ENGL 313: Grammar of Current English


If you think semicolons, subordinate clauses, and subject complements are exciting, you are in the right place. If you have always found such things dull or even nightmarish, you also are in the right place. The truth, as I hope you will come to see over the next several weeks, is that English grammar is fascinating—and important. Like the basic physical items that make up spectacular architecture, grammar is the building material for our language, and language is at the heart of practically every human endeavor. You may never have realized it, but when you were making friends, buying a car, and falling in love, grammar was right there with you. Indeed, understanding grammar can help you to understand—and improve—your world.

In this course, we will look behind the spectacular architecture that is our language and seek to understand the basic principles that keep all those beams and bolts in place. At the same time, we will use our grammatical knowledge to increase our understanding of rhetoric.


Language: Above all, I hope you will learn to recognize and appreciate the structure of English, seeing how individual sounds and words function together to create meaning in sentences.

Ideas: We will look, too, at the ramifications for the ideas expressed through various grammatical concepts. For example, we will study the rhetorical effects of appositives, vocatives, and the passive voice.

Research: One of the most valuable skills you will learn in college is the ability to gather detailed, reliable information so that you can make informed decisions. In this course, you will become familiar with some standard reference works on the English language and practice finding, evaluating, and incorporating sources.

Communication: Knowledge confined to a single person’s brain has limited use. It is through sharing this knowledge that humans make progress in medicine, science, politics, and every other human endeavor. In this course, you will have the opportunity to stretch and to improve your communication skills as you explore the basic components of language. At the same time, you will begin to master the rules that underlie Standard English and thus polish your usage.


See course description for an up-to-date list of materials.


For further assistance learning the material and writing your essays, you may want to investigate some of the resources identified in the list below and on the various individual lessons. In particular, I suggest you read the appropriate section of the Grammar Hardware Store, which features charts, definitions, and explanations designed to help you understand the various concepts we are covering. Except for this hardware store, however, most of the resources have been created by people other than me. Although I have tried to choose credible resources, you should not assume that everything you find is accurate. If you doubt something you see, please let me know, and I will try to clear up any confusion or correct any inaccuracies.

Library Services

Students enrolled in Carolina Courses Online have access to the UNC Library System. Visit Distance Education Library Services to access a wide array of online services and resources including e-reserves, online databases, online journals, online books, and live help with research and library access. Most online resources require you to log in with your Onyen and password. If you have any trouble finding the resource that you need or logging in to a resource, you can contact the library through the contact information at Distance Education Library Services. You can chat live about your problem, or send an e-mail to request assistance.

Course Components

If grammar is the subject of this course, then you and your classmates are the verbs. In this online course, just as you would in any of my traditional classes, you will be practicing active learning. In short, what you get out of this course depends on what you put into it.

Of course, I am here to help you get the most out of your abilities. Since we will not meet in a classroom, I will provide assistance largely through lessons and video podcasts. Our site features optional quizzes, along with a discussion forum and live chat sessions, where we can meet to discuss the course material. Finally, I will respond to your work by sending you progress reports featuring your scores and my comments on your work. Let’s take a closer look at each of these course components. 

Lessons: At the beginning of each week, look at the lesson page for the week. Read the objectives and terms carefully. Next, read the textbook chapter listed in the “Assignments” section and do the exercises there. Jot notes in your book when you come across terms or concepts mentioned in the lesson plan. After you have finished reading the chapter, read the discussion section in the lesson plan, again noting important terms and concepts. Try your hand at the exercises at the bottom of the lesson. 

Video Podcasts: After you have read the lesson and the reading assignment in our textbook, watch my video podcasts (found in Resources in the navigation bar at left), where I explain concepts and analyze sample words and sentences. I suggest that you have your lessons and textbook in front of you when you watch these podcasts and that you take notes on my explanations. Each podcast features three or more segments, each lasting just a few minutes. If something does not click the first time you watch a podcast, just watch it again.

[The podcasts are in Windows Media Video (wmv) format. If you have any problems playing the videos, download and install the free VLC Media Player. It will play wmv files on both Windows and Mac operating systems.]

