The Two Levels of English Grammar

English grammar works at two levels: morphology and syntax.

1. Morphology

The subject matter of Morphology is the formation of words from smaller parts.

Words are like building material. Take cement. Many chemicals join together according to some chemical formula to become cement.

In a similar way, words are formed by the coming together of word-parts. These parts have names such as morphemes, stems, affixes, prefixes, suffixes, etc.

This whole science of word-formation has the high-sounding name of morphology. Morphology is one of the two important parts of English grammar.

2. Syntax - The Construction of Sentences

Usually people tend to think of this part alone as grammar. Different words such as nouns, verbs, pronouns, and others, called parts of speech, come together to become sentences.

The plan that people follow to build sentences from words has also a high-sounding name - Syntax. After Morphology, Syntax is the other important part of English grammar.

You may ask me:

  1. "what about big sentences?"

  2. "what about many sentences making a paragraph?"

The two levels of English grammar cover the first question, but not the second.

Smaller sentences come together to form bigger, more complicated sentences. These larger sentences are called by names such as Complex, Compound, Complex-Compound sentences. The study of these is also a part of syntax.

When we use sentences of all types to create paragraphs, we are busy with composition.

Composition is a general name for anything a person creates out of parts. Composition of a paragraph from sentences is outside and beyond the two levels of English grammar we have just covered.

Coming Next: How Grammar Works