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PRAXIS I Writing

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Terms you'll need to understand:

  • Noun

  • Verb

  • Adjective

  • Pronoun

  • Adverb

  • Apostrophe

  • Colon

  • Semicolon

  • Comma

  • Compound word

  • Idiom

Techniques you'll need to master:

  • Identify the different parts of a sentence

  • Understand the different types of sentences

  • Understand the differences between nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and pronouns

  • Identify and correct errors in sentence structure, mechanics, and grammar

  • Combine words correctly to form compound words

  • Identify the correct use of punctuation within a sentence

  • Identify incorrect word usage in a sentence

  • Identify the improper use of idioms

The writing component of the PRAXIS exam is broken down into two sections: 45 multiple-choice questions and one essay question. This chapter will focus on the multiple-choice writing component of the exam. This part of the PRAXIS exam will test your knowledge of standard English.

The 45 multiple-choice questions are further broken down into two distinct sections: usage and sentence correction. The grammar usage questions will test your ability to identify different errors in phrases and sentences. The sentence correction questions will test your ability to properly restate a phrase or question if the existing structure is incorrect.

This chapter will cover grammar and sentence structure. A review of basic grammar skills will be provided, as well as the different types of questions you are likely to encounter. After working through the chapter, you will also be able to identify different types of errors in phrases and sentences.


Part of the PRAXIS I Writing exam will test your knowledge of basic grammar. You will be expected to be able to identify incorrect uses of grammar within a given sentence or passage. The following sections will look at grammar-related exam topics that you are likely to encounter on the exam. This includes

  • Nouns

  • Pronouns


I’m sure we are all familiar with the term noun because it’s a component we learn about in the elementary grades. The definition of a noun is relatively simple. It’s defined as a person, place, or thing. Every sentence must contain at least one noun as its subject. For example:

  • The car is blue.

  • A whale is a mammal.

Proper and Common Nouns

Nouns can be broken down into two different categories: proper nouns and common nouns. A proper noun is the name of a particular person, place, or thing. For example, Mrs. Smith, California, and Felicia are all examples of proper nouns. The thing to keep in mind with proper nouns is that they are usually capitalized. Common nouns, on the other hand, designate any one of a class of people, places, or things, and they are not capitalized. For example, dog, state, and country are examples of common nouns.

Plural and Possessive Nouns

Nouns can also come in two different forms: plural nouns and possessive nouns. As the name implies, plural nouns indicate more than one person, place, or thing. A plural noun can be formed by adding the appropriate ending to the noun, such as s, es, or ies. For example, cars, dishes, and babies are plural nouns. Possessive nouns indicate ownership, which is normally formed by adding ’s to the end of a noun. For example, in the phrases "my grandmother’s house" and "my dog’s bone," grandmother’s and dog’s are possessive nouns.


A pronoun is a word that can take the place of a noun. Pronouns include words such as ours, he, she, and you. Without pronouns, sentences would have to contain a lot of repeated nouns. For example, consider the following phrases:

  • My parents sold their house after 25 years. My parents are moving to another city. My parents plan to buy a condo there.

With pronouns, you can eliminate the use of some of the nouns, which will make the sentence much more readable, as in this example:

  • My parents sold their house. They are moving to another city. They plan to buy a condo there.

Forms of Pronouns

Pronouns can be subjective, objective, possessive, reflexive, relative, demonstrative, reciprocal, or interrogative. Each different type of pronoun is outlined in the following list. The subjective, objective, and possessive forms of singular and plural pronouns are also summarized in Tables 3.1 and 3.2.

  • Subjective pronouns—A subjective pronoun is the subject in a sentence or phrase. The subject performs the action within the sentence. Subjective pronouns include the words I, you, he, she, it, we, you, and they.

  • Objective pronouns—An objective pronoun is the direct or indirect object in a sentence or a phrase or is the object of a preposition. Words in this category include me, you, him, her, it, us, you, and them.

  • Possessive pronouns—This type of pronoun identifies who owns an object. Possessive pronouns include the words mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, and theirs.

  • Reflexive pronouns—This type of pronoun is used to reference the subject of a sentence. Such words include myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves.

  • Relative pronouns—This type of pronoun relates back to a noun that precedes it in the sentence. The relative pronoun acts as the subject or object within a dependent clause. Relative pronouns include words such as who, whom, whoever, and whomever.

  • Demonstrative pronouns—This type of pronoun is used in place of a person, place, or thing. Demonstrative pronouns include this, that, those, and there.

  • Reciprocal pronouns—This type of pronoun is used to simplify sentences. Reciprocal pronouns include each other and one another.

  • Interrogative pronouns—This type of pronoun replaces or stands in place of the answer to a question. Interrogative pronouns include who, whom, whose, which, and what.

