TOEFL iBT Grammar and Baseball: They Are More Similar Than You Think

Though grammar is not a section on the TOEFL iBT, you will need a deep understanding of grammar so you can perform well on the writing and speaking sections. To illustrate, let’s compare grammar and writing to the game of baseball, particularly a pitcher-typically the highest paid professional athlete on a team. A pitcher must have the ability to throw different pitches: fast ball, curve ball, splitter, drop ball, change-up, and so on. And depending on what type of batter comes to the plate, the pitcher adjusts his pitches in hopes of striking out the batter.

Like a pitcher, you will need to throw different sentence styles at your readers. Too many of the same sounding sentences become monotonous and are likely to bore your readers. Of course, if you do not vary your sentence style on the writing and speaking sections of the TOEFL iBT, you will receive an  unsatisfactory score.

To understand sentence variety requires that you understand four types of sentence structures and reasons for their respective uses.

1. Simple Sentence: Consists of an independent clause, which has one subject and one verb.

Example: We had all bonded through the experience.

Use: To emphasize important information.

2. Compound: Consists of two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (i.e., and, or, yet, so, for, but).

Example: I had grown quite close to these strangers over the last few days, but I had become incredibly fond of my drama companions.

Use: To join two equally important ideas that are not important enough to stand as their own separate sentences.

3. Complex: Consists of an independent clause and a dependent clause (i.e., adjective , adverb, or noun clause).

Example: We were the elite, the student leaders who were hand picked from the various church schools to guide others into worship.

Use: To join an independent idea (i.e., “the elite”) with a supporting idea that isn’t important enough to stand as its own sentence (i.e., “who were handpicked…”).

4. Compound-complex: Consists of a compound and a complex sentence combination.

Example: I saw the man who was riding the bicycle, and he told me that his watch had been stolen.

Use: To join two equally important ideas (i.e., “I saw the man, he told me…” that are not important enough to stand as their own separate sentences with a supporting idea (i.e., “who was riding…”) that isn’t important enough to stand as its own sentence.

To further understand sentence variety requires that you understand subject-verb inversions (i.e., prepositional phrases of location, adverbs of negation and time, and adverb clauses when “if” has been omitted). It is also important to understand how to use fronted present and past participle phrases.

1. P.P. of location: Consists of a preposition and a noun, a verb, and a subject.

Example: Beside the dead man was a suicidal note explaining his plight.

Use: Emphasis.

2. Adverbs of negations and frequency:

Consists of an adverb of frequency, an auxiliary verb, a subject, and a main verb.

Example: Seldom does the student come to class late.

Use: Emphasis.

3. Conditional clauses: Consists of a verb, a subject, a comma, a main subject, and a main verb or consists of a main subject, a main verb, a verb, and a subject.

Example: Were I not tired, I would go swimming right now.

If I were not tired, I would go swimming right now.

I would go swimming right now were I not tired.

I would go swimming right now if I were not tired.

Use: Variety, conciseness.

4. Participles: Consists of a verb + ed, en (i.e., passive meaning) or a verb +ing (i.e., active meaning), a comma, a subject, and a verb.

Example: Standing next to the professor’s office, the student anxiously awaited his grade.

Example: Worn from many years of reading, the book had sentimental value.

Use: Variety, conciseness.

If you put into practice what you have learned from this post, you will hit a home run the next time you take the TOEFL iBT.

For more information, go here: http://onlinetoeflcourse.com

Michael Buckhoff, mbuckhoff@aol.com

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