Questions tagged [syntax]

Questions regarding the rules for the formation of sentences

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46
votes
6answers
32k views

Is there some rule against ending a sentence with the contraction “it's”?

I heard this lyric in a song the other day and it just sounded so wrong that I assumed it must be incorrect grammar, but I can't find any specific prohibition that applies. That's what it's. That ...
72
votes
8answers
92k views

Is there a reason the British omit the article when they “go to hospital”?

Why do British speakers omit the article in constructions like "go to hospital" or "go on holiday"? Pretty much all American speakers would rephrase those as "go to the hospital" and "go on a holiday",...
10
votes
7answers
12k views

How are “needs to be washed,” “needs washing,” and the regional variant “needs washed” to be distinguished"?

I'm from Central Pennsylvania, and apparently, we have a strange language construct in this area. I was recently talking about how "my car needs washed" to a friend from NJ, and she told me that my ...
23
votes
5answers
189k views

Should an adverb go before or after a verb?

For example: The word rarely turns up outside of those contexts. The word turns up rarely outside of those contexts. Which one is correct and why?
64
votes
18answers
7k views

Central Pennsylvanian English speakers: what are the limitations on the “needs washed” construction?

In the Central Pennsylvania dialect of English (and possibly elsewhere), the following construction is possible: This car needs washed. (=needs to be washed) The room needs cleaned. (=needs to ...
31
votes
4answers
11k views

Why do newspaper headlines use strange syntax rules?

Newspaper/news article headlines usually have different syntax rules, for example No copula. North Korea trip 'successful' Past events written in present. Qantas cancels flight out of frozen Heathrow ...
18
votes
4answers
4k views

English questions and negation with *do* in syntax

A former lecturer of mine once explained why, from a syntactic point of view, the English rule that negation and questions are formed with the auxiliary do follows from other syntactic facts about ...
10
votes
6answers
27k views

Is it incorrect to say, 'Give me it'?

Is it incorrect to say, 'Give me it' ? I am told that it is and one should always say, 'Give it me'?
2
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1answer
13k views

Is this sentence correct? “What I want to do is read this book.”

"What I want to do is read this book." Is it correct? Or, can I say: "What I want to do is to read this book." "What I want to do is reading this book." Are all of the three sentences correct?
25
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4answers
3k views

How do the rules of English inform understanding of one of our language's most disputed sentences?

Yes, historical context is important, but forget it for a moment. Taken at face value, what does the text mean? A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right ...
32
votes
4answers
49k views

How does the phrase “used to” work, grammatically?

It is common to hear people say "used to" to indicate that they did something in the past but no longer do; for example, "I used to play basketball." How would "used to," used in that context, fit ...
14
votes
3answers
1k views

Where is the subject in “as was traditional for unmarried women”?

My senior English teacher was a tad bit confused where the subject for was is in this sentence: As was traditional for unmarried women, Jane lived at home her entire life.
5
votes
4answers
4k views

Relative pronouns “where” and “when”: where can they be omitted?

I know the "omitting-rules" regarding the relative pronouns who/which/that and whose. How does it work with where and when? In the first sentence I cannot omit where but I can easily omit when in the ...
3
votes
2answers
3k views

Use of “do” in affirmative statements [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do you use “Did + 1st form” instead of “2nd form” When is do used in affirmative sentences? For example: I do think that this is going to be... Is it only used to ...
3
votes
1answer
943 views

Flipping Sentences and Verb Agreement

Is the following sentence grammatically correct in regards subject-verb agreement? One of the main facets of the soul is the feelings humans treasure above all: love and compassion. The sentence ...
10
votes
6answers
26k views

'Home' in 'Ben and Jen went home.' Can an adverb be a noun at the same time?