Interaction:  Several times each week, you will want check for any recent announcements I have posted here (under Announcements).  I encourage you to take the optional “Think Fast” quiz, which will help you check your understanding of the material we have covered thus far in the course.  You also should visit our asynchronous discussion forum and read your classmates' “Think Again” essays, as well as my summaries.  Feel free to join the discussion by posting your own observations and questions. Finally, I invite you to share your ideas and questions with me and your classmates via synchonous web conferencing sessions. From time to time throughout the semester, I will check with you all for times that are convenient for you and then schedule a web conferencing session.

Progress Reports: I will respond to your essays by posting summaries on our discussion forum. I also will send each of you periodic progress reports containing detailed comments on your work. I encourage you to read all of my comments carefully and to use them to improve your future work. 

Make sure to review the objectives on each lesson at the end of the week. If you have met those objectives and learned those terms, you are ready to move on to the next lesson.  If not, review the material and share your questions or concerns with me by calling me at 910-521-6431 or by e-mailing me. If you send or leave a message on a weekday, I will usually respond within 24 hours.


“Think Fast” Quizzes: Each week, you will be able to take a quiz over the material we have covered thus far in the course.  Although your scores on these optional quizzes will not be part of your total points in the course, I encourage you to use them to review the material and identify concepts that you need to review. (Due: Any time. Value: 0 points.)

“Think Again” Exercises: Over the course of the semester, you respond to three exercises, one for each of the three units in the course.  In each response, you will apply what you have learned in that unit.  In writing this response, you should quote or paraphrase the primary source you are analyzing, as well as at least one secondary source, such as one from the resources listed above. A prompt for each unit appears on the discussion forum, where you should post your responses. Your responses should contain sufficient details, logical organizational schemes, unified and coherent paragraphs, and clear sentences that are free from distracting lapses in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and mechanics. (Length: 250 words. Sources: 2. See Schedule, in the navigation bar at left, for due dates. Value: 3 responses x 10 points each = 30 points.)

Unit 1 Exam: This oral exam will cover material from the first unit of the course.  I will provide you with a link to an online language sample, such as a poem, a speech, or a chapter from a book.  When you call me for your oral exam, I will ask you questions about morphemes and words in this language sample.  You will schedule a time for your exam the first week of class.  You can find more details about the exam and a practice exam on the Unit 1 Exam page (in the navigation bar at left). (Value: 10 points.)

Unit 2 Exam: This oral exam will cover material from the first and second units of the course.  I will provide you with a link to an online language sample, such as a poem, a speech, or a chapter from a book.  When you call me for your oral exam, I will ask you questions about morphemes, words, phrases, and sentences in this language sample.  You will schedule a time for your exam the first week of class. You can find more details about the exam and a practice exam on the Unit 2 Exam page. (Value: 10 points.)

Final Exam: This cumulative oral exam will cover material from the first, second, and third units of the course.  I will provide you with a link to an online language sample, such as a poem, a speech, or a chapter from a book. When you call me for your oral exam, I will ask you questions about morphemes, words, phrases, and sentences in this language sample.  You will schedule a time for your exam the first week of class. You can find more details about the exam and a practice exam on the Final Exam page. (Value: 50 points.)

Please note that I generally do not accept late assignments. I strongly recommend that you plan to post your assignments a few days in advance of the deadline to preclude late assignments resulting from faulty technology or other problems.


When I evaluate your work, I will use the following criteria:

After evaluating your work, I will decide which of the letter grades below best matches your mastery of the material.

A (91–100 percent); A– (90 percent)

A student who earns an A has excelled in both skills and knowledge. In content, clarity, readability, and format, the student’s work fully or almost fully meets my criteria. In short, the student has mastered the material and is likely to succeed in future challenges.

B+ (89 percent); B (81–88 percent); B– (80 percent)

A student who earns a B has demonstrated many of the same qualities shown by the student who earns an A, but is deficient in a few minor areas. The student has generally mastered the material and is likely to succeed in future challenges.

C+ (79 percent); C (71–78 percent); C– (70 percent)

A student who earns a C has demonstrated some of the same qualities shown by the student who earns an A or a B. Although the work is adequate, it suffers from several minor deficiencies. Nevertheless, the work suggests that the student is competent and is ready to take on future challenges, though he or she may need to shore up some of these deficiencies to succeed.

