One of the reasons Marie wanted to make The Basic Cozy Grammar Course was to show how grammar—the technique of speaking and writing—can enhance creativity. We thus wanted to start the New Year by sharing an excerpt from Lesson 4 of The Basic Cozy Grammar Course in which Marie shows how knowledge of grammar can help make our sentences, and our writing, more interesting.
The secret, as she explains, has to do with where we place the subject in a sentence.
If the terms "subject" and "predicate" are unfamiliar to you, here's what you need to know from Lessons 2 and 3 of The Basic Cozy Grammar Course:
The subject is who or what the sentence is about—in other words, the person(s) or thing(s) doing the action of the sentence. The predicate of the sentence is everything else—in other words, what the subject does.
So, in Marie's example, "The seagulls fly through the air," "the seagulls" is the subject because the seagulls are what the sentence is about. In other words, the seagulls do the action.
"Fly through the air," in turn, is the predicate, because "fly through the air" is the action that the seagulls do.
What Marie is pointing out is that although the natural order for sentences in English is for the subject to come first, there may be times when it may be more interesting to put the subject in the middle of the sentence, or even at the end.
What's So Natural About Natural Order?
You may be wondering what's so natural about natural order. The term simply refers to the way that English tends to place the subject before the predicate in sentences. That's what usually sounds natural in English.
Other languages place the subject AFTER the predicate, and there are also languages in which the order of the words isn't as important as, say, the forms of the words themselves.
If you've never experimented with word order in your sentences, I encourage you to do so to see for yourself how it changes the feel of a sentence. Although what you end up with may at times sound stilted or overly poetic, you may also discover new ways of expressing ideas that are more natural to what you want to say.
Your writing will become more interesting too.
Here's one of my favorite examples of split order, the first line of Robert Hayden's poem "Those Winter Sundays":
Sundays too my father got up early
If we were to write this phrase in natural order, we would probably say something like "my father got up early on Sundays too." And there's nothing wrong with that. But notice how Hayden's line, by using a different sentence order, gives what he says additional force and weight.
By starting with the words "Sundays too" we sense something immediately about the character of the poet's father and how even early on a Sunday he still rose to light the fire and prepare his family for the day. Split order allows Hayden to express something beyond natural order. That's part of what makes his poem so interesting.
The Key is to Experiment and Explore
Marie believed that teaching and learning grammar, rather than stifling creativity, enhanced it. I believe that too. Properly taught, grammar expands our sense of possibility and helps us to see the hidden powers of the language we use everyday.
As we start the New Year, I wish you new freedom to experiment and explore with language, willing to be surprised by what you find.
Happy New Year!
Thank you again for being part of our Grand Reopening. We're thrilled that you're with us as we greet the New Year with a new website and new ways to share Marie's love of learning and life.
With best wishes for the year ahead,
Marie's Language Consultant
The Cozy Grammar Series of Courses