What are the basic rules of syntax?



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Syntax (word order) “rules” vary with each language. In English, the basic form of a declarative sentence calls for "subject-predicate-object" order. However, if the speaker/writer chooses to give information in a different order, for rhetorical reasons or for surprise effect, the word order can vary. Also in English, the adjectival modifier normally (but not always) precedes the noun it modifies – red wine – (in French the modifier follows the noun – vin rose --). In English, modifying prepositional phrases (the preposition goes before the object of the preposition -- "in the yard" --)can precede or follow the noun – “In the yard, the dog plays,” or “The dog plays in the yard.” Other conventions, such as “articles precede nouns” – the dog – are also built into the language. All syntax conventions can be broken for poetic effect (see e.e. cummings) but in order for a reader to make sense on first reading, the syntactical conventions of that language must be followed. Also, there are sytactical rules for listing adjectives -- "the big, black dog" but not "the black big dog" -- these "rules" are subtle.


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