If I say "today was good day," and add an a in the right spot like, "today was a good day," from a broad view, is what I just did considered a grammatical change or something else?

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    The first one is wrong and the second right. What are you asking? What to call the process of taking an utterance with wrong grammar and fixing it? How about 'fixing bad grammar'? – Mitch Dec 5 '11 at 21:44
  • ...which is to say 'grammatical change' isn't really a thing. – Mitch Dec 5 '11 at 22:42

Yes, although change is perhaps not the word you want. In the second sentence, with a, the phrase a good day is a Predicate Noun Phrase -- i.e, although the official verb is was, the meaningful predication part is a good day. Nothing has been changed here; the first sentence doesn't exist as a source. But there is a distinction to be made, and it depends on what kind of predicate the sentence has.

Verbs are the prototype predicates, and English requires a tensed verb in every finite clause to be marked for tense; but there are other kinds of predicates, like Predicate Adjectives:

  • She is tired.
  • He is very tall.

which require some form of be.

Predicate NPs (Predicate Nouns for short) also require some form of be, but in addition they are marked by an indefinite article, a. That's why your first sentence is wrong: it's ungrammatical to use a predicate noun without a, just as it would be to use it without be. But it's equally ungrammatical to use a with a predicate adjective.

Predicate Adjectives:

  • *Today very hot.
  • *Today a very hot.
  • Today was very hot.
  • *Today was a very hot.

Predicate Nouns:

  • *Today good day.
  • *Today a good day.
  • *Today was good day.
  • Today was a good day.
  • I don't think the predicate nature of the noun has anything to do with it, does it John? The same problem would exist if the noun were functioning as a subject. – Brett Reynolds Dec 5 '11 at 22:38
  • I'm going to interpret the first sentence doesn't exist as a source as your way of saying the first series of words isn't a grammatical sentence. In which case I might have wanted to say that inserting "a" into the series "grammaticalises" it into a sentence. But I think that word has already been co-opted for a different meaning, so IMHO the "change" can only really be called a "correction". – FumbleFingers Dec 5 '11 at 22:52
  • I agree, FF. It's often hard answering questions as they are presented because they're so often odd mixtures of ideas about how language works. – John Lawler Dec 5 '11 at 23:01
  • @Brett, the predicate nature of the noun is where the obligatory a comes from. I suspect -- though they did not say so -- that the original poster is a native speaker of a language like Chinese or Malay that simply puts subject and predicate non-verbs together without benefit of be. It's very hard for people who've never felt a need for such a thing to figure out just where English wants it, where it doesn't want it, and where it doesn't care. – John Lawler Dec 5 '11 at 23:05
  • I still don't follow. good day is coming would be just as ungrammatical. – Brett Reynolds Dec 5 '11 at 23:20

Yes, it's a grammatical change. It's not a spelling change, a punctuation change, or a vocabulary change.

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    It's only a grammatical change in the sense that without "a", the sentence isn't grammatical in the first place. – FumbleFingers Dec 5 '11 at 21:57
  • Indeed, quite so. – Brett Reynolds Dec 5 '11 at 22:41

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