Grammar is very important.

I know there is probably some CEO of a major corporation who will read that statement and think, "Antonio, I donÂ’t remember a damn thing my 8th-grade English teacher tried to teach me about grammar, and my salary is 50 times larger than hers." I would imagine President Bush doesnÂ’t remember much about grammar either. It is rumored that George W. was AWOL during most of the 8th grade. In those days, even his father, George H.W., didnÂ’t know where George W. was half the time! (And George H.W. was head of the CIA during that period, when our intelligence was much better than it is today.) 

Anyway, to the wealthy CEO who says the rules of grammar aren’t important – to this person I say: "Sir, with all due respect, the baboon in the zoo who has nothing better to do than sit around and scratch his butt all day doesn’t have any use for the rules of grammar either."

The point IÂ’m trying to make is that itÂ’s the civilized things like grammar that separate humans from the lesser primates, such as apes and Rush Limbaugh. Without grammar, we would all be talking like a bunch of uneducated heathens. Would yoÂ’ mama want yaÂ’ talking like youÂ’se raised in a barn?

So, in order to help all Americans learn and better appreciate grammar, IÂ’ve dedicated this column to answering all of your grammatical questions, as best I can remember from the 8th grade. The first topic we will cover is one of Mr. GrammarÂ’s pet peeves, the dangling participle:

Dear Mr. Grammar:

What is a participle? And how do I know if I have one that is dangling?


Perplexed About Participles

Dear Miss Perplexed:

ItÂ’s really quite simple. According to my daughterÂ’s English textbook, a participle is a "verbal form in the English language, that has the function of an adjective and at the same time shows such verbal features as tense and voice and capacity to take an object." See! That wasnÂ’t so hard, was it?

Now that we have answered the first part of your question, letÂ’s go on to the more difficult second part. That is, how do we know if one of our participles is dangling? You may be struck with just how easy it is to recognize a dangling participle. Take a look at this sentence and see if you can spot it!

Rosa got distracted and the bottom of the pot eventually melted onto the stove while she was b water.







If you guessed "boiling," you were right! But, please, donÂ’t start being a grammatical show-off, just because you now understand participles: "Uh, excuse me, I couldnÂ’t help but notice that your participle, is, uh, well, dangling. Ha! Ha!"

Now, letÂ’s go on to our next grammar question.

Dear Mr. Grammar:

I am sometimes confused with the differences between the "tenses." For instance: what is the difference between "Future Tense" and "Future Perfect Tense"?

Yours Forever,

Past, Present and Future

Dear PPF:

My daughterÂ’s English book defines tense as a "set of inflectional forms of a verb expressing a specific time distinction." You might well ask, what does "inflectional" mean? Let me give you an example of an inflectional verb in the Future Tense:

"If DanaÂ’s disease is inflectional, we will all get sick if she keeps coughing in the office."

By the way, the International Grammar Board, a band of out-of-control, tyrannical English teachers that actually promulgate the grammar rules that we are all forced to live under, in an effort to show that they are "with it" and are up with the times and are not just a bunch of "old fogies," has recently adopted an additional tense, the "Past Imperfect Tense." This is a tense that we should use to express the emotion that we are all human and, being human, are capable of making mistakes.

For example:

•    "We will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," is Future Tense.

•    "Before this is all over, we will have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," is Future Perfect Tense.

But if both of these sentences were restated to read as follows, they would be classified as "Past Imperfect Tense": "I was mistaken when I said, ‘We will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,’ and I was also mistaken when I said, ‘Before this is all over, we will have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.’"

LetÂ’s look at some more examples of all of the tenses:

The dog is sh!#ting on the rug! (Present Tense)

The dog already sh!# on the rug! (Past Tense)

If you donÂ’t let the dog out, he will sh!# on the rug! (Future Tense)

By the time you get home, the dog will have sh!# on the rug. (Present Perfect Tense)

If you would have let the dog out, he wouldnÂ’t have sh!# on the rug . (Past Perfect Tense)

Now letÂ’s look at the different forms that a sentence can take, such as Interrogatory Sentences (?) and Exclamatory Sentences (!):

Oh sh!#! (Exclamatory Sentence)

Holy sh!#! (Blessed Exclamatory Sentence)

Do I look like I give a sh!#? (Interrogatory Sentence)

You look like sh!#! (Derogatory Sentence)

DonÂ’t give me that sh!#! (Mandatory Sentence)

YouÂ’re full of sh!#! (Inflammatory Sentence)

Dear Mr. Grammar:

I have difficulty distinguishing between a verb and an adverb. WhatÂ’s the difference?


Adverbial Annie

Dear Annie:

An adverb is simply a verb used in an advertisement, such as:


And while weÂ’re on the subject of verbs and adverbs, letÂ’s go over some more examples of the different forms a word can take in a sentence:

Sh!# on you! (Verb)

ItÂ’s a sh!#ty day. (Adjective)

The sh!# is going to hit the fan! (Subject)

I donÂ’t give a sh!#! (Adverb)

I canÂ’t take this sh!# anymore! (Noun)

Looks like weÂ’re up Sh!# Creek without a paddle! (Proper Noun)

Man, this is some great sh!#! (Improper Noun)

And last but not least, letÂ’s discuss the subject of run-on sentences, however, before we do that, let me point out that I try to avoid any generalizations based on gender, but women are the most likely people to engage in run-on sentences, because most women like to talk, therefore, if youÂ’re a man youÂ’d better pay attention to them, no matter how long the sentence is, because if you donÂ’t they may get mad, moreover, they may not talk to you at all, nevertheless, the only danger with run-on sentences is that the run-onner, due to lack of oxygen caused by not pausing long enough in the sentence to breathe, will pass outÂ…

If you spot any grammatical errors in this monthÂ’s column, please email my 8th-grade English teacher, Sister Ruth. Sister, if youÂ’re still out there, I apologize for my behavior back then. IÂ’m trying to be better. All other emails can go to