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When studying Italian grammar at school, we got used to classify the parts of a sentence; the purpose was being able to apply some grammar rules we were learning.
As such, I tendentially try to classify the various part of a sentence also with English.

Does asking which part of speech an English sentence make sense (e.g. asking if a phrase is an adverb), or do those questions really hide the real question, in the same way questions asking for a tutorial about doing something do?

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  • Are you asking if such questions are on-topic? They may or may not be, but there are free automatic sentence diagrammers out there on the Internet. And of course for individual words, any good dictionary will list all the parts of speech it can fill.
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 22, 2016 at 13:07
  • No, I am asking if that makes sense: Does it make sense, or should I worry about understanding other concepts? Yes, a dictionary will tell you the part of speech of a word, but English learners could be confused about which part of speech a word is.
    – apaderno
    Jul 22, 2016 at 13:23
  • I mean the idea of analyzing sentences applies just as much to English as it does to Italian. Whether it'll help you particularly is really up to you and how your mind works. Personally, I'd find it tedious and wouldn't prefer to learn that way, but I do know it's a tool used broadly in language pedagogy, so clearly it has value for some. Maybe it's worth trying it for a while and seeing if it helps you?
    – Dan Bron
    Jul 22, 2016 at 13:36
  • It makes all the sense in the world to ask this if PoS is the only tool you've got for analysis. However, it makes no sense at all to answer using PoS if you've got a better tool you can provide the asker. Jul 22, 2016 at 18:18
  • @kiamlaluno This is an excellent question. It would be a great question for ELL proper, not Meta. The answer is that there are sevral different things to think about here - and they are both important. I'm quite busy right now and would be able to answer, but if you ask this question on ELL, you may get a good answer from some of the other users here ... Jul 24, 2016 at 0:51
  • @DanBron I don't believe in those automatic sentence analyzers. The best commercial machine translation products can't always get our sentences right, except for the most simple and common ones. (Even an AI that runs on one of the most expensive pieces of hardware, IBM Watson, can't cope with something so trivial to us ("The computer wouldn't know that a missing leg is odder than anything else."). For the same reason, I believe learners shouldn't always trust grammar checkers. Jul 24, 2016 at 2:45
  • Personally, I think it usually makes sense to ask about the part of speech of a word or the syntactic category of a phrase or a constituent, given that the learner can't understand the meaning of the sentence without knowing what part of speech a word in question is. Then again, most of the time, IMHO, bracketing is enough. Bracketing is like drawing a syntax tree, but no labels, which could be a good thing when labels can be controversial. My favorite example for this kind of controversy is home. What's home in Home is where the heart is; He's home; After his discharge home, ...? Jul 24, 2016 at 2:55
  • @Araucaria What I want to know if asking those questions on ELL makes sense, or if they hide a real question, as in the case of a user asking for a tutorial for doing something instead of asking how to do something.
    – apaderno
    Jul 24, 2016 at 3:07
  • @kiamlaluno Yes, I think it makes sense :) Jul 24, 2016 at 9:05

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