ENGLISHEnglish Grammar



Here are some of the very important English Grammar Rules that a candidate of any competitive exam should know to crack an exam with good marks. They will be very useful for the competitive exams of the Staff Selection Commission (SSC) or Grade-II DASS Exam of the DSSSB, and other similar exams:

1. Combined Graduate Level (CGL) Exam Tier-I & Tier-II

2. Combined Higher Secondary (10+2) Exam (CHSL) Tier-I

3. SI in Delhi Police and CPO Exam Paper-I & Paper-II

4. Stenographers Exam

5. Grade-II DASS Exam conducted by Delhi Staff Subordinate Services (DSSSB)




CLAUSE: A clause is a group of words that includes a subject and a verb. Now see this sentence:

Ram is a good boy but Mohan is a bad boy.

In the sentence above; it can be divided into two parts namely RAM IS A GOOD BOY; and MOHAN IS A BAD BOY. The first group of word has the verb BE (is) and the subject RAM; the second group of words has the verb BE (is) and the subject MOHAN. Therefore we can say both of these groups of words are clauses as each of them has a subject and a verb.

Some more examples of clauses:

a) Ritu ate an apple after she had finished watching the news.

[If you see, the group of words ‘RITU ATE AN APPLE’ has subject (RITU) and verb (EAT); and the group of words ‘SHE HAD FINISHED WATCHING THE NEWS’ also has subject (SHE) and verb (FINISH); therefore you can say that both of them are examples of clauses.]

b) Even though his mother was a driving instructor, my cousin failed his driving test six times.

[Here the group of words ‘HIS MOTHER WAS A DRIVING INSTRUCTER’ has subject (HIS MOTHER) and verb (BE); and the group of words ‘MY COUSIN FAILED HIS DRIVING TEST SIX TIMES’ also has subject (MY COUSIN) and verb (FAIL); therefore both of them are clauses.]

PHRASE: A phrase is a group of words that stands together as a single unit but does not have a subject and a verb together. A phrase does not contain a subject and a verb and hence cannot convey a complete sense. Now see this sentence:

My mother took me to see a film.

In the above sentence the group of word MY MOTHER like a clause does not have a subject and a verb, therefore cannot convey a complete sense, but it is making a sense certainly. So, it’s an example of a phrase. Some other examples of phrases: in the sky, on the table, your books. the school of my village, etc.

NOTE: But the following groups of words cannot be said as phrases as they all are meaningless: books are, took me, see a, etc.


2. Some rules of Direct and Indirect Speech

A) Words of respect and words of affection/love
Words of respect such as SIR, DEAR SIR, MADAM, MY LORD, YOUR HOUNOUR, etc. in the Reported Speech are converted into RESPECTFULLY. And Words of affection/love such as DEAR, MY LOVE, DARLING, etc. are converted into AFFECTIONATELY/LOVINGLY; e.g.

a) He said to his boss, “Have you finished writing that article, dear Madam? b) She said, “Would you wait half an hour, dear?
= He asked his boss respectfully if she had finished writing that article. = She asked lovingly/affectionately if I would wait half an hour.

B) Change of Tense

1. In time clauses, Past Simple and Past Continuous tenses do not normally change, and verb of the main clause can either remain unchanged or become the Past Perfect; e.g.

i) He said, “When we were living in Mumbai we often saw Ramesh.”
= He said that when they were living in Mumbai they often saw Ramesh.
= He said that when they were living in Mumbai they had often seen Ramesh.

[Here ‘When we were living in Mumbai’ is the time clause, and ‘we often saw Ramesh’ is the main clause.]

ii) He said, “It was three hours ago since he fell asleep.”
= He said that it was three hours before since he fell asleep.
= He said that it had been three hours before since he fell asleep.

2. A past tense used to describe a state of affairs which still exists when the speech is reported remains unchanged; e.g.

He said, “I decided not to buy the house because it was on a main road.”
= He said that he had decided not to buy the house because it was on a main road.
[You see that here the location of the house is the same i.e. it is still on a main road.]

3. UNREAL PAST (Subjunctive)
Unreal past tenses after WISH, WOULD RATHER, WOULD SOONER, IT IS TIME do not change; e.g.

i) “We wish we didn’t have to take exams.” said the children. ii) “Raman wants to go alone. “said Reema, “but I’d rather he went with a group.”
= The children said they wished they didn’t have to take exams. = Reema said that Raman wanted to go alone but she’d rather he went with a group.
iii) “It’s time we began planning our holidays.” he said.
= He said it was time they began planning their holidays.

4. When two actions, both either in the Past Simple Tense or the Past Continuous Tense are used in pair, we do not change the tense of the sentence; e.g.

i) Mohan said, “I cleaned and Richa cooked.”
= Mohan said that he cleaned and Richa cooked.

ii) “The spectators were cheering while we were playing.” said the players.
= The players reported that the spectators were cheering while they were playing.

5. When the simple past tense is used to describe an historical event, we do no not change the tense; e.g.

He said, “Gandhiji started the Quit India Movement.”
= He said that Gandhiji started the Quit India Movement.

6. Change of WILL & SHALL in the Direct and Indirect Speech
Both WILL and SHALL of the reported speech normally become WOULD, but if the sentence is reported by the original speaker, SHALL can become either WOULD or SHOULD. Similarly SHOULD of the reported speech normally becomes WOULD, but if the sentence is reported by the original speaker, SHOULD can either remain unchanged or can become WOULD; e.g.

a) “I shall be 21 tomorrow.” said Raman.
= Raman said he would be 21 the following day/the next day.

(Here SHALL can’t be changed into SHOULD as the speech is not reported by the original speaker i.e. Raman.)

b) “If I had the instruction manual I should know what to do.” said Mohan.
= Mohan said that if he had the instruction manual he would know what to do.

(Here SHOULD can’t remain SHOULD, rather it has to be changed into WOULD as the speech is not reported by the original speaker i.e. Mohan.)

c) I said, “I should like to see it.”
= I said I WOULD/SHOULD like to see it.

(Here, as the speech is reported by the original speaker i.e. ‘I’, SHOULD can remain SHOULD or can be changed into WOULD also.

NOTE: When SHALL is used in offers, requests for advice and confirmation, etc. then we can also use SHOULD in the indirect speech; e.g.

He said, “Where shall I put this box?”
= He asked where he WOULD/SHOULD put the box.

C) If I were you I should/would
The advice form ‘IF I WERE YOU I SHOULD/WOULD —-’ is reported by ADVISE + OBJECT + TO-INFINITIVE; e.g.

i) I said, “Shall I write to Shweta?” “I should have phone her if I were you.” said Jitan.
= I asked if I should write to Shweta and Jitan advised me to phone her.

ii) “I was thinking of going by bus.” said Raja. “I shouldn’t have gone by bus if I were you.” said his aunt
= Raja said he was thinking of going by bus. His aunt advised him not to go by bus.
D) I should/would be (very) grateful if you would

D) The request form ‘I SHOULD/WOULD BE (very) GRATEFUL IF YOU WOULD —-’ is normally reported by ASK/REQUEST + OBJECT + TO-INFINITIVE; e.g.

“I’d be very grateful if you’d keep me informed,” he said.
= He asked/requested me to keep him informed.

E) Used to
USED TO doesn’t change; e.g.

“I know the place well because I used to live here.” He explained.
= He explained that he knew the place well because he used to live there.

F) What about
‘WHAT ABOUT’ often introduces a suggestion and is then reported by SUGGEST; e.g.

i) “What about flying?” she said. ii) “I can’t come at 1.00.” said Sangeeta. “Then what about 2.00?” said Tarun.
= She suggested flying. = Sangeeta said she couldn’t come at 1.00, so Tarun suggested 2.00.

G) Why don’t you
‘WHY DON”T YOU’ often introduces suggestions or advice and is then reported by SUGGEST or ADVICE; e.g.

“I wonder if Rohan is coming,” said Seema. “Why don’t you ask him?” I said.
= Seema wondered if Rohan was coming. I advised her to ask him.
= Seema wondered if Rohan was coming. I suggested asking him.

H) Would you mind

“Would you mind signing the register?” he said.
= He asked me to sign the register.
= He asked me if I would mind signing the register.

I) WOULD for past routine

“How long does the journey take?” my co-passenger asked me.
= My co-passenger wanted to know how long the journey would take.

J) Conditional Sentences in Indirect Speech

i) Type-I Conditional Sentences

Tenses change in the usual way; e.g.
She said, “If you work hard you’ll pass the exam.”
= She said if she worked hard she would pass the exam.

ii) Type-II Conditional Sentences

Tenses do not change; e.g.
He said, “If I had a permit I could get a job.”
= He said that if he had a permit he could get a job.

iii) Type-III Conditional Sentences
Tenses do not change; e.g.

“If she had loved Jitesh, he said, “she wouldn’t have left him.”
= He said that if she had loved Jitesh she wouldn’t have left him.