In this sentence: Ben and Jen went home. Is home both an adverb and a noun?
1
vote
2answers
5k views

Not so much as [something] as [something else]

Consider the sentence: "She sees him not so much as her uncle as her friend." Is this sentence correct? I feel something is missing, or perhaps I am disturbed by the extra 'as'. Compare with: "...
10
votes
6answers
3k views

Superlative + noun + “possible”: why does the adjective come after the noun?

Does someone happen to have an explanation or theory for why in phrases like "the best method possible" the word 'possible' comes after the noun?
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Reason for Subject-Verb Inversion: Only in cases where A is B, shall the Company do X [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Sentences using: [something] + have + they subject-auxiliary inversions not associated with questions In the following, why does subject-verb inversion occur? Is it ...
1
vote
2answers
4k views

The use of “So X as to be Y”

First of all, note that this is not a duplicate question of another one asking about the usage of so as to, since this one is asking about the structure of so . . . as to. . . . I understand this ...
65
votes
6answers
44k views

Why is “zero” followed by a plural noun?

I could have: Two books One book Zero books Why is zero followed by a plural form? I don't expect English to always make sense, but everything has a reason, even if the reason is stupid. The ...
26
votes
6answers
9k views

How can I prove a word is a noun?

When I read a sentence, I can identify nouns. But now I need to give proof that they are indeed nouns, and that is where it goes wrong. I can think of one or two things sometimes (like combining it ...
8
votes
4answers
96k views

Which is preferable: “We are all…” or “We all are…”?

"We are all mad." "We all are mad." I think each of these conveys the same idea. Besides this, we can use "we are all" alone. I hear the first one more frequently. Does the second one sound worse to ...
5
votes
6answers
64k views

Syntactically correct, semantically incorrect sentence

How would I answer the following programming exercise? It's trying to emphasize the difference between semantics and syntax. Write an English sentence that has correct syntax but has semantic ...
15
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1answer
23k views

Is “Me neither” incorrect?

I've heard that "me neither" is incorrect. Instead one should say "neither do I." People definitely say "me neither" conversationally, but is it technically incorrect?
8
votes
3answers
1k views

Is Wayne's World's (NOT) a modern invention?

Older users of this site may recall the 'Bill & Ted' 'Wayne's World' series of movies of the early 1990s. They were mindless but fairly amusing and their eponymous characters spoke in a unique ...
3
votes
2answers
445 views

One noun but two determiners?

In this earlier thread titled 'Can I precede a noun with more than one determiner?', the most-voted answer by Barrie England says: Yes, more than one determiner can precede a noun, but they do so ...
9
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5answers
1k views

How does the to infinitive work with adjectives like “wrong” and “wise”?

You were wrong to pick that car I was wise to go home that day. I can't quite explain how the to-infinitive modifies the adjectives here. It's similar to sentences like "It's nice to see you" ...
6
votes
12answers
2k views

Subject, Verb Object (and so forth) sentence analysis. In particular: What's the Verb here?

I need help! Could you please look at this sentence: When I obtained a credit card, I began spending money recklessly. I'm doing basic sentence patterns, and I don't know how to analyse this part:...
5
votes
1answer
19k views

Use of a hyphen with the word “based”

I'm checking a technical paper submission and came across the phrase We propose spherical Gaussian based approximations to calculate this analytically. and wondering if this needs a hyphen ...
4
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2answers
2k views

“It is having time to think that makes me depressed” — grammatical function of “that”?

It is having time to think that makes me depressed. In this sentence, what is the grammatical function of the word that?
6
votes
1answer
22k views

Symbol, punctuation, or abbreviation that indicates a “paraphrase”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: What is the proper use of [square brackets] in quotes? This question is born of practical necessity - one that I encountered while quoting a reference in "another" Stack ...
6
votes
4answers
5k views

using “the”+adj without a noun

Is the following sentence good/legal/understood English? Meditation melts the coarse and solidifies the subtle. If it isn't, how can this be otherwise expressed, in a neat and concise way?
4
votes
2answers
1k views

What defines a correlative?

