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Sentences
  What is a sentence?
    Simple and longer sentences
    Common mistakes

Verbs
  Main verbs
    Common mistakes

  Agreement
    Common mistakes

  Present; past; future tenses
    Consistent tenses

  Personal or impersonal
    Active
    Passive
    Third person

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Starter Level Advice

Sentences - What is a sentence? - Common mistakes

Mistakes can be made in how punctuation and verbs are used in sentences.

Punctuation

People sometimes run one sentence into another, with no full stop and capital letter between them. It can change the meaning or make it very confusing. It may happen where the writer does not check their work.

Example

In the following, two sentences have been run on with no full stop and capital letter between them.
*There is an increasing mix of students at university in the 1960s most university students were young, lived at home and had a grant.

The reader may be able to tell that a full stop has been missed out, but where does it go? Should it go here?
*There is an increasing mix of students at university in the 1960s. Most university students were young, lived at home and had a grant.
The writer seems muddled about what is in the present and what in the past, but it looks as if the increasing mix is (or was) in the 1960s.

Or should it go here?
*There is an increasing mix of students. At university in the 1960s most university students were young, lived at home and had a grant.

That is a bit puzzling too. Where or when is there an increasing mix of students?

This is what the writer intended.
There is an increasing mix of students at university. In the 1960s, most university students were young, lived at home and had a grant.

Verbs

If there is no verb which agrees with the subject it makes the sentence hard to understand. People often make this mistake. It usually happens in long sentences with several groups of words.

Example

The following is incorrect.
*Many mature students, with a large number in their mid 20s - mid 30s and a significant number who are older.

Mature students is the subject of the sentence. There is no verb agreeing with it - are is the only verb in the sentence and it agrees with a significant number, which is not the subject of the whole sentence but just of a group of words within it.

This would be correct.
There are many mature students, with a large number aged mid 20s - mid 30s and a significant number who are older.

You will find it helpful to look at Verbs in this topic.

© Learning & Teaching Institute, Sheffield Hallam University 2004