I'm wanting to build my understanding of English grammar and parts of speech.

I want to sort out which terms build on each other but am getting confused because there are so many terms that I'm not seeing how they are related.

It seems like grammar is made of:


And parts of speech is made of:


But there are also terms like:


That are found in the Subject Verb Object pattern. Note: the term "Verb" appears twice in two categories that seem different. This is also confusing.

All terms are related to the structure of the English language, you know, like the title of this Stack Exchange. The terms fall broadly into three categories:

parts of speech
grammatical relations

I'm wanting to sort out the relation between these categories and thus the lists of English terms listed above.

For an example of what I'm looking to achieve:

The following words are all related to the structure of Atomic Physics and Chemistry; however, they don't make sense when they are all jumbled together:


However, by arranging them in a specific order they make more sense:

quark   electron    hydrogen    water
        neutron     oxygen

The key insight is: each of these words falls into categories. Each category provides the units required to build units in other categories.

It makes sense because quarks are the units that build electrons, neutrons, and protons; electrons, neutrons, and protons are the units that build atoms like hydrogen or oxygen; and atoms like hydrogen and oxygen build molecules like water.

The question

Can you explain the difference and relation between a) parts of speech (i.e. word categories), b) phrases (phrasal categories) and c) grammatical relations (like Subject or Object)?

I would especially appreciate some type of diagram that draws relations between the above three categories.

  • A part of speech is like a brick. Grammar is like a house. – Hot Licks Jun 1 '17 at 0:07
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    This is a good question and I do not think it is too broad. The question is really: Can you explain the difference between a) parts of speech (i.e. word categories), b) phrases (phrasal categories) and c) grammatical relations (like Subject or Object). It's a good question for this site! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jun 1 '17 at 13:32
  • @sumelic there is literally one mention of one term that is connected to linguistics. In what way does that warrant reading an entire book on linguistics as opposed to asking a question on a question and answer site for the English language? The rest of the terms are either parts of speech, phrases, or grammatical relations. These terms are the fundamental units of the English language. I'm wondering how they are related. In what way is asking how terms are related too broad? It's a specific question that provides specific context with specific examples and presumably a specific answer. – mbigras Jun 1 '17 at 16:52
  • @HotLicks Thank you for the comment, it's confusing to me why parts of speech are smaller than grammar because grammer is words, clauses, phrases and parts of speech are nouns, verbs, adjectives,... and so it seems like the words, phrases, and clauses are the things building the parts of speech which seems to go counter to the brick house analogy. – mbigras Jun 1 '17 at 16:55
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    You can see a handout describing a more mainstream view of syntactic categories here: msu.edu/course/lin/434/PSets/syntactic-categories.pdf – herisson Jun 1 '17 at 18:22

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