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Annual vs. Perennial (Grammar Rules)

What's the difference between annual and perennial? Learn the answers with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including what the terms mean when it comes to flowers and other plants.

I've spent the past couple weekends either on my hands and knees or clutching very sharp cutting implements and/or a shovel. While it may sound like the beginning of a murder mystery novel, I've just been enjoying the first bits of spring in Georgia—pulling up weeds, pruning bushes, putting out fresh mulch, and other fun (and exhausting) activities in the yard.

(Grammar Rules for Writers.)

I'm no expert gardener and have so-so success usually with what I plant, but I love this time of year. When I first started a few years back, one of the first things I had to discover was the difference between "annual" and "perennial" plants. I knew one meant it would come back every year, but which one? As an editor, I was used to annual editions of publications—so did that mean annuals came back each year?

Well let's look at the answer to that gardening question and more in this post.

Annual vs. Perennial (Grammar Rules)

Annual vs. Perennial

Annual can be used as an adjective or noun. As an adjective, annual means covering the period of a year or happening once per year. As a noun, an annual may refer to a publication or event that happens once per year. In gardening terms, an annual (or annual plant) is one that lasts for only one year or growing season. In other words, an annual has to be planted every year.

(Check out Writer's Digest's annual writing conference.)

Perennial is an adjective that means present all seasons of the year, occurring for several years, and/or continuing without interruption. In gardening terms, a perennial plant is one that lasts for two or more years. So it doesn't need to be planted every year.

Make sense?

Examples of Annual and Perennial:

Correct: She planned to enter the annual writing contest.
Incorrect: She planned to enter the perennial writing contest.

Correct: He enjoyed watching his perennial flowers bloom each year—both for their beauty and the fact he didn't have to replant them every spring.
Incorrect: He enjoyed watching his annual flowers bloom each year—both for their beauty and the fact he didn't have to replant them every spring.

A final note on annual and perennial:

So as a gardener, this is how I keep annual and perennial straight in my head: I take the "a" from "annual" to mean I have to plant "a" new plant each year; meanwhile, the "p" in "perennial" reminds me that my plant "persists" each year.

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Grammar and Mechanics

No matter what type of writing you do, mastering the fundamentals of grammar and mechanics is an important first step to having a successful writing career.

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