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My ideas are constantly changing as I learn. Sometimes they even change midway through writing a post.

Monday, February 7

Grammar

I know that last sentence on the previous post wasn't really a proper sentence, but I'm not sure how to put it in a grammatically correct way. Ideas?

I seem to run into that problem a lot. I go to write something and then realize that it isn't grammatically correct. I can often find an alternate wording that is correct, but then the writing doesn't flow as nicely. It might not even quite mean the same thing. In the past, I've just tended to go with the "correct" wording or leave the thought out altogether if I couldn't find a proper way to put it. I did that with spelling too.

I once tried to teach (and learn) grammar by starting with definitions. I was using Harvey's Elementary Grammar and Composition. I explained that the definition of a sentence was "a group of words representing a complete thought". It sounded right although I wasn't sure how one distinguished a complete thought from an incomplete thought. I asked the student if he could give an example of a sentence. The student said, very seriously, "An apple." I knew from years of drills that it wasn't a sentence, but I couldn't figure out why it would be considered incomplete. I decided to do a bit more research into the subject and in the meantime went through examples of sentences and non-sentences with the student. After consulting other parts of the text and several other grammar books, I finally put together that a sentence is considered to have a subject and a predicate. This helped me to better explain how to tell if a sentence is proper although I still couldn't make sense of what it meant for a thought to be "complete".

I wondered why a single word could be a sentence but "An apple," couldn't. I knew that commands seem by implication to have the subject "you" or "you all". Thinking about it now, "An apple" could be a subject or it could be part of the predicate. It could be in the context of anything from "This is an apple." to "An apple fell from a tree". Still, I can't help the feeling that this idea of a sentence is a convention for grouping thoughts. It may be very good and useful convention, but I still don't understand what it has to do with whether a thought is complete or not.

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