Graham’s World – Blog 2/26/2014

by Graham R. Gnome

Welcome to the first issue of Graham’s World, a blog article series for our newly launched Grammar 4 Writers website.

Each Graham’s World  blog will include tips for getting the most bang for your buck with this website along with other items of interest to writers.

Great Sentences – Break Down

“Tell the truth, work hard, and come to dinner on time.” (Gerald R. Ford, US President)

Grammar breakdown

  • compound imperative
  • three independent clauses hooked up with commas and a conjunction
  • each clause is an imperative sentence with an understood you subject
  • each clause begins with a strong simple verb
  • clause one has a complement (tell what?)
  • clauses two and three are described by adverbs (work how?) (come where?) (come when?)

Rhetorical breakdown

  • tricolon (three parallel structures)
  • diatyposis (rules to live by)
  • paraprosdokian (unexpected shift in meaning at the end)

Discussion – What is the meaning and significance of that last piece of advice?

Website Writing Spotlight: Noun Clauses – Paragraph and Composition Activity

Perfect for 8th or 11th graders studying US History (combines historical content, close reading, and explanatory and argument composition with grammar)

These writing activities focus on the most famous noun clauses in American literature which were penned by Thomas Jefferson in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence.  The self-evident truths are just noun clauses.

eg.  “that all men are created equal”    eg. “that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights”

In the paragraph activity students carefully read the preamble of the Declaration of Independence to unlock its grammatical structure and its meaning.  The activity culminates with an explanatory paragraph about the self-evident truths.

Continuing their examination of the Declaration of Independence in the composition activity, students do a close reading to answer a scholarly question about the document.  They gather evidence from this reading and write an argument to support their stance.

Really tricky grammar issues:  Are independent clauses that contain noun clauses simple or complex? 

If you have students who are grammar gurus, give them this question to answer and see what they come up with.  Here is the answer.

First, review the facts.

  • A complex sentence has one independent and at least one dependent.
  • A simple sentence contains one independent clause.
  • A noun clause is one of the three types of dependent clauses.
  • Noun clauses function as the subject, complement, or object of the preposition.

Next, take some examples with noun clauses.

  • What we want to know is whether the tickets are sold out.  (two noun clauses)
  •  That evidence proves that the defendant is innocent.  (one noun clause)
  •  The committee will give the scholarship to whoever needs it most. (one noun clause)

Now, compare those to examples with subordinate or relative clauses.

  • Ancient Egyptians used a special salt, which is called natron, in mummification. (one adj clause)
  •  Before the body was left for many days to dry, its organs were removed.  (one adv clause)

Finally, develop your reasoning.

  • Whenever an adjective or adverb clause is removed from a complex sentence, the independent clause that is left can still function as a sentence and keeps its original meaning.  However, if you remove a noun clause from the sentences above, you are left with a fragment or an independent clause that does not preserve the meaning.  Therefore, these are best classified as simple sentences because the noun clauses are not removable dependent pieces hanging on an independent clause.  Instead they are integral parts of the independent clause itself.
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