Does English Grammar Have Rules?

From here.
One problem with English grammar is that it is a mess! There are languages with very easy grammatical rules like Indonesian and languages with very hard grammatical rules like Arabic. English is one of those languages that is simply chaotic. There are rules, but there are exceptions everywhere and exceptions to the exceptions. Grammatically, it’s disaster area. It’s hard to know where to start.
It is often said that English has no grammatical rules. Even native speakers make this comment because that is how English seems due to its highly irregular nature. Most English native speakers, even highly educated ones, can’t name one English grammatical rule. Just to show you that English does have rules though, I will list some of them.
*Indicates an ungrammatical form.
Adjectives appear before the noun in noun phrases:
Small dogs barked.
*Dogs small barked.
Adjectives are numerically invariant:
the small dog
the small dogs
The dog is small.
The dogs are small.

Intensifiers appear before both attributive and predicative adjectives:
The very small dog barked.
*The small very dog barked.
The dog was very small.
*The dog was small very.
Attributive adjectives can have complements:
The dog was scared.
The dog was scared of cats.

But predicative adjectives cannot:
The scared dog barked.
*The scared of cats dog barked.
Articles, quantifiers, etc. appear before the adjective (and any intensifier) in a noun phrase:
The very small dog barked.
*Very the small dog barked.
*Very small the dog barked.
Every very small dog barked.
*Very every small dog barked.
*Very small every dog barked.
Relative clauses appear after the noun in a noun phrase:
The dog that barked.
*The that barked dog.
The progressive verb form is the bare form with the suffix -ing, even for the most irregular verbs in the language:
being
having
doing

*wasing
*aring
*aming
The infinitive verb form is to followed by the bare form, even for the most irregular verbs in the language:
to be
to have
to do

*to was
*to are
*to am.
The imperative verb form is the bare form, even for the most irregular verb in the language:
Be!
Have!
Do!

*Was!
*Are!
*Am!
All 1st person present, 2nd person present, and plural present verb forms are equivalent to the bare form, except for to be.
All past tense verb forms of a given verb are the same regardless of person and number, except for to be.
Question inversion is optional:
You are leaving?
Are you leaving?

But when inversion does occur in a wh-question, a wh-phrase is required to be fronted:
You’re seeing what?
What are you seeing?

*Are you seeing what?
Wh-fronting is required to affect an entire noun phrase, not just the wh-word:
You are going to which Italian restaurant?
Which Italian restaurant are you going to?

*Which are you going to Italian restaurant?
*Which Italian are you going to restaurant?
*Which restaurant are you going to Italian?
Wh-fronting only happens once, never more:
What are you buying from which store
Which store are you buying what from?

*What which store are you buying from?
*Which store what are you buying from?
The choice of auxiliary verb in compound past sentences does not depend on the choice of main verb:
I have eaten.
I have arrived.

*I am eaten.
*I am arrived.

cf. French
J’ai mangé.
Je suis arrivé.

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0 thoughts on “Does English Grammar Have Rules?”

  1. Two rules of grammar I remember:
    1. Don’t use no double negatives.
    2. And never start a sentence with a conjunction.
    My spell check only caught one of the errors.

  2. Words about words. How very edible?
    Just as the the teeth cannot clean themselves, science cannot ever be free of the influence of the scientist upon the object of his concentration. The ancient yogis believed that by only by becoming one with the object of concentration could one truly know the nature of the object. The yogi is the scientist-object. Less biased, more honest, less plausible, generally in better health.
    All word comes from food originally. Going back to the simplest of animals, moving was the new ‘staying put’, ‘word’ was the new ‘moving’, and ‘eyes’ were the new ‘black’.
    Aw shit nigga, i dropped my chicken, rice, my pees and my ques.

  3. Dear Robert
    When people say that English has no rules, they usually refer to the spelling, which is very illogical indeed, although there too there are some hard rules, such as the rule that two vowels are never followed a double consonant. Can you think of an exception?
    As to grammar, I see no reason to believe that English has less consistency than the Latin or other Germanic languages. I can think of some more rules of English grammar.
    1 – The adverb “not” follows the conjugated verb.
    I am not, he does not, we will not. they had not.
    2 – Both noun and pronoun objects follow the verb.
    I see John = Je vois Jean
    I see him = Je le vois.
    3 – In affirmative and negative sentences, the subject precedes the verb, except when the sentence starts with a negative adverb.
    I saw him yesterday
    Yesterday, I saw him
    Never have I seen such a disaster.
    4 – Adverbs that modify adjectives or other adverbs precede them.
    Paul is extremely rich.
    Betty sings extremely beautifully
    5 – If the direct and indirect object are both nouns, the indirect one can precede the direct one without a preposition. When both are pronouns, the indirect one follows the direct one and it requires a preposition.
    They gave their son a new car.
    They gave it to him.
    6 – The modal verbs (can, could, shall, should, may, might, will, would and must) have no untensed forms, that is, they have no infinitive or present and past participle. As a result, they can’t be used in the perfect tenses, in the future or with the auxiliary verb “to do”.
    I can do it.
    I could do it.
    * Do you can do it?
    * I will can do it.
    * I have could do it.
    7 – The verb to do is used as an auxiliary to form questions or negations only with the 2 simple tenses, except with the verb to be, the modals and in sentences with a question word which is the subject of sentence.
    Do you see him?
    Did you see him?
    * Do you be satisfied?
    * Did you have seen him?
    * Do you will do it?
    * I do not can do it.
    What did you see? “What” is an object
    * What does make you so angry? “What” is the subject
    Which car did you buy? “Which car” is an object
    * Which car did hit you? “Which car” is the subject.
    8 – Place phrases precede time phrases
    He arrived in Toronto yesterday.
    He will go to Vancouver tomorrow.
    9 – Word order is the same in main as in subordinate clauses.
    He is quite innocent
    I know that he is quite innocent.
    He never makes a mistake
    It is said that he never makes a mistake.
    10 – The simple past is used for a time which ended in the past and the perfect tense for a time which touches the present.
    He went to Europe 4 times last year.
    He has been to Europe 4 times this year.
    My great-grandfathers (they are dead) never left the country.
    My neighbor (he is still alive) has never left the country.
    Well, that is enough. Cheers. James

    1. Rule 3 above is incomplete. Sometimes the subject comes after the verb in an affirmative sentence when it starts with an adjective.
      Gone are the days when you could live on one income.
      Sad is the life of a women in Afghanistan.
      11 – In the possessive case, the possessor comes before the thing possessed.
      Paul’s house, Canada’s population, today’s newspaper
      12 – The comparative of adjectives can be synthetic with the suffix -er or analytic with more. More is used with all trisyllabic adjectives and with disyllabic adjectives that do not end in y, ow, er, le. Other disyllabic adjectives and monosyllabic adjective form their comparative with -er
      poor – poorer, small – smaller, heavy – heavier, narrow – narrower, clever – cleverer, able – abler, lenient – more lenient, rapid – more rapid, intelligent – more intelligent, popular – more popular
      There are some exceptions:
      just – more just, stupid – stupider
      13 – The only words that can be placed between the subject and the verb are some adverbs.
      He never goes to bed early.
      He kindly told me what had happened.
      14 – Only some adverbs can be placed between the conjugated verb and other verbal parts.
      Without you, it could not have been done.
      Nothing will ever be done perfectly.
      We have always tried to do our best.

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