Learning Grammar #2 - More Parts Trees and Sentence Analyses

Project Summary

**Summary:**This project is for me to post my attempts to learn grammar. I am starting with the practice sentences from Elliot’s grammar article.


**Goal:**To post 5 critical reviews and or research posts related to my grammatical sentence analyses by 4/20/22.
**Metrics:**Minimum of 5 posts to review the learning project.
**Broader goal:**Learn philosophy prerequisites. Get better at reading analysis, power up and become a better learner.
**Values:**This is part of my higher level goal to learn philosophy and learn about having a great life.
**CF relevance:**Preparing for textual analysis.


**Plan:**I have already done 10 sentences from part 3 of the grammar article. I now plan to critically review for errors and research topical issues.
**Project size:**Medium
**Resource budget:**Overall this took about five hours already. Most of that time was diving into specific topics and going on related tangents. I was again re-reading the grammar article, googling grammar, and watching Max Tutoring videos (most of the way through #8 now). I think I will need about another 4-6 hours to complete.
**Asks:**Corrections on my analysis and trees. As it pertains to the next section in this template, I would like to hear some suggestions on what beginners can offer that might be of value.
**Offers:**The value I can see someone else getting from this is from teaching and analyzing my mistakes to see where beginners go wrong.
**Independence:**I will complete this project even if I don’t get any replies.
**Confidence:**I am 80% confident that I will succeed at the project. I have scaled down from my last project but I just don’t trust my ability to judge if I will follow through properly.
**Follow through:**I think that I can finish the project within the next week (4/20/22). My contingency plan if I find more to review or get more feedback than I can respond to within my time budget is to create another learning project to address those topics.


**Context:**I am a native English speaker with a about an average intuition for the language.
**Background:**I analyzed the first 20 sentences from ET’s grammar article.
**Track Record:**My last learning project was fruitful. It didn’t succeed but I have scaled down.
**Priorities:**I have become convinced that learning grammar is important to learning many other topics well.
**Progress:**The 10 sentence analyses are already done.
**Problems:**I’m a bit worried about going on a tangent related to a grammar topic but not coming up with much to post. If I lost two hours to something of a dead end then I may not have as much time to look into more pertinent topics. I’m planning to try a bit of stop-loss at 20 minutes of research if I’m not finding much value in a topic of research/review.

Trees for the second round of sentences:

  1. Running fast isn’t fun.
    S-Expression: [is [Running [fast]] [not] [fun]]

  2. I don’t want to stand on my porch when it’s wet.
    S-Expression: [when [do [I] [(not)] [want] [“to stand” [on [porch [my]]]]] [(is) [it] [wet]]]

  3. Swimming after work is too tiring.
    S-Expression: [is [Swimming [after [work]]] [tiring [too]]]

  4. John gets sweaty when he does his exercise routine.
    S-Expression: [when [gets [John] [sweaty]] [does [he] [routine [his] [exercise]]]]

  5. I gave him gifts.
    S-Expression: [gave [I] [gifts [(to) [him]]]]

  6. I love to throw boomerangs to myself.
    S-Expression: [love [I] [“to throw” [to [myself]]] [boomerangs]]

  7. When a movie is boring, I stop watching.
    S-Expression: [When [is [movie [a]] [boring]] [stop [I] [watching]]]

  8. I like reading non-fiction books out of order.
    S-Expression: [like [I] [reading [books [non-fiction]] [“out of” [order]]]]

  9. My broken speakers don’t work for making sound.
    S-Expression: [do [speakers [My] [broken]] [(not)] [work [for [sound [making]]]]]

  10. FYI, working at the CIA is cooler than the FