Grammar Exercises

direct speech
reader awareness
punctuation exercise


A few short rules for using commas:

1. Comma does not replace the full stop.

e.g. He came to town. He was looking for employment.


2. Comma after an introductory word or phrase:

However, we may yet go on to see the parade.

If I never went there again, I would enjoy the memory anyway.


3. Comma around the name or title of the person addressed:

Mr. Jones, do you do maintenance work too?

Would you mind, Professor, looking at my essay plan please?


4. Comma introduces direct speech & separates it from indirect:

He said, "I know you, don't I?"

"Come here now!" she demanded, inferring that I was tardy.


5. Comma after Yes and No

No, you can't have another ice cream straightaway.


6. Comma separates clauses:

No one knows me here, least of all the guest of honour.

However hard I try, I never seem to get the hang of commas.


7. Commas short separate items in a list:

Remember to bring pen, book, ruler and compass to the exam.


8. Comma eliminates ambiguity:

If you would like to shoot the attendant will demonstrate the rifle to you.


9. Comma is used in dates: 5th September, 1990.


10. Comma must NOT separate subject and its verb:

Comparing the problems faced by couples 50 years ago with today's marrieds' (no comma here) backs up the results of the recent survey.


11. Do not separate the relative clause from its antecedent:

There is no longer shame attached to a broken marriage (no comma here) which is evident by the large number of second marriages.


12. A comma SHOULD be used before "and" to break up a very long sentence:


A woman is accepted as being a person in her own right, and as Mr. Messenger mentions about those marrying for the first time, both partners are serious about the commitment associated with marriage.

March 13, 1993 6:42 PM

are used to show OMISSION and OWNERSHIP.


a. OMISSION: letter or letters left out:

Contractions: can't , wouldn't, won't, he'll, must've.




RULE 1. add ('s) to singular nouns e.g.,

a week's holiday

a father's cares (see * below too.)


RULE 2. add ('s) to plurals not ending in s

men's clothing

children's toys


RULE 3. add (') to plurals ending in s:

four boys' books = the books of four boys

ten days' holiday = a holiday of ten days

the Joneses' dog = the dog of the Joneses



1. say what you want to say (give the other side of the equation)

so - the books of four boys

2. then add the sign of possession (ownership)

- here rule 3 so boys' books



it's = it is (It's cold today, isn't it?)


I've got it by its tail. (= the tale of it [note no apostrophe].)


WHY MAKE THE EXCEPTION?: so its cannot be confused with it's.

of it = its it's = it is



We do simplify (knock off the final s) if the result of using this rule is not euphonic (pleasant to say or hear). So:

the King James' Bible

Jesus' parables (not Jesus's sandals)

Socrates' stories (not Socrates's stories)

Mel Brooks' film (not Mel Brooks's films)



a days leave

a boys schoolbag

I read Jesus sayings

No ones to blame.

Guess whos coming to dinner.

Is this mine or yours?


To say "could of" and "had of" is incorrect for reasons of grammar.

Correct this error in the following:

1. Snook could of been thrown unconscious in the waterspout.
2. Peter Brock must of been a good mechanic too.
3. No one knows who would of been there that evening without an invitation list.
4. He would of been going if he knew we were too.
5. We must of been driving too fast around that bend.


Must've = must have; and could've = could have. Do not confuse this with the above.

6. He must've had a good time at the Ekka. =______________________________
7. We thought he couldn't've had a ice cream yet. =______________
8. We would've known if he'd've made it on time. = _____________________
9. They must not've known we were staying in the next street.= ___________
10. Wouldn't you think they'd've guessed it! =___________________________

Now write some of your own:


Talking marks indicate that the speaker is being quoted - we read the very words that were said hence it is called direct speech .. Otherwise the writer is reporting the conversation - this is indirect speech .

Say whether direct or indirect speech and punctuate accordingly if necessary.


1. When I started speaking to Jeff I said where we would sleep.

2. We found a lot of inscriptions that said that the Pharoah was divine.

3. We read the inscriptions that said the Pharoah is divine.

4. You would never know that Mr. Fuji is actually dormant.


What do you notice here? Clearly the tense of the verb is an indicator; the speaker speaks in the present tense , the reporter in the past tense. Words of reference used in direct speech are not "that" and "those" but "this" and "these."




Last christmas, we, the jones family, met up with all the smiths and drove off up the hume highway to goulburn and sydney. It was a wednesday I remember because it was my birthday and we were to stay at the holiday roadside motel in sydney's southern suburbs.


Along the way I read a book entitled the longest voyage, by allan jones, our distant cousin who lives in the united kingdom and works as a writer in a town in kent called dover.


My sister read the age and the australian, and together we made up a crossword of all the towns along the way. We even remembered the names of matthew flinders' ship, bass's small boat, the tom thumb, and captain cook's endeavour as they were all needed for the crossword.


Once in Dubbo, we went to the no-fences zoo there and saw four hyenas, two giraffes, a herd of dirty elephants and any number of strange looking waterfowl and snakes. The cobras and the smiths did not agree at all; mrs smith just shrieked her head off in the snake display.


anyway we finally got to our motel in sutherland and saw on tv the adventurer, David attenborough, telling us about the north and south poles and how he flew in a southerly direction across the andes in south america. i'm glad i was safe here in australia!


on saturday, We went fishing in sydney harbour looking for leather jackets, groper, small sharks and bream, but all we caught was a old coat and a big appetite. We bought our tea at luna park before strolling along bondi beach promenade on our way back to sutherland.



