Definition of syntax
1a : the way in which linguistic elements (such as words) are put together to form constituents (such as phrases or clauses)b : the part of grammar dealing with this
2 : a connected or orderly system : harmonious arrangement of parts or elements the syntax of classical architecture
Examples of syntax in a Sentence
Everyone has good days and bad days. Her syntax is sometimes a world unto itself. But George H.W. Bush occasionally sounded as though English were more foe than friend, and he was an astute president who managed complexity with skill and balance. —Jon Meacham, Newsweek, 13 Oct. 2008
Coming from a great distance and wholly unrelated to the Teutonic, Latin and Slav languages that fence it in, Hungarian has remained miraculously intact. Everything about the language is different, not only the words themselves, but the way they are formed, the syntax and grammar and above all the cast of mind that brought them into being. —Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water, 1986
“I saw that she a cookie ate” is an example of incorrect syntax.
Recent Examples of syntax from the Web
Every professor in this country has undergone gruelingly rigorous training over many years to become a person who knows enough to teach your children—about the Big Bang or music theory, about Serbo-Croatian syntax or paleontology, about Jane Austen.
Just as Dylan picked up syntax and style from his idol, Guthrie drew on Will Rogers and John Steinbeck to evolve from a prosperous middle-American radio host to a working-class hero who defined folk authenticity.
At the same time, though, every piece that Freeman performed was built on unusual melodic structures, unconventional phrase lengths and constantly shifting rhythmic syntax.
Was the syntax so garbled that a target couldn't possibly understand it?
For example, the K-2 classes use Scratch Junior, a program that is visually based rather than syntax-based.
While Baldwin worked on sharing the language with members of his generation, and the younger generation, Costa focused on the technical side of the language: dissecting the grammar, syntax and pronunciation.
The crowd begins to titter before a word passes through the P.A. system; familiar mannerisms overshadow syntax, however carefully arranged.
The earth moves, for me, when the read comes together on all its levels, from syntax to instinctual platelet level.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'syntax'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Did You Know?
Syntax is basically about what word comes before and after another word; in other words, it's part of the larger subject of grammar. Syntax is often an issue in poetry, and it's usually discussed in connection with diction—that is, the poet's choice of words. So, for example, your English professor might point out the syntactic difference between "Whose woods these are I think I know" and "I think I know whose woods these are;" whereas if the discussion was about diction instead, the question might be about the choice of "woods" rather than "land", or "think" rather than "bet".
Origin and Etymology of syntax
Middle French or Late Latin; Middle French sintaxe, from Late Latin syntaxis, from Greek, from syntassein to arrange together, from syn- + tassein to arrange
First Known Use: 1548See Words from the same year
SYNTAX Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of syntax for English Language Learners
linguistics : the way in which words are put together to form phrases, clauses, or sentences
SYNTAX Defined for Kids
Definition of syntax for Students
: the way in which words are put together to form phrases, clauses, or sentences
Seen and Heard
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