Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by maud. maud Wonders, “why do you have to memorize subject and object pronouns” Thanks for WONDERing with us, maud!

Imagine that you’re a little old lady living alone in a cabin way out in the woods. You’ve been bothered lately by howling you’ve heard late at night. That’s not on your mind right now, though, because your granddaughter is on her way to see you.

She’s bringing a picnic basket so the two of you can have a nice lunch together. You’re anxious for her to arrive. To pass the time, you open up the cabin windows and tidy up a bit.

Wait. What’s that? You hear sounds coming through both the front and back windows at the same time:

Front window: “Let’s eat, Grandma!”

Back window: “Let’s eat Grandma!”

Does this story sound familiar? If so, you might be able to guess that Little Red Riding Hood is at the front window. Who’s at the back window? The Big Bad Wolf, of course! We won’t spoil the end of the story if you’re not familiar with it. However, this example highlights the importance of grammar.

At one point or another, most people have WONDERed who invented grammar and why we study it . As Grandma in our story would tell you, though, grammar can be a matter of life or death. In her case, that one little comma made a big difference!

There are many different definitions of exactly what grammar is. Many experts think of it as the rules, systems, structures, and even science of language and its proper use.

Grammar can include many different parts of language, from spelling to punctuation. When most people talk about grammar, they’re usually talking about accidence, orthography, and syntax.

Accidence deals with changes in words that alter their meaning. One example is tenses (past, present, and future: went, go, and will go). Another is numbers (singular and plural: goose and geese). This also includes pronouns (subject and object pronouns: I vs. me).

Orthography concerns writing words correctly per standard usage. Misspelled words and words with misplaced apostrophes, for example, would be this type of error.

Syntax deals with the arrangement of words to form meaningful sentences. “Scared of the wolf, the picnic was not enjoyable” would be an example of a sentence with poor syntax. After all, it was grandma—not the picnic—who was scared of the wolf!

Rules of grammar have grown and changed for every language over time. Most of them developed long ago when a language was first written down.

When a language is spoken, inflections and pauses can help convey the meaning behind words. When those words are written down, though, grammar rules are needed. They can help users of the language to communicate accurately and effectively.

Who invented grammar? Well, no one—and everyone. But historians believe the first English grammar guide may have been Pamphlet for Grammar. It was published in 1586 by William Bullokar. The first bestselling English grammarian was likely Robert Lowth. He first published A Short Introduction to English Grammar in 1762. These two men are just two of the thousands of people who have helped to develop the English grammar rules we follow today.

It may seem like grammar rules are too trivial or complicated to be of much use. However, English teachers will tell you that they’re important if you want to communicate clearly. Likewise, if you want to learn a new language, studying its rules of grammar can give a better understanding of the language in a shorter time. 

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.W.2

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day takes a look at the strange things that happen deep inside atoms!