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Hi, can somebody help me with the syntax? I have a question about the characteristics of sentence structure in English syntax and was asked to analyze them. I have found many documents but still do not understand them. Can anybody help me answer this? Thank you very much!

in Education by (290 points)

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can anyone help me please :(((((((

by (290 points)
+1 vote

I taught English for 34 years, so I can help you.  However, you have not posted anything for which I can help.  Give me an example of the syntax problem with which you are struggling, and tell me what YOU think is either "wrong" with it or what you think is the best way to "answer" it.  THEN I will be able to help you!

by (899,260 points)

Thank you very much for your help

My problem is I don't quite understand the sentence structure in English syntax. My teacher asks me to analyze the characteristic. As I study from school and the documents, I think the characteristics of sentence structure in English syntax are about the constituent. English syntax is different from English grammar because it is structured from the constituents. And I think I will tell a little more information kind of " syntax has two elements are subject and predicted" After that, I just need to focus on analyzing the constituent or tree diagram, and I can tell a little more about phrase structure in English syntax too.

But the thing is, when I want to solve the questions that way, I feel it is not logical. What I can get and conclude if I analyze the constituent and tree diagram.  

To be honest, I do not know if my knowledge is right and if my direction is okay?. And I don't understand what is the characteristics of sentence structure in English syntax, and how can I analyze it?

Some kinds of sentence structures like compound, or SVO, or complex sentences... are not accepted because my teacher said it's related to English grammar, not English syntax.  


English as a second language is quite difficult for many reasons.  One important reason is that, unlike many other world languages, English is no longer an inflected language.  Let me explain that to you.  An inflected language is one where the form of a word determines its usage in a sentence.  In uninflected English, it isn't word form we rely on for meaning and usage, but word order.

In a highly inflected language, the subject of a sentence can be at the beginning, in the middle, or even at the end of a sentence.  Readers/Listeners know it is the subject because they recognize the form of the word, and that form tells the reader/listener "I am the subject of this sentence."  Russian, Czech, and Latin are some examples of highly inflected languages.  Most European languages are inflected as well, to some degree.

In English, though, the syntax (word order) in a sentence reveals the subject and the object, etc.  For example:  My friend ate a large meal.  In most English sentences, the subject comes at the beginning ("friend"); it is followed by the verb, or predicate ("ate"); and what is called the object, or direct object of the verb, is at the end ("meal").  

Breaking that sentence down to its simplest parts, then, yields

friend (subject)     ate (verb/predicate)    meal (direct object)

At one time, English was a highly inflected language, way back in the days when it was called Olde English.  Old English came from its predecessor, Proto-Germanic.  Both were highly inflected languages.  However, as time went on (during the middle ages), English speakers stopped using the various forms of words that would indicate where it was a subject (nominative case) or an object (objective case), and they started using the same form for both usages.  As a result, English speakers had to demonstrate a different way for listeners to figure out what the subject of the sentence was, so they relied on word order over word form.  This put a special emphasis on the syntax of the sentence (word order).   

Native language speakers internalize all the rules of grammar by the time they are 3 or 4 years old, and that is true with English-speaking children as well.  No four-year old would look out the window and say, "Car see I a mommy!"  They would say, "I see a car, Mommy!"  That puts the words in the right order (proper syntax) with subject, verb, and object (I  see   car).

This is difficult for non-English speakers to internalize, because they have already internalized the inflected rules of their own language, and English is a real puzzle for them.

And... oh, I hate to tell you this... but it gets worse.  During the Middle Ages, English was not a "respected" written language.  Latin was the language of the educated, and students who went to school (not many did) learned Latin and its rules of grammar and syntax.  By that time, though, the English language was already an uninflected language.  That didn't stop the mathematicians and scientists who wanted to create a reliable system of grammar for the English language so that  English would become more stable as a language and would develop into a "respectable" language that scholars could use.

