Sentence Structure

Sentence Structure

By English Tutor:

English grammar is very particular in how you can be allowed to structure certain sentences. Using the right word in a sentence at the wrong place in a sentence can make it either meaningless, change the meaning completely or make it ambiguous  and unless either one of these three is intended by the writer, then grammar rules dictate that there be changes made to rectify.

  1. Vez: 'Lucy, may I please use your thesaurus.'
    Anita:
    'Yes you may, here is it.' [ this structure turns into a question]

What makes Anita's response incorrect is the location she placed the (is) or the (sb) – it at in the sentence.

The location of the –is turns her response into a question instead of the certain statement that she is intending for it to be.

Her response should have been…'yes you may, here it is.'

  1. Constance: You must visit your grandfather soon; he would enjoy spending some time with you.
    Constance: Visit your grandfather soon, he would enjoy spending time with you
    If Constance was merely suggesting it, then she should rather have used another word stead of must. Using must portrays a command and not a suggestion.
    These following examples will illustrate.
    You must open your windows if you are hot. You may open your windows of you are hot. open your windows if you are hot.
    It is so hot today; you must open the windows. It is so hot today; you can open the windows. IT is so hot today, you may open the windows. It is so hot today, open the windows.
    You must not come to school if its starts pouring again, it will flood and will not be safe for you to walk. Don't come to school if it starts pouring again, it will flood the road and will not be safe for you to walk.
    You must (may, should, can) cut your dessert cake after you finish your supper, mom baked it especially for you).
    You must always kiss the girls goodnight, they really like that.

Neither of these sentences is incorrect, but the meaning is completely changed by the use of must or any of the other suggested alternatives. Must is used as an auxiliary to express obligation, certainty, or resolution or as a noun for something that is essential or necessary. It should not be used in a sentence that expresses choice or suggestion. It is more of a command.
One tool that would help is to not start sentences with YOU.

However, I have found in listening to (many) South Africans speak, especially those that experienced the apartheid are more prone to speak or use must more in their speech. That with no scientific evidence or having done a social survey can be traced back to a period when there was more of a command in the speech between whites and blacks. It's a word that expresses obligation and one having to do as they have been told without question or opinion.

  1. When some one asks a question about the location or the whereabouts of something, I have picked up a certain way in which my house mates respond to each other.
    Anita: “Vezi where is my cell phone charger?”
    Vezi: “Oh, I have it in my room. Here is it.”

Vezi's response to Anita's question is incorrect. The correct way that he should have answered that question is having started with the – it. The – is which is substituting the subject (cell phone charger) should come second in his response.
Vezi: “Oh, I have it in my room. Here it is.”

The following examples will clarify:
Phyllis: “Jack, where are the children this evening?”
Jack: “The children are spending the weekend at their grandmother's house.”
(Alt)Jack: “They are spending the weekend at their grandmother's house.” It would be very improper if he began the sentence and only add the subject at the end of the sentence.

Keep Learning,

English Tutor

Founder and Editor in Chief of the Readers Cafe Africa

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