3. ‘THAT’ and ‘AS’ as relative pronouns

A) THAT as a relative pronoun can be used in both subjective and objective cases, for both human beings and things, means it can take place of WHO, WHOM and WHICH. However THAT can only be used in Defining Clauses, never in Non-Defining Clauses; e.g.

i) This is the man who met me in the garden. ii) The table which is red is mine.
= This is the man that met me in the garden. = The table that is red is mine.

iii) The man whom I like most is my father.
= The man that I like most is my father.

NOTE: You cannot use THAT in the below sentence as it’s a Non-Defining Clause.

INCORRECT: He is a famous dancer, that lives in my town.
CORRECT: He is a famous dancer, who lives in my town.

B) After the following we use THAT (not WHO, WHOM or WHICH); e.g.

1. Superlative Degree

He is the most hardworking boy that I have ever seen. (MOST HARDWORKING is a superlative degree)

2. All (=Everything), ‘All +Uncountable Nouns’, ‘All + Countable Nouns Referring to Things’

i) I have told you all that I know. (ALL means everything here)
ii) She has spent all the money that I gave her. (MONEY is an uncountable noun)
iii) All the apples that are in the refrigerator are rotten. (APPLES is a countable noun referring to a thing)

NOTE: If ALL has been used for persons we can use either WHO or THAT; e.g.

A welcome is extended to all who wish to come.
= A welcome is extended to all that wish to come.

3. Everything, Nothing, Much, Little

i) I have given you everything that I had.
ii) I do nothing that can harm anybody.
iii) She has spent the little money that she borrowed from me in the morning.

4. After the following when they are referring to things: Few, Only, Any, None, No

i) He has lost the few rupees that his father gave him yesterday.
ii) This is the only dress that can fit you.
iii) Any help that you can give me will be appreciated.

NOTE: When these words refer to persons we can use either of WHO and THAT.

C) Use of THAT /AS after THE SAME

If a verb is there directly after the relative pronoun we use THAT after THE SAME + NOUN; e.g.

i) This is the same girl that deceived him. (verb DECEIVED is there, so you can’t use WHO)
ii) This is the same dog that bit me. (verb BIT is there, so you can’t use WHICH)

NOTE-I: If a verb is not there we use AS (not THAT) after THE SAME; e.g.

a) This is the same dog as mine.
b) I like the same dress as my brother.

NOTE-II: When we have to show similarity we use AS (not THAT) after THE SAME; we do it only when the tenses of both the clauses are different; e.g.

a) She has the same fair hair and blue eyes as her mother had. (as the tenses are different you cannot use THAT here)
b) This coffee is the same as we had at Mr Sharma’s. (not THAT)

D) Use of THAT /AS after SUCH

Normally we use AS after SUCH, but we use THAT after SUCH if there is a cause of something in the SUCH-CLAUSE and result in the other clause; e.g.

There was such a noise that I was not able to hear anything.

NOTE: And also we use THAT after SUCH if a verb is used directly after SUCH; e.g.

Such was his behaviour that everybody disliked him.

E) After Interrogative Pronouns such as WHO, WHOM, WHOSE, WHICH, WHAT we use THAT; e.g.

i) Who that I know has beaten you?
ii) Who am I that I should prevent you from going to the mall?
iii) What is that that is shining so brightly?
iv) Whose is this house that looks exceptionally beautiful?

F) After ‘It + be + Nouns other than Proper Nouns’ use THAT; in other cases we can use WHO/WHOM; e.g.

i) It is the boss that has finalized the report. (BOSS is not proper noun)
ii) It is careless driving that causes accidents. (DRIVING is not a proper noun)
iii) It is Rakesh Gupta who teaches English here. (RAKESH GUPTA is a proper noun)

G) If two nouns are joined by AND, and one of them is a human being and the other an animal or a thing, we use THAT (not WHO/WHOM/WHICH); e.g.

i) The man and his dog that I saw yesterday have been murdered.
ii) I like everybody and everything that are simple.

H) THAT has no Possessive Case, neither can we make it possessive by putting OF before it; e.g.

INCORRECT: The girl of that mother works in my office is very fashionable.
CORRECT: The girl whose mother works in my office is very fashionable.

I) If a Relative Pronoun is needed after a preposition we cannot use THAT; use WHOM/WHICH rather; e.g.

INCORRECT: This is the house in that I live.
CORRECT: This is the house in which I live.


i) You can take as many books as you like.
ii) She asked as many questions as she could.


To know more Grammar Rules buy the following book authored by me.


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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of www.examscomp.com and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC. Also the author of the following books:

1. Maha English Grammar (for Competitive Exams)
2. Maha English Practice Sets (for Competitive Exams)

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