What is grammar?

So, what is grammar?  One of the best definitions of grammar that I have heard comes from a book called The Practice of English Language Teaching (link opens the entire book on Scribd), which defines grammar as

the description of the ways in which words can change their forms and be combined to form sentences.

For example, “I pie eated” is not grammatically correct, because the word “To eat” has not been formed ‘correctly’, and the order of the words is ‘incorrect’.  The grammatically correct form is “I ate pie.”

Grammar has two aspects:

  1. Morphology : the forms a word can take (how words change: eat/eats/ate/eaten or city/cities/city’s/cities’ or do/doable/done/undone/did/redo).
  2. Syntax : the order that words go in (how words are ordered in a sentence: I ate pie–subject/verb/object).  See Wikipedia or the Practice of English Language Teaching, for more info.

If you have grown up speaking, reading and writing English, you probably already know the morphology of every word in the language (or most of them: do you know the plural of thesaurus?  It’s thesauri).  The morphology of words is fairly easy to absorb naturally, because there is a limit to how many forms a word can take.

However, the syntax of the language is something that has almost infinite variations, and so it requires attention and study to master.  This is where a real understanding of the different types of sentence fragments (the different ways to order words in an English sentence) can have a huge impact on the average writers’ ability.

See my post, “The 7 Sentence Fragments and how to use them” for a free lesson download, links and information about English syntax.


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