Oh, we hope we haven’t given the government any crazy ideas about raising revenue! It was a joke, a play on words if you will…
Syntax is a real word. It refers to the correct placement and use of words in a sentence. I like the architectural definition of the word: a connected or orderly system: harmonious arrangement of parts or elements…a bit like the old adage “a place for everything and everything has its place”…let’s leave it at that!
We have learned thus far that a complete thought (sentence) requires a subject (naming word) and a predicate (telling word).
The subject of a sentence can come from one of two of the 8 part of speech: noun or a pronoun. The predicate is always a verb.
FUNCTION AND NAME! As we begin to parse, analyze, or take a sentence apart (thus realizing the ‘harmonious arrangement of these parts or elements’), we first look at what a word (or group of words) does/do in a sentence and then choose its appropriate name from the 8 parts of speech. That’s all there is to it!
Are you ready to parse a sentence? Of course you are! Here’s your first complete thought (sentence): From this point on, we shall put the predicate part of any sentence in italics.
The word ‘astronauts’ is our naming word and hence the subject of the sentence. It tells of whom we are speaking. It’s a noun (people, places, things).
The word ‘fly’ is our telling word and is the predicate. It’s a verb.
Ta da! We just parsed our first sentence together. We took a noun (subject) and a verb (predicate) and created a complete thought. Here’s a variation:
This is the same thought but we’ve used the pronoun ‘they’ to replace ‘astronauts’. No big deal. Remember that pronouns often replace nouns to avoid unnecessary repetition.
We could give you a thousand more examples of two-word sentences but we’ve chosen otherwise. Let’s just be happy with ‘Astronauts fly.’ It is a complete thought but it is rather basic, wouldn’t you agree? Okay, so all we have to do is bring in a modifier or two. Let’s choose a word to modify or describe ‘astronauts’.
Brave astronauts fly.
Cool! Brave is a good descriptor or modifier of ‘astronauts’. Think back for a sec…which family or part of speech describes nouns? (The clock ticks…) Adjective is correct!
Please note that our subject is now two words: brave astronauts. However, only one of these words is the actual naming word and that word is ‘astronauts’. From now on, we’ll refer to the main naming word as the bare subject. Sounds kinky but if a writer or speaker cannot perform this simple (though, at times, confusing) task, then mistakes will be made. Look at the following example:
One of the brave astronauts (fly or flies?).
Fly or flies is the question. Which verb is correct? Our subject is now ‘one of the brave astronauts’ and we have two naming words: ‘one’ (a pronoun) and ‘astronauts’ (a noun). Only one of these words is the bare subject and if you picked the word ‘one’ then give yourself a pat on the back. Logic would tell us that we are speaking about a single astronaut and thus we would need the single form of the verb. This gets us into what is known in Grammarland as subject/verb agreement and for those who are not aware or who don’t give a toot will often land in Boobooville. Subject/verb agreement will be covered in greater detail later. Now back to our regularly-scheduled programme…
Brave astronauts often fly into outer space.
We’ve added a couple of modifiers to the predicate ‘often’ and ‘into outer space’. However, ‘fly’ is the most important as it indicates the action taken by the brave astronauts. Thus, ‘fly’ is our bare predicate. The word ‘often’ tells us when the astronauts fly and ‘into outer space’ tell us where they fly. Which family or part of speech describes or modifies verbs? Correctomongo…adverbs is the answer!
Now would be the appropriate time to tell you about phrases (the real reason so many people err)…From the above example (which, by the way, is a phrase), ‘into outer space’ tells us where those brave astronauts fly. They are an inseparable group of words, which, as the word inseparable implies, cannot be used individually to describe the bare predicate (verb). Inseparable groups of words such as these are called phrases and in this case ‘into outer space’ is considered to be an adverb phrase, modifying the bare predicate ‘fly’. There! Doesn’t that make you feel better?
Hold on! We’re not finished. Let’s throw in another single and phrasal modifier of the bare subject and see where this takes us (probably into outer space if you’re not already there).
Three brave astronauts of the Peruvian Space Mission often fly into outer space.
We’ve added two adjective modifiers: ‘three’ and ‘of the Peruvian Space Mission‘. Once again, please note the inseparable group of words which team up to further describe the bare subject ‘astronauts’. Yes, it’s called an adjective phrase.
Now, go ahead, parse the above sentence. Use the following method:
1. Identify the whole subject (all the naming words).
2. Select the bare subject (most important naming word).
3. From the rest of the sentence (the predicate), choose the bare predicate. (which can be more than one word, depending on the tense of the verb…present, past, future, etc.)
Subject: ‘three brave astronauts of the Peruvian Space Mission’
Bare Subject: astronauts
Bare Predicate: fly
Bravo! But we’re not quite finished (We know one should never begin a sentence with ‘but’, but we like the effect it has so it’s all right). The last thing on today’s plate is to go through the entire sentence and identify the function and corresponding name of each word. This is how it’s done:
‘three’ modifies the bare subject ‘astronauts’. It is an adjective.
‘brave’ (ditto…same as the above)
‘of the Peruvian Space Mission’ modifies the bare subject. It is an adjective phrase. (we’ll show you how to do phrasal analysis in a later blog…promise!)
‘often’ modifies bare predicate ‘fly’. It is an adverb.
‘into outer space’ (ditto…same as above). It is an adverb phrase.
And that, my fellow grammarians, if all we’ve got for…hold on a minute…it seems the members of the Peruvian Space Mission have urgently asked us to do the phrasal analysis right away (claim they’ll be flying into outer space later today and don’t want to miss a thing…who’s flying that space-craft…Steven Tyler? Hmmm, perhaps he does have a little Incan blood in him…) Roger that, team Peruvian! Here’s how it looks in English…
‘of the Peruvian Space Mission’
‘of’ introduces the phrase. It is a preposition.
‘the’, ‘Peruvian’ and ‘Space’ describe Mission. They are adjectives.
‘Mission’ is the object of the preposition. It is a noun.
Okay team, off you go into the wild blue yonder. But first, take some time to ponder as you wander through the magical and sometimes mystical Land of Grammar…until next time, try not to dangle your prepositions or misplace your modifiers…stay thirsty (for knowledge) my friends…
Bloggingfrog and Lily