Reference: Fowler's Modern English Usage 2nd edition Oxford 1986.

"I am in revolt about your hyphens . . . One must regard the hyphen as a blemish to be avoided whenever possible." Sir Winston Churchill


So the general rule is don't use them.

1. But ambiguities must be avoided:

two year old horses or two-year-old horses?

three quarter hour intervals or three-quarter-hour intervals?


2. Convention demands we use them in some expressions:

ne'er-do-well, happy-go-lucky, stick-in-the-mud, red-hot mufflers,

ex-Prime Minister, our up-to-the-minute news service, our balance-of-payments problem.


3. Combinations without hyphens are increasingly more common:

bookkeeper, housemaster, pallbearer, cooperative, preeminent; but sea air and sea urchin are unpleasant and better kept as two words (unless in a list such as: "We collected many shells at the beach, notably those of sea-urchins, pippies and other such molluscs.")


4. Hyphens are used in lists and carried on references:

four- and six-cylinder cars, whole- or part-time workers are OK,

but "un- or mis-managed by bureaucrats" is awkward.


So use them very sparingly. Consider these: Is it better to write:

a give-and-take situation or a give and take situation?

rock and roll or rock-and-roll?

a far off look or a far-off lake?

"His take-off of Elvis" is OK;

"on the off-chance" is but "off chance" is not;

cobweb covered or cobweb-covered;

a blood-stained shirt, my ruck sack,

"the no-longer-hurting garters" is fine but the no-longer-functioning door is a mouthful.

"Oh-so-old" is not usual so the words may need to be separated.

Clouds overhead is better than clouds over-head.


5. "A strange looking object" is more modern English, without the hyphen.

dance-like is acceptable as so is likewise (without the hyphen)!

leather bound is perfectly understandable and

a win-win situation is the accepted convention.

It is better to use hyphens only to eliminate ambiguity.

© G. Smith 1993


"See that sentence by sentence the meaning is carried forward through the paragraph."

Wheeler and Walshe Mastering English. We do this by signalling our direction to the reader by using link words.


Insert your selections from the following list:

but, although, though, even though, however, nonetheless, on the one hand ... on the other, and yet, therefore, firstly .. secondly ..., so, then, furthermore.

1. We went shopping in the sales ...................... we knew we needed very little.
2. The Indians pounced upon the wagon train ......... the cavalry were close behind.
3. The sun rises every day .... I expect it will tomorrow too.
4. Even at Toastmasters he was nervous ........................... he had prepared his speech well in advance.
5. The alibi sticks ...................... we have to let him go free.
6. ................... let me welcome you all here tonight, and ................. allow me to introduce our guest speaker for the evening.
7. The thief entered the flat ........... he proceeded to ransack it.
8. Storm clouds gathered, ...................... we were able to have one last swim before leaving the Coast.
9. Dangers abound around us on the road, ........................ we continue to build more cars at alarming rates.
10. He filled the public gallery, stacked the party, bought votes, made wild promises, pork-barrelled widely ........................ went on to do good things for his electorate. It was an amazing rise to fame.



Brisbane's public transport needs are very great. With a rapidly increasing population, all systems are stressed to meet the needs of the travelling public. The railway system will need new rolling stock like on the new Gold Coast line. Brisbane deserves an integrated bus timetable system. Brisbane's taxi supply is widely regarded as not meeting clients' needs even now. The roadways themselves are in great need of upgrading to cater for increased freight and passenger traffic into the next century. Brisbane will need more money for its transport infrastructure for the next century.


Organising idea is a plural noun, "needs" = paragraph lists the details

Round off with the point of the paragraph = here, needs = a plea for finance.

"Infrastructure" acts as a springboard for the next paragraph, linking paragraphs.


Recapitulation or "peroration" = a summing up, a bringing together of the main themes, a reinforcement of the central topic, a final appeal.

An effective conclusion shoul leave listeners & readers in no doubt about why you are advocating the view or product you are advertising.

It is memorable - that is, listeners will remember this if nothing else.

It is short - just 2 or 3 sentences, a mere 10% of the total.

It is a summary and summation. It has no new sources, or experts or evidence, no lists, no quotations. It is patronising to say "as I said before"; just say it again for those who have just woken up.

You want to end with hope, a rising tone, something to applaud when you finish. Leave them satisfied. A successful conclusion ties up loose ends, clears up misunderstandings, it is never negative, it makes listeners feel good.

A. Pauley/ G. Smith 1999

Passed/ pass/ past Insert the right word for the context.


past - adjective and preposition

pass - verb, present tense

passing - present participle

passed - a past participle


1. History records ___________ events.


2. Every time the racing car __________ the post, the crowd cheered.


3. Some governments are elected on a first _________ the post system.


4. Every time I ____________ the haunted house, I feel a chill.


5. The good student ____________ all her exams with flying colours.


6. I called in as I was just ______________ by.


7. _______________ exams entails studying hard beforehand.


8. The parents _____________ on their customs to their children.


9. Like ships in the night, the two ____________ each other unaware of the other.


10. The cadets marched well in their ______________ out parade.


11. The Olympic torch bearers ______________ on the torch at every station.


12. I was saddened to hear of her ________________ recently.


13. Please ____________ on my regards to our mutual friend.


14. _______ me the salt please!


15. Everyone needs a ___________-out to re-enter the showgrounds.


G. Smith 2007

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Started September 25, 1990 addition 5/3/07.