Definition of grammar in English:



  • 1mass noun The whole system and structure of a language or of languages in general, usually taken as consisting of syntax and morphology (including inflections) and sometimes also phonology and semantics.

    • ‘There's at least one major error of spelling, punctuation, syntax, grammar or construction in every sentence.’
    • ‘Try to imagine a world without language; a world where words, grammar and syntax suddenly become meaningless.’
    • ‘It also has a close relationship to Japanese in general structure, grammar, and vocabulary.’
    • ‘And John, I hope my grammar and syntax meet your very high standards.’
    • ‘Certainly very few women before the 20th century shared the education of men who learned their grammar and syntax from the classics while women picked up what they could of both from men.’
    • ‘While these languages shared phonology and grammar, they had entirely different vocabularies.’
    • ‘The vocabulary may be altering more quickly than ever before - but the underlying grammar and syntax remains essentially the same.’
    • ‘Short-term language therapy was recommended to help with grammar, syntax, and auditory discrimination.’
    • ‘Despite similarity in syntax, vocabulary, and grammar, the contemporary languages are mutually unintelligible.’
    • ‘In fact, in 11 years of Ontario education, I have never been taught even the basics of grammar and sentence structure.’
    • ‘To understand writing requires knowledge of English grammar and syntax.’
    • ‘In my experience, few English teachers know anything at all either about English grammar or about linguistics.’
    • ‘Shakespeare explored and exploited to the full the potentials of the English language of his time, coining new words and bending grammar and syntax to serve his poetic and dramatic ends.’
    • ‘In terms of grammar, syntax, and spelling there are no important differences between the two, but the pronunciation and sound are different.’
    • ‘To analyse language and to define language disorders most linguists divide language into four domains: phonology, grammar, semantics, and pragmatics.’
    • ‘They care about grammar, syntax, usage, denotation, connotation, etymology.’
    • ‘Because the source and target languages are different in vocabulary, syntax, and grammar, it involves compromises.’
    • ‘According to his theory, humans produce language through a deep structure that enables them to generate and transfer their own grammar to any other language.’
    • ‘By studying that language, by learning its grammar and syntax, one can unlock its subtle mysteries and gain a better understanding of the world.’
    • ‘Each of these languages features a highly inflected grammar.’
    syntax, rules of language, morphology, semantics
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    1. 1.1usually with modifier A particular analysis of the system and structure of language or of a specific language.
      ‘Chomskyan grammar’
      • ‘The lesson here is that you actually need to have a pretty good control of descriptive grammar before you can intelligently engage in prescriptive grammar.’
      • ‘Functional Grammar (FG) is a descriptive and theoretical model of the organization of natural (spoken and signed) language.’
      • ‘Note again that the rules of Chomskyan grammar are intended to explain the ability and the intuition of the native speaker of the language.’
      • ‘This grammar is the first pedagogic grammar to integrate syntax and lexis using corpus data.’
    2. 1.2count noun A book on grammar.
      ‘my old Latin grammar’
      • ‘Although it does carry standard grammars and dictionaries for the biblical languages, I've owned them all for over thirty years now and they are of no interest to me.’
      • ‘This book actually contains two grammar books: a primer for younger children and a grammar for older children.’
      • ‘This interest gathered serious strength during the Italian Renaissance, inspiring travellers such as Pietro della Valle in 1626, to bring back what proved to be Coptic grammars and dictionaries from the Middle East.’
      • ‘Jamaican Creole, for instance, has grammars and dictionaries as well as de facto norms, but there is no standard Jamaican Creole.’
      • ‘Almost entirely in the specialist literature: in the big reference grammars of English, in college textbooks, and the like.’
      • ‘This version is the one most familiar to students of Old English literature, since it appeared in most Old English grammars and readers.’
      • ‘Nevertheless, the notion was well recognized in older grammatical theories, in school grammars of Latin, for example.’
      • ‘The friars and their native assistants produced an immense number of grammars, dictionaries, catechisms, confessional manuals, sermon outlines, chronicles, and even religious dramas.’
      • ‘Traditional grammars always tell you that adjectives are defined as words that modify nouns, and adverbs can be defined as words that modify other parts of speech - they modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, and prepositions.’
      • ‘They don't look anything up in serious grammars or dictionaries.’
      • ‘In the later Middle Ages it became the linguistic basis of the scholastic speculative grammars, particularly in the University of Paris.’
      • ‘New grammars and dictionaries of the Old Icelandic language enabled the Victorians to grapple with primary texts, supported on occasion by contact with distinguished Icelandic scholars resident in Britain.’
      • ‘Traditional grammars say that sentences express complete thoughts.’
    3. 1.3 A set of actual or presumed prescriptive notions about correct use of a language.
      ‘it was not bad grammar, just dialect’
      • ‘OK, so the grammar's awful, but the storyline hinted at in those few words could be fascinating.’
      • ‘Use of these strategies does not result in better writing styles and more correct grammar, but it helps writers solve problems and discover new ideas.’
      • ‘Speaking as a moderator, I'd rather have correct spelling and grammar, as it makes comprehension easier, and am happy to deal with requests for corrections.’
      • ‘Nowhere did one find any of the sloppy grammar and syntax so much loved by today's pseudo intellectuals.’
      • ‘The youth press is, all too often, a place of bad grammar and inelegant sentences.’
      • ‘All journalists I know correct a bit of bad grammar in an occasional quote, out of courtesy to the source and reader.’
      • ‘Sal only ever resorted to the use of bad grammar and words such as ‘ain't’ when he was seriously hurting or stressed.’
      • ‘Standard English, with correct grammar, is spoken in formal situations.’
      • ‘There are guides to correct grammar, spelling and punctuation and examples from great writers.’
      • ‘Use correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation at all times.’
      • ‘No hyphen, no comma or anything - but I couldn't do that to you on the blog because bad punctuation and grammar drives me crazy.’
      • ‘There is little in terms of correct grammar and pronunciation that listeners can learn from them.’
      • ‘While I agree that correct grammar is always a minimal requirement if you desire mutual understanding, I think that you are avoiding my point.’
      • ‘The bad grammar, lack of punctuation and capitalisation are his trademarks.’
      • ‘It wasn't bad grammar, I meant exactly what I said.’
      • ‘The student must write these using correct spelling and grammar or the answer will be counted wrong.’
      • ‘In both your resume and cover letter, proper grammar and correct spelling are indispensable.’
      • ‘But if it's Jamie speaking, it might be purposeful because she's 5 and doesn't always use correct grammar.’
      • ‘Here again, type using proper sentence structure, grammar and spelling so your request is understood.’
      • ‘I just want to apologize for my bad grammar, but I'm trying!’
      • ‘My applications were struck out on technicalities and for not using the correct jargon, or for bad English grammar, but this should not have precluded me from having my case go to trial.’
    4. 1.4 The basic elements of an area of knowledge or skill.
      ‘the grammar of wine’
      • ‘Like a language, the military art has its own lexicon, grammar, and syntax.’
      • ‘Nobody uses the grammar of film with more economy and precision.’
      • ‘Fluency with calculation is the basic grammar of mathematics.’
      • ‘What follows is a painstaking analysis of the grammar of war, the way an army thinks, and what happens to the cities the author has so beautifully described in his other books when they get in the way of generals.’
      • ‘Seeking realism, the programme uses the grammar of factual television: when a new character enters the room, the screen freezes and their name and job-title is typed on the screen.’
      • ‘In short, theology is the grammar of religious discourse.’
      • ‘Because classroom training is, of necessity, strict, the impulse to play with the grammar of ballet has to be located within choreography courses or in other parts of the syllabus.’
      • ‘They must also understand the grammar of written music in order to express these sounds as symbols on paper.’
    5. 1.5Computing A set of rules governing what strings are valid or allowable in a language or text.
      • ‘A tree corresponding to the Newick string was generated by our grammar.’
      • ‘These six rules define the grammar of a two-function calculator designed to process input strings.’
      • ‘I plan on continuing with the online grammar / editing conferences next semester.’
  • 2British informal A grammar school.