I have come across a number of expressions (both...and..., if...then...) which are named as "correlative" in different grammars (namely Quirk et al.). The question: What makes an expression a ...
0
votes
2answers
707 views

I'm just here to help is all

I came across the following sentence in an American novel: "Hey, sugar," he says. "I'm just here to help you is all." I take it that the sentence means, "I'm just here to help you and that's all." ...
27
votes
4answers
1k views

What is the origin and extent of the Indian English usage of “only” to emphasize something?

I live in southern India, and for a long time I've been curious about this phenomenon that I've observed. Indian English uses the word "only" in a special way. It's used to emphasize things. Sort ...
7
votes
5answers
5k views

Using the word 'Only'

I am confused about using the word only. I often hear it being used in many contexts that sound wrong to me - but I'm not sure if it's me or them. Let me give some examples: A: Where were you ...
15
votes
8answers
2k views

“What I'm doing is watching TV.” — Why does it have to be the gerund-participle ('watching')?

What I do is watch TV. What I did was watch TV. What I had done was watch TV. ... But, What I am doing is watching TV. The only possible form of watch in the last sentence is ...
12
votes
9answers
4k views

I am [who/whom] G-d made me

Please fill in the blank with the correct word and explain your choice. I am __ G-d made me. A. who B. whom Some people have suggested I elaborate on this question so here goes. The above was not ...
12
votes
2answers
997 views

a [box [of apples] ] vs [a box] [of apples]

The standard linguistic analysis of the NP a box of apples is that we have a determiner (a) which acts on (modifies?) box of apples. (For an example of standard analysis, see e.g. Fig. 6 here). ...
11
votes
5answers
23k views

“Be like” usage

Of late, I have been noticing a lot of casual memes floating around, particularly on Facebook, that involve this phrase. Typical constructs could be like the following examples: B*&^%$# be like....
10
votes
2answers
35k views

“There exists some people…” or “There exist some people…”?

I know the usage of This is a new car. This is singular. These are some books for you. These is plural. Shall we use There exists some people who agree with me. There exist some people who ...
8
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5answers
4k views

“Love me tender”: adverb or adjective?

Is the last word in each of these phrases an adverb or an adjective? How can we know? love me tender treat me nice hold me tight
4
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2answers
4k views

Adverbial phrase

What is an adverbial phrase ? I recently learnt 'to boot' , meaning in addition, as well. And someone was saying it is an adverbial phrase. I think I know what is an adverb, but never learnt of ...
4
votes
1answer
15k views

Proper usage/origin of the generic phrase “[action phrase] does not a [noun] make” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Why is “xxxx doth not a yyyy make” considered valid English? I occasionally come across a sentence formulated in a manner similar to the following: Reading a ...
2
votes
3answers
2k views

Compounds and Phrases

What is the difference between compounds and phrases? How do I know that "watch-maker" is a compound but "steel bridge" is a phrase? Does the "head" have anything to do with it (complement-head or ...
1
vote
2answers
11k views

“most” vs “the most”, specifically as an adverb at the end of sentence

Which one of the following sentences is the most canonical? I know most vs. the most has been explained a lot, but my doubts pertain specifically to which one to use at the end of a sentence. Do ...
1
vote
1answer
127 views

When can verbal passives be used in secondary predicates?

In a paper I read, on the fifth page (labelled "359"), it says resultative secondary predicates can only be stative adjectival passives. For example, "John hammered the metal flat" is valid but "John ...
6
votes
3answers
11k views

Is “choose from one of four options” wrong?

I need backup in pressing my case that the phrase “choose from one of four options” is grammatically incorrect. Is there some resource that can prove my case, that the incorrect phrase should be ...
4
votes
2answers
444 views

Does the “she was found in violation of…” <-> “she was violated” equivalence have a name?

This is a follow-up to this question: Why is "violated" being used as future perfect with a person as the object? At that question, it was established that there is a jargon/slang usage of ...