Skip to main content
University of Texas at Austin
University Interscholastic League Logo
University Interscholastic League Logo

Grammatical Leads

Noun Clause - Begins with that, how, why, whether, what or when and features the substance of announcements, decisions or beliefs.

  • That vocational education and all electives except foreign language be eliminated from the secondary curriculum was the proposal of a group led by Mortimer Huxley.
  • How the state plans to finance public secondary education in the 1990s was the focus of a week-long confrontation between the Governor and the Legislature.
  • Why any sane person would listen to rap and/or heavy metal music will be discussed at next week's meeting of the Ace of Base fan club.

Temporal Clause - Begins with when, while, before, since or as soon as and features the time element.

  • When students return to school next fall, they will be greeted by new discipline, parking and attendance codes.
  • While Principal Melvin Adams talked to freshmen on the evils of vandalism, six seniors were painting pink and green happy faces as well as various graffiti on his prized 1968 Mustang convertible.

Participial Phrase - A participial phrase begins with a present tense verb or past participle and features action. Often, it answers the news questions "why" or "how."

As a past participle:

Stunned by the desecration of his beloved 1968 Mustang convertible, Principal Melvin Adams formed vigilante groups to track down and kill seniors responsible for the outrage.

As a present participle:

Cashing in on his dreamy pout, droopy blue eyes and cute tush, Billy Cacophony pursued his dream of rock and roll stardom, despite the fact that he couldn't sing or play a musical instrument. "Just look how far good looks and nothing more took Jon Bon Jovi and The New Kids on the Block," he reasoned.

Gerund Phrase - Begins with a gerund and features action or an interesting detail. A gerund is the "ing" form of a verb, used as a noun. For example: Jogging is boring.

Typing 30 words a minute with a minimum of three mistakes and without breaking a finger nail is the requirement for passing Mrs. Joyce Bigby's all-girl business class.

Prepositional Phrase - Begins with a preposition and features one aspect of the story which the reporter feels deserves special attention.

After reading the staff editorial denouncing the administration's dress code, the principal tossed the student newspaper to the floor, stamped his feet and screamed, "Heads will roll."

With ink spots on his face and the answers smeared on his hand, coupled with glares from the teacher, Donnie Dishonest knew he had been found out.

Concessive Clause - Begins with though or although and expresses difficulties overcome or unusual circumstances.

Although he had failed to turn in a single assignment or pass a test, super jock Biff Stanley was genuinely shocked that he failed to pass World History. "But I'm the quarterback," he argued to no avail.

Although Rhonda Rah Rah misplaced her pom pons, hairbrush and mirror, she was still able to lead cheers and meet her friends at the football game.

Infinitive Phrase - Begins with to plus a verb and features purpose or dramatic action or to create a minor note of suspense.

As an adverb:

To maintain his last thread of sanity, Latin teacher John Vector dismissed class. "The kids think they speak Latin in Latin America, and that 'pro-bono' is a U2 groupie," he muttered in disgust.

As a noun:

To cash in on her brother's fame, looks and dance steps is Janet Jackson's recipe for success in the rough and tumble world of entertaining a crowd of ditzy pre-teen girls.

Conditional Clause - Begins with if, unless or provided and expresses speculative interest or condition.

Unless the Jeffersonville Bobcats come up with a plan to replace their leaky defense, stagnant offense and uninspired coaching, they stand a good chance of remaining the district's doormat for decades to come.

If the prom were held tonight, students would have nothing to eat, and would dance to whatever music could be generated from a boom box. With just over two weeks until the prom, Student Council officers admitted that they had neither selected a menu nor contracted a band to play at the annual end-of-school event.


By Bobby Hawthorne
Former Director, Interscholastic League Press Conference
Please see that Bobby Hawthorne and the ILPC are appropriately credited.