Grammar and Punctuation

Grammar is a set of rules that explains how words are used, and punctuation plays an important role in adhering to these rules.

Understanding the rules of grammar and punctuation is an important part of successful academic writing. Even though knowing the names of the technical terms for different grammatical structures isn't essential, it can help individuals to better understand how English works.  Below are some of the important rules to follow when constructing a sentence:

Subject Verb Agreement

Subject Verb Agreement is when the SUBJECT and the VERB of a sentence “agree”. This means that a singular subject must have a singular verb, and a plural subject must have a plural verb.

Consider these two sentences:

The patient (S) are (V) unwell.       AND       The patient (S) is (V) unwell.

In the first sentence the verb does not agree with the subject. As we know we must say – the patient IS. 

It is important to note that sometimes the subject can be complicated, as it can be more than one or two words. For example the following sentence is more complicated because the verb is referring to the number not students.

The number of ACAP students has risen to over 5000 in the past 3 years. 

NB. Some nouns refer to more than one person or thing, but represent something as a whole, and therefore use a singular verb. For example, 'the audience', 'the government', 'McDonalds'- all use singular verbs.

This also occurs with names or titles that end in 'S': for example, 'countries', 'newspapers' and 'book titles'.   


Noun Pronoun Agreement    

A pronoun is a word that can be used to mean the same thing as the noun in a sentence (the name of something).

The individual started counselling. He found the service critical to his recovery.  (The individual is the NOUN and He is the PRONOUN).

The Council believes that it had succeeded. (The council is the NOUN and it is the PRONOUN).

Dr Jones was pleased today. He couldn’t believe that his new book had a picture of himself on the back. (Dr Jones is the NOUN and He, His, Himself are all PRONOUNS).


Tense– Past, Present, Future

A tense is “where” a verb is placed in time: the past, the present or the future. It is important to use the correct tense when writing, as it shows when the action occurred. Sometimes different tenses can be used to mean the same thing. The patients were discharged. VS The patients had been discharged. Using different tenses can seem irrelevant, but for academic writing using the correct tense is imperative for the correct communication of the message. 

The present tense shows that something occurs in the present time period. Present tense is used when referring to facts, habits, unchanging situations, and instructions or directions.

The patient giggles (present) when she is feeling nervous.

The past tense shows that something occurred in the past time period, and should be used when an action has been completed or is no longer true.

The patient stopped (past) gigging when she felt nervous.

The future tense shows that something may or will occur in the future time period. Future can also show the probability of something happening. Future tense is used when referring to predictions, intentions, arrangements, scheduled events, and obligations. NB. Present tense can also be used to refer to future events in certain sentences.

Students will need (future) to see their tutor before the exam.


Sentences are made up of different word types and phrases. Refer to Sentence Structure for more information on how sentences are constructed.