This manual provides an overview of common English sentence structures. The manual differs from traditional books on English grammar by providing formal descriptions that will enable a student of English to generate correctly formed sentences easily. Persons studying English as a second language (ESL) or those who would like to use English language interfaces in computer-based applications will find this approach particularly useful because it avoids the ambiguities encountered in traditional English grammars. The description uses the notation below.
A sentence is usually defined as a set of oral or written words that express a complete thought. A sentence usually contains a subject and a verb. The first word of a sentence is capitalized and the sentence is terminated with a period, a question mark or an exclamation point.
|<noun>||Items in carets "< >" are variables which represent a class of words
or other variables. The variable <noun> could represent the words "Mary", "car", |
<proper noun>, etc.
|"string"||Items in quotes represent the word itself.|
|=||The equal sign "=" is interpreted as consists of. For example, <X> = <Y> <Z> means that X consists of Y immediately followed by Z.|
|X | Y||Items separated by a vertical bar "|" represent mutually exclusive choices. Choose either X or Y.|
|(X | Y)||Parentheses "(" and ")" are used to group variables or strings to avoid ambiguity. For example, C (D | E) (F | G) means that only the following strings are valid: CDF, CDG, CEF, and CEG.|
|[X]|| Items in brackets are optional. X may or may not be chosen.
[X[Y]]Z means that only Z, XZ, and XYZ are valid strings.
|*||An asterisk "*" means that a variable may be repeated zero or more times. X <B>* represents X, XB, XBB, XBBB, etc.|