    • ‘Instead all but two of the 77 schools making the top five per cent for adding value to pupils in the first three years of secondary school were selective grammars.’
    • ‘The subject is already becoming the preserve of certain schools - qualified physics teachers are more likely to be found in grammars, independents and colleges.’
    • ‘At the Latymer school, a grammar in north London, 25 students achieved four As this year.’
    • ‘The department says the sample was ‘stratified ‘to represent different types of schools such as grammars and comprehensives.’’
    • ‘Eight out of 10 of those who responded went to a comprehensive, while 9% attended private schools and 13% grammars.’
    • ‘There are the same number today educating about 20% of their secondary school students in grammars.’
    • ‘Results of the tests determine whether they go to a grammar or a high school in September.’
    • ‘The academic lead of independent schools and girls' grammars may also reflect the difficulties state schools have in recruiting not only maths and science teachers but also those for languages.’
    • ‘While the Government may be keen to trumpet the success of its favoured specialist centres, looking at the basic GCSE and A-level results the top tables were however dominated by the private schools and the grammars.’
    • ‘The new money is to build partnerships between grammars and non-selective schools.’


Late Middle English: from Old French gramaire, via Latin from Greek grammatikē (tekhnē) ‘(art) of letters’, from gramma, grammat- ‘letter of the alphabet, thing written’.