Unfortunately, they decided to superimpose the rules of Latin grammar onto the English language.  Of course, the rules of Latin did not actually fit English for two reasons: (1) Latin was inflected and English was not, so the forms wouldn't match up, and (2) English came from an entirely different language family (Proto-Germanic for English, Italic for Latin).  Would you expect the rules to fit? No.  And they don't.  But we MAKE them fit.  We take that square peg of Latin grammar and whack it by force into the round hole of English.  

AND... as if all that doesn't make it hard enough to understand English, we are a language that stole words (uh... excuse me... borrowed words) from other languages.  When English imported a word from another language, only one form of the word was brought into English from the foreign language, not the whole set of different forms that the word might have in its original language.  So, over the years, English imported words from Scandinavian languages, from Latin, from French, and then from just about every other language under the sun, it seems.  What a mess!

But that's what English has become: a hodgepodge of words from many languages with rules of grammar that don't actually fit, and then we tell our students to learn it.   

English still has a number of inflected forms that have survived over the years.  Perhaps the most obvious remnant can be found in our pronouns.  Nominative case singular pronouns (used as subjects) include I, you, he, she, [and] it.  If you see the word "I" in the sentence, you know that the verb (predicate) for that subject will be "am," not "are" or "is."  Likewise if you need a singular Objective case personal pronoun, it will be one of these: me, you, him, her, it (you won't use I, he, or she as the object, just as you won't use me, him, or her as the subject.

All of this is complicated, I know, but I hope by sharing the reasons for English syntax being difficult for non-native English speakers, you will have a better approach to learning more of the language.

If I can help any further, please let me know.

Thank you a lot for your help, sir
I can understand it now. What a long comment with a lot of help from you!. I can't believe I can receive enthusiastic help like that.  I really really appreciate it. Thank you a lot for spending time helping me, and I think I can bring it into my essay right now.
Again, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you very much. I hope that you will have a nice day. 

The only thing I ask of you is for you to cite your source properly if you use some of my information.  Here is the citation for your paper:

Vy, and Media4u2. “Help Me with English Syntax.” ANSWEROLOGY 'RELOADED', 17 Nov 2021,

Some professors will want more information about the author of your source (me).  If you are asked, here is what  you may say to give me some credibility as a source for your paper:

Media4u2 is the screen name of a retired English teacher at a website called Answerology Reloaded, a site which offers help and advice  to members.  Media4u2 taught English for 34 years, most of it at a high school in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area (United States.)  He has a Master's Degree in Communication Studies. The linguistics information he offered comes from his own study and courses he took in linguistics, which he adapted for his high school senior college prep and Advanced Placement students.  His given name is not mentioned on the site.  Additionally, he suggested the proper format for citing his information for my paper.

Remember, Vy, if you use my exact words, be sure to put them in quotes and then cite them.  If you paraphrase my information, putting it into your own words, then you must still cite me as your source.  Using the proper citation will give your paper credibility.  NOT citing the information will make your professor doubt your research, and the failure to cite a source is called plagiarism.  Plagiarism usually results in a failing grade for the paper or for the course.  In some cases, plagiarism is punished by expulsion from the school.


P.S.  If your professor/teacher would like to contact me, that is fine.  Please send me a Private Message here on Answerology Reloaded with your teacher's name and email address, and I will be happy to contact him/her on your behalf.


Yes, I got it. I will do as you said. But can I ask you one more thing? I just have a new issue here is that what do you think about new words in English are created recently, I have studied some word-formation like coinage, eponymy, borrowing, compounding, blending... Can you tell me the popularity of these new words formation by your own opinion? 


And something related to ambiguity too. As I know, there are 2 types of ambiguity are structural ambiguity and lexical ambiguity. With lexical, there are some factors that cause it like not understanding clearly that word or because one word has many meanings. But with structural, I have found some factors through the Internet that I will give you the link below. So my question is how can we clarify to recognize them?


