Syntax

16 Feb 2010
Topic: 
Many people are deeply insecure about the difference between who and whom, resulting in hypercorrect insertions of whom where it doesn't belong. So it's interesting to find a writer using whom in the correct case while simultaneously falling into a different error, one that my intuition tells me should be much easier for native speakers to spot.
9 Jul 2009
I've written before about how preparation material for the SAT writing section sometimes presents an over-simplified view of grammar that can get you into linguistic trouble. Here's another case in point: The following question appears in a Kaplan practice SAT (12 Practice Tests for the SAT 2009 Edition, p. 589):
Although talent may be a crucial element on the road to fame, it is difficult to succeed without a highly developed work ethic.
26 Apr 2009

Why we need empty categories

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Topic: 
One of my recurring frustrations with the way grammar is taught in the K-12 world is that by clinging so tenaciously to books that have not seen any real innovations in syntactic theory since the nineteenth century, teachers wind up with no explanation for many phenomena that occur all the time. A teacher sent me an email with the following question:
I've tried looking this up in every grammar guide I can find, but I haven't found the answer. Consider these two sentences: I bought a car to drive myself to work. I bought an alarm clock to wake me in the morning.
15 Nov 2008
Topic: 
Hasty generalizations about grammar quickly get you into trouble. As a case in point, consider the difference between subject-verb agreement and pronoun-antecedent agreement. Both require, in the core cases, attention to the number (singular or plural) of a particular noun phrase. At the same time, there are important differences, and treating the two as identical can lead to significant problems.
4 Dec 2007
A few days ago, a Language Log post mentioned an old Onion article about reverting the grammatical rules of English to something roughly equivalent to Late Old English. It's satire of course (something that seems to have gone over some people's heads), and the article doesn't actually follow a consistent practice.
In the previous section, I briefly introduced you to the modal auxiliaries when I argued that will does not constitute a separate tense marker. To understand the function of modal auxiliaries, you need to know two related terms: modality and mood.

Modality refers to a set of related concepts primarily involving the attitude of the speaker of a sentence towards the reality of a particular assertion. What exactly that means is complicated and best illustrated with an example:

(12a) Tad programs computers for a living.

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