The following sentences provide examples of the different types of pronouns:

  1. My parents are going on a vacation. They will be gone for two weeks.

  2. This book amazed her.

  3. Felicia bought a new computer and put it in her home office.

  4. Bob went to the movies, but he went by himself.

  5. The student who won the spelling contest studied for several days.

  6. Do these pants go with this?

  7. For their anniversary, my parents gave each other small gifts.

  8. Who won the 10-mile bike race?

Table 3.1 The Use of Singular Pronouns






First person




myself male/female

Second person




yourself male/female

Third person male





Third person female





Table 3.2 The Use of Plural Pronouns






First person




ourselves male/female

Second person




yourselves male/female

Third person




themselves male/female


An adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun or pronoun. It normally precedes the noun and gives the reader more information about the noun. However, keep in mind that adjectives can also be placed at the end of a sentence or phrase. Adjectives usually make sentences more interesting.

Adjectives are also used for comparison. This is usually done by adding er or est to the end of the adjective. These are known as comparative and superlative adjectives, respectively. For example:

  • My car is old.

  • My parents’ car is older. (comparative adjective)

  • My grandmother’s car is the oldest. (superlative adjective)

Also keep in mind that there are some irregular forms of adjectives that do not follow the standard comparative and superlative forms. An example of an irregular adjective is the word good. You would not say gooder or goodest. Instead, you would use the words better and best. By reading the sentence aloud, you can typically use your ear to determine whether the comparative adjective is correct.


A verb is a word that expresses the action, event, or state of being in a sentence. For example:

  • I am a teacher.

  • She swam the entire length of the swimming pool.

  • I wrote my English essay.

Verb Tense

Verbs can be used in different tenses. The verb tense gives the reader information about when something occurred. Actions or events can occur in the past, present, or future. The following examples show verbs used in different tenses:

  • I walk to school. (present tense)

  • We will plan to go to a movie this evening. (future tense)

  • We planned our winter holiday well in advance. (past tense)

  • She swims in the pool. (present tense)

  • She swam in the pool. (past tense)

  • She will swim in the pool. (future tense)

The common way of changing a verb to past tense is to add ed to the end of the word. However, some verbs are irregular and do not follow this rule. For example, the word ride is considered irregular because the past tense is rode.

Auxiliary Verbs

A verb in a sentence can consist of more than one word. Auxiliary verbs are used to help the main verb and give information about when the action or event occurred. The words will, was, and have are used as auxiliary verbs, as in these examples:

  • I will run the marathon.

  • I was running in the marathon.

  • I have run in the marathon.

Finite, Non-Finite, and Infinitive Verbs

As already mentioned, verbs can be written in the past tense. Any verb that shows tense is known as a finite verb; for example, "We rode," "I biked," and "I swam." On the other hand, a non-finite verb does not show tense, such as "to jump" or "jumping."

Non-finite verbs include participles and infinitives. (The participle does not show tense but is used with auxiliary verbs that indicate tense.) Non-finite verbs ending with ing are referred to as present participles. For example:

  • I am walking through the park.

  • I am baking a cake for the party.

Non-finite verbs ending in ed or sometimes en are referred to as past participles. For example:

  • I have finished my homework.

  • I have cleaned the entire house.

  • I have eaten my snack.

An infinitive is a non-finite verb that usually takes the base form of a verb. An infinitive can take two different forms. The base form of the verb can be preceded by the word to or the to infinitive can precede another verb, as shown in the following examples:

  • The girls wanted to swim in the pool.

  • We love to be sitting by the lake on a hot summer day.


Adverbs are words in a sentence that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Adverbs can essentially modify any word except a noun. These words are usually formed by adding ly to the end of an adjective; for example, beautifully, happily, and quickly.

Adverbs can modify verbs and adjectives by telling the reader where, when, or how something was done, as seen in the following examples:

  • I cannot find my car keys; I left them over there.

  • The crowd cheered loudly.

  • Yesterday we went to the zoo.

Adjectives or Adverbs

It can be difficult to distinguish between adverbs and adjectives. Here are some points and rules to help you distinguish between the two.

  • Many adverbs can be recognized by the ly extension at the end of a word. For example:

  • He spoke quietly. (adverb)

    He is quiet. (adjective)

  • You cannot use an adverb to modify a noun, as shown in the following examples:

  • The quietly children watched a movie. (incorrect)

    The children quietly watched a movie. (correct)

  • If the noun comes before a form of the verb to be, the verb is followed by an adjective, not an adverb.

  • On my way to take the exam, I was nervously. (incorrect)

    On my way to take the exam, I was nervous. (correct)

  • If a noun is preceded by a verb describing sense or appearance, the verb is followed by an adjective, not an adverb. For example:

  • My mom seemed to be unhappyily today. (incorrect)

    My mom seemed to be unhappy today. (correct)

  • If the word being used modifies the verb, an adverb is used.

  • The children slept quietly.

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