D+ (69 percent); D (61–68 percent); D– (60 percent)

A student who earns a D is deficient in at least one major area or many minor areas, but has demonstrated adequate knowledge and skills to merit a passing grade. The student who earns a D probably will struggle when confronting future challenges.

F (below 60 percent)

A student will earn an F for one of the following reasons:

For the purposes of calculating your final course grade, I then will assign the work a number of points corresponding to the appropriate letter grade. Let’s take a look at how this system might work for a hypothetical student:

  1. “Think Again” Exercises: Let’s say Jane submits one response late and thus earns 0 points for it. Her next response is clear and insightful, but it contains some inaccurate analysis, along with several careless typographical errors; she earns 6 points for it. Her final essay arrives on time, meets the requirements of the assignment, contains accurate and thorough analysis, conveys information clearly, and lacks distracting errors in readability; she earns 10 points for it. Thus, Jane earns 16 out of 30 points for her essays.
  2. Unit 1 Exam: Jane has an adequate grasp of several concepts covered in the first unit, but she never gets around to reading one of the lessons and uses an inadequate paperback dictionary instead of a good hardback one when taking the first oral exam. She earns 6 out of 10 points.
  3. Unit 2 Exam: Jane studies diligently for this exam, knows the material, and earns 10 out of 10 points on this second exam.
  4. Final Exam: Jane continues studying regularly throughout the remainder of the semester, spends a lot of time and energy preparing for the final exam, and does well on this exam, earning 46 out of the possible 50 points.
  5. Final Course Grade: Jane earns 78 out of 100 points and thus earns a C in the course. She wishes that she had turned in her first assignment on time and spent more time checking and proofreading her second assignment.  She regrets not being better prepared for the first exam.  Nevertheless, she takes responsibility for her own performance. She never even considers complaining to Dr. Canada or begging for extra credit. Instead, she thanks him for challenging her and maintaining high standards.

Academic Policies

By enrolling as a student in this course, you agree to abide by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill policies related to the acceptable use of online resources. Please consult the Acceptable Use Policy on topics such as copyright, net-etiquette, and privacy protection.

As part of this course, you may be asked to participate in online discussions or other online activities that may include personal information about you or other students in the course. Please be respectful of the rights and protection of other participants under the UNC-Chapel Hill Information Security Policies when participating in online classes.

When using online resources offered by organizations not affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill, such as Google or YouTube, please note that the Terms and Conditions of these companies and not the University’s Terms and Conditions apply. These third parties may offer different degrees of privacy protection and access rights to online content. You should be well aware of this when posting content to sites not managed by UNC-Chapel Hill.

When links to sites outside of the unc.edu domain are inserted in class discussions, please be mindful that clicking on sites not affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill may pose a risk for your computer due to the possible presence of malware on such sites.

Academic Integrity

As a Carolina Courses Online student, you are responsible for obeying and supporting an honor system that prohibits lying, cheating, or stealing in relation to the academic practices of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You are expected to do your own work in all aspects of your course. The honor system also requires you to refrain from conduct that significantly impairs the welfare or the educational opportunities of others in the University community.

An especially serious Honor Code violation is plagiarism. Please view this brief Plagiarism Tutorial created by the librarians of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, NC State University, and NC Central University.


Unit 1: Words
Lesson 1 Foundations
Post your introduction and schedule your exams.
Lesson 2 Morphemes
Lesson 3 Form Classes, Structure Classes, and Pronouns
Your Unit 1 “Think Again” assignment is due
Unit 1 Exam Call at your scheduled time.
Unit 2: Basic Sentence Elements
Lesson 4 Syntax
Lesson 5 Verbs
Lesson 6 Nominals
Lesson 7 Transformations
Your Unit 2 “Think Again” assignment is due
Unit 2 Exam Call at your scheduled time.
Unit 3: Modification and Coordination
Lesson 8 Adverbials and Sentence Modifiers
Lesson 9 Adjectivals
Lesson 10 Coordination, Punctuation, and Rhetorical Grammar
Your Unit 3 “Think Again” assignment is due
Final Exam Call at your scheduled time.