, Writing Exam, questions about usage will cover topics such as subject-verb agreement, correct verb tense and conjugation, and proper pronoun use. This article will review these grammar rules and more so that you will be prepared for the exam.
Usage refers to the rules that govern the form of the words we use and how we string those words together in sentences. Correct grammar and usage are essential for clear and effective communication. In this section, you will review the following areas of basic grammar and usage:
- Verb conjugation and usage
- Consistent verb tense
- Subject-verb agreement
- Gerunds and infinitives
- Pronoun cases
- Pronoun agreement
- Comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs
- Prepositional idioms
Verbs are the "heart" of a sentence. They express the action or state of being of the subject, telling us what the subject is doing, thinking, or feeling.
- She yelled out the window. (action)
- I am happy to be here. (state of being)
- We feel very lucky to be alive. (state of being)
- I should ask Winston what he thinks. (action)
Verbs have five basic forms:
- Infinitive: the base form of the verb plus the word to.
- Present tense: the verb form that expresses what is happening now.
- Present participle: the verb form that describes what is happening now. It ends in -ing and is accompanied by a helping verb such as is.
- Past tense: the verb form that expresses what happened in the past.
- Past participle: the verb form that describes an action that happened in the past and is used with a helping verb, such as has, have, or had.
to go to be to dream to admire
To indicate tenses of regular verbs (when the action of the verb did occur, is occurring, or will occur), we use the base form of the verb and add the appropriate tense endings.
I am sorry you are not coming with us.
Jessica does yoga every morning.
The present tense of regular verbs is formed as follows:
Jessica is doing a difficult yoga pose.
The leaves are falling from the trees.
Note: Words that end in -ing don't always function as verbs. Sometimes they act as nouns and are called gerunds. They can also function as adjectives (called participial phrases).
Present participle (verb): He is loading the boxes into the car.
Gerund (noun): This parking area is for loading only.
Participial phrase (adjective): The loading dock is littered with paper.
(You will learn more about gerunds later in this section.)
It snowed yesterday in the mountains.
I felt better after I stretched and did some deep breathing.
It has not snowed all winter.
I have waited as long as I can.
Most English verbs are "regular"—they follow a standard set of rules for forming the present participle, past tense, and past participle.
- The present participle is formed by adding -ing.
- The past and past participle are formed by adding –ed.
- If the verb ends with the letter e, just add d.
- If the verb ends with the letter y, for the past tense, change the y to an i and add -ed .
A handful of English verbs have the same present, past, and past participle form. Here is a partial list of those verbs and several examples:
Present: I read the newspaper every morning.
Past: I read the newspaper yesterday morning.
Past participle: I have read the newspaper every morning since 1992.
About 150 English verbs are irregular. They don't follow the standard rules for changing tense. We can divide these irregular verbs into three categories:
- irregular verbs with the same past and past participle forms
- irregular verbs with three distinct forms
- irregular verbs with the same present and past participle forms
The following table lists a few examples of irregular verbs.
In English, as in many other languages, the essential verb to be is highly irregular:
Helping verbs (also called auxiliary verbs) are essential to clear communication. They help indicate exactly when an action took place or will take place. They also suggest very specific meanings, such as the subject's ability or intention to do something. The following table lists the helping verbs, their forms, and their meanings.
The subjunctive mood is one of the verb forms we often forget to use in conversation, and therefore we often neglect to use it correctly in our writing. Like helping verbs, the subjunctive is used to express a specific meaning, indicating something that is wished for or that is contrary to fact. It is formed by using were instead of was as in the following examples:
If she were a little more experienced, she would get the promotion. (She is not a little more experienced.)
If I were rich, I would travel the world. (Unfortunately, I am not rich.)
Three verb pairs are particularly troublesome, even for native speakers of English:
- lie / lay
- sit / set
- rise / raise
The key to knowing which verb to use is remembering which verb takes an object. In each pair, one verb is transitive—an object "receives" the action—while the other is intransitive—the subject itself "receives" or performs the action. For example, lie is an action that the subject of the sentence "performs" on itself: I will lie down. The transitive verb lay, on the other hand, is an action that the subject of the sentence performs upon an object: I lay the babydown in the crib. In the following examples, the subjects are in bold and the objects are underlined.
lie: to rest or recline (intransitive—subject only)
lay: to put or place (transitive—needs an object)
I will lie down for a while.
Will you please lay the papers down on the table?
sit: to rest (intransitive—subject only)
set: to put or place (transitive—needs an object)
Why don't we sit down and talk this over?
He will set the record straight.
rise: to go up (intransitive—subject only)
raise: to move something up (transitive—needs an object)
The sun will rise at 5:48 A.M. tomorrow.
He raised the rent to $750 per month.
The basic forms of these verbs can also be a bit tricky.The following table shows how each verb is conjugated.
Now that you have reviewed verb conjugation and tense formation, it's time to talk about two key issues with verb usage: consistent tense and subject-verb agreement.
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