Definition of syntax
1a : the way in which linguistic elements (as words) are put together to form constituents (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.
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: 1574
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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