12 Questions and Answers About English Grammar

From the Glamour of Grammar to Bare Relatives

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You'll find more than 2,000 language-related terms in our glossary, and several of the most common (or commonly misunderstood) receive extended treatment in Grammar Questions & Answers. If you're in the appropriate grammatical mood, you might enjoy reading some of the entries we've recently added or revised.

  1. What Is Grammar?
    Hear the word glamour and what comes to mind? Celebrities, most likely--limousines and red carpets, swarms of paparazzi and more money than sense. But, odd as it may sound, glamour comes directly from a decidedly less glamorous word--grammar. . . . Read more
     
  1. What Is a Sentence?
    We can usually recognize a sentence when we see or hear one. And many of us probably recall the textbook definition of a sentence as "a group of words having a subject and a predicate and expressing a complete idea." But wait. It's not that simple. Not at all. . . . Read more
  2. What Is the Subject of a Sentence?
    The subject is sometimes described as the "naming part" of a sentence or clause. It usually appears before the predicate to show what the sentence is about, or who or what performs the action. . . . Read more
  3. What Is a Predicate?
    A predicate is customarily defined as a word group that comes after the subject to complete the meaning of a sentence or clause. . . . Read more
  4. What Are the Parts of Speech?
    Part of speech is the common name for a word class--a category into which words are placed according to the work they do in a sentence. Let's review the eight traditional parts of speech: nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. . . . Read more
  1. What Is a Present Participle?
    In one respect, the present participle is a simple, straightforward construction. Whether laughing or crying, rising or falling, it's formed by adding -ing to the base form of a verb. But after that, it gets a bit more complicated. . . . Read more
  2. What Are Prepositional Phrases?
    Like adjectives and adverbs, prepositional phrases add meaning to the nouns and verbs in our sentences. But don't think of them as minor embellishments. Prepositional phrases are sometimes needed for a sentence to make sense. . . . Read more
  1. What Is a Split Infinitive (and What's Wrong With It)?
    The so-called split infinitive is a construction in which one or more words come between the particle to and the verb. And there's nothing wrong with it. . . . Read more
  2. What Is an Appositive?
    An appositive--that is, a noun or noun phrase that identifies or renames another noun--is a handy way of adding details to a sentence. The term comes from the Latin word for "placing close by," and an appositive usually appears right after the word or phrase it modifies. . . . Read more
  3. What Is a Double Genitive?
    Although the double genitive may appear overly possessive (a friend of Joan's), the construction has been around for centuries, and it's perfectly correct. . . . Read more
  4. What Is a Sentence Adverb?
    The sentence adverb (a word that modifies a sentence as a whole) has served a useful function in English since the 14th century. Let's look at some examples of sentence adverbs and consider what--if anything--is wrong with the ever-optimistic adverb hopefully. . . . Read more
  5. What Are Grammatical Zeros and Bare Relatives?
    Linguists use the term zero to signify the absence of a word in a structure where that word usually appears. A grammatical zero is something like an empty chair at a dinner party where one of the guests has failed to arrive. As long as that chair remains empty, we're at least vaguely reminded of the absent character. . . . Read more