New words in English:

New words have been added to English since it first became known as English.  Our personal pronouns were imported from Scandinavian languages.  When Julius Caesar and the Romans conquered what is now known as England, Latin's influence was significant.  Later, with the defeat of Harold, the last of the Saxon kings, by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 (the Norman Conquest), French became the official language of the land. 

Consider the word "England," for example.  Where did it come from.  Well, the Celts were defeated by fierce germanic tribes known as the Angles, the Saxons, and the Jutes.  The Jutes were squeezed out, and the Angles and Saxons married one another and blended their society into the Anglo-Saxon culture we read about today.  Of the two, the Angles were dominant.  After a while, the land occupied by them was known as Angla-land.  In English, we have a tendency to reduce words, and Angla-land soon became Angland.  Now comes an oddity in language that affected only English, and not the European languages.  It was called the Great Vowel Shift.  In this period of time, the pronunciation of all of the vowels in English shifted.  For example, the long vowel "i" (today pronounced "eye") was pronounced "ee" prior to the Great Vowel Shift.  The word "night" was pronounced "nee'kt" before the Great Vowel Shift, but afterwards, the pronunciation was "neye't."   There is a way to represent the pronunciation of words called phonetic transcription, which uses written symbols to represent pronunciations of various sounds.    The long "i" sound today is represented as [ai] in phonetic transcription (as in "bite").  The "old" long "i" sound is represented in phonetic transcription by [i], as in "beet."   The pronunciation of "Angland" transformed into what the ear hears as "England" today, thanks to the Great Vowel Shift.

Words that were brought into English after the Great Vowel Shift did not go through another shift.  That is why words like "police" have the "ee" sound for the second vowel.  It's "po-l[i]s'"  (ee) instead of "po-l[ai]ce" (eye).  

After the French period of influence, there was a second period of "Latin influence."  That was during the Middle Ages (Middle English), when Latin was the language of the educated, and when the Latin system of grammar was overlaid on the English language.  Some of those "grammar rules" are completely arbitrary and even, in some ways, nonsensical.  You may have learned that it is improper to "split an infinitive."  For example, you should not say, "It's a terrible idea to not support the teacher."  You should say, "It is a terrible idea not to support the teacher."   Why?  Because in Latin (and in other inflected languages), the infinitive form of a verb is a single word.  In English, we have to create an infinitive form by adding a verb form to  the word "to."  In French, for example the word "être" is the infinitive form of the English infinitive "to be."  Likewise, "to go" is the English infinitive form (created by adding "go" to the word "to"), but in French, the infinitive form of "to go" is "aller."  Therefore, the "rule" that says "never split an infinitive' is completely arbitrary; it exists only because the Latin form was one word, not two. Or as I used to tell my students, "It is better to not split an infinitive."  :-) 

Shakespeare was one of the most prolific inventors of words for the English language.  Until Shakespeare, the place where people would sleep at night was known as the "sleeping chamber."  Shakespeare made what was at that time a rather bawdy reference to sleeping chamber when he wrote about a couple retiring to a "bed room" for some romantic action in the bed (from Midsummer Night's Dream.)

Today, new words come from all sorts of sources:  other languages, newly created words that reflect the name of the person introducing the word (eponymous), such as "sandwich" (introduced by the Earl of Sandwich), or the inventor's decision to have the new word reflect a particular naming sequence that follows along with the words in that discipline (for example, following the recommendations of the IAU -- International Astronomical Union.)

As to my opinion of new word formations, I'm more or less a "laissez-faire" kind of guy.  I don't really care what they come up with so long as it doesn't sound really goofy.  :-)


Dear Media4u2. I just have finished my essay and from the bottom of my heart, I'm very thankful forr your answer. It's very helpful for me this time. I know it has been a long time but I hope It's not too late for me to send you a "thank you"

Vy, thank you very much for your note.  It is much appreciated.  Let me know what your score/grade is when your paper is returned!

Best wishes!
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