We recently had a question where a usage example was given, along with an attempt at part-of-speech tagging, and a request to validate that tagging:

Knowing what grammar is used

A user then closed the question in a non-voting process because "we [do not] fully break down the grammatical structure of random words".

So, is this sort of question valid here? I strongly feel it should be - exploring part-of-speech tagging is an important exercise when learning language, and a lot of information can be precisely communicated efficiently about sentence structure when this skill is practiced and used.

Additionally, I don't see anything written in the definition of "on-topic" at https://ell.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic that endorses this closure.

On the contrary, questions about "grammar" are listed as on-topic, and none of the "off-topic" bullet-point examples seem to apply to this question.

Should it be reopened? Should questions like this one be closed in the future, or answered?

2 Answers 2


I have no problem with POS-tagging per se, as long as the question has no other issues (it is not a duplicate, demonstrates a reasonable research effort, etc.). However, asking someone to parse an entire sentence is probably too broad a request. We have a close-vote reason that says "needs more focus". Its CV dialogue reads:

This question currently includes multiple questions in one. It should focus on one problem only.

Therefore, if OP asks about parsing a few tightly connected words, then I see little problem with that. However, if OP asks about parsing an entire sentence, then such a question can likely be closed for containing too many "sub-questions". I'd probably recommend (as with the question that you're asking about) that OP edit the question to focus on one part of the sentence or one issue only.

  • 2
    The OP didn't just ask users to parse an entire sentence without showing effort or providing any research. They actually attempted the task AND then posted their request. This is a site for learners not for experts or highly competant speakers of the English language. The question, and it's one question because asking if a sentence is correct was not the main focus, is answerable without writing a thesis.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 9:46
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA I agree with your first sentence. As for your second, I'm not sure that OP actually attempted the entire task, as no attempt was provided for several words. As for "main focus", that term is a bit vague to me, but the apparent main task (POS-tagging every word) seems too broad to me; I suppose we just disagree on that point. Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 13:22
  • 2
    Nine words out of thirteen is an “attempt”. They include the two indefinite articles "a" and two prepositions "in". For a Q&A site for Learners of English who would consider that to be an unreasonable effort?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 16:11
  • @Mari-LouA Do you think the site should accept requests to parse arbitrary strings of words without focus on any specific point of grammar?
    – gotube Mod
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 19:12
  • @gotube did you allow the community to make that decision? Does it specifically state in the policy guidelines that requests for POS are off-topic. To be clear, those type of questions have never been my cup of tea, but there are many users who ask for this sort of thing. This isn't the first time I've seen something similar asked before.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 20:52
  • @Mari-LouA I did not allow the community to decide whether there were two questions asked, nor whether one of the questions was a request for proofreading. If my comment below the question itself is confusing, I can delete it.
    – gotube Mod
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 23:37
  • @Mari-LouA No, I do not necessarily consider that to be an unreasonable effort. Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 0:09
  • "What is wrong, if anything, with my tagging of the following sentence, which I show here?" is not "many questions". I don't understand how a rational person could say it is. That's like closing a question on Mathematics SE because it had too many numbers involved, so consisted of "multiple questions".
    – BadZen
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 14:08

(I'm the Mod that closed that question. For now, I'll just answer why I closed it. I'll let others answer your deeper question about whether we allow or should allow asking for someone to identify the parts of speech of words. If I don't see an answer roughly representing my opinion in the next few days, I'll leave a separate answer about that too.)

First off, there's two questions there, which alone makes that question off-topic.

Further, the first question is "Is this a correct sentence?", which is a request for proofreading. So regardless of the rest of the content of the question, that too, on its own, is a valid reason to close that question.

That said, I agree that there's nothing specific anywhere in the rules against asking for random strings of words to be parsed according to the part of speech of each word. There is however a spirit in the rules that does not accept "homework" type questions, nor questions that are of no use to anybody other than the OP.

I saw two unambiguous reasons to close that question and one weak one, so I had no doubts it was a legit close.

  • 1
    It is an answerable question, it doesnt require much time to say whether a sentence is grammatical or not, the principle focus was the parts of speech and the OP had showed effort and research in their post unlike hundreds of other ELL questions I could cite.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 9:50
  • Why didn't you leave the community to decide whether or not to close the question?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 9:52
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA If I think something is a slam-dunk, I close it. Better not to allow bad questions to attract answers. Whether some part of a question is answerable isn't the metric. It's how many questions are asked, and whether someone is asking for proofreading.
    – gotube Mod
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 19:08
  • So close every question that asks for more than one thing. Starting from Tom, he's asked 3 questions in a single post. Do we say "she is sitting on the shore of the pond" or "the bank of the pond"? 1. Do we use "bank" for "lake"? 2. What about a pond which is a man-made lake? 3. Do we say "she is sitting on the shore / bank of the pond"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 21:00
  • Close every question that asks if something is correct Do the subject and object have to agree in number? For example: "Tigers (plural) are a wild animal (singular)" TBC these are good questions, the OP's is not the same calibre but give the OP or someone else a chance to edit, and improve it.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 21:02
  • @Mari-LouA If there are multiple questions which are all different angles towards the same piece of information, like how to talk about the sides of various bodies of water, then I see them as all part of the same question, each one adding clarity to what the question is and what a good answer will include. But if there are multiple questions which are not directly related, like one asking if something is correct grammar, then another asking for all the parts of speech, then I consider them multiple questions. The OP still has the opportunity to edit the question and fix it.
    – gotube Mod
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 23:40
  • @Mari-LouA Nobody has suggested closing every question that asks if something is correct. The wording is "asking for proofreading". "Is this sentence correct?" without any focus on particular aspects of grammar the OP is unsure of is textbook proofreading.
    – gotube Mod
    Commented Aug 9, 2023 at 23:44
  • "There is however a spirit in the rules that does not accept "homework" type questions, nor questions that are of no use to anybody other than the OP." This is not demonstrably true.
    – BadZen
    Commented Aug 10, 2023 at 14:10
  • @BadZen Do you disagree that there were two separate questions asked, or that the first question was a request for proofreading?
    – gotube Mod
    Commented Aug 21, 2023 at 20:33
  • You give the criteria and reason whereby you should not apply the "close every post with two separate questions" just above: "without any focus on particular aspects of grammar". And.... then you ignore it here by implying it should be closed because two questions are asked. The bulk of the text in the original question is in fact focused on particular grammar. And it's obviously not a proofreading request. It's a use example and the question is about how it should be tagged. Would you argue the question should remain open if it said "excuse me if this is incorrect grammar, but..."?
    – BadZen
    Commented Aug 24, 2023 at 16:44
  • @BadZen I'm not seeing any good faith from you, like trying to understand what I'm saying, so this will be my last response here unless you show some effort along those lines. What particular aspect of grammar is involved in a request to give the part of speech for every word in an arbitrary sentence?
    – gotube Mod
    Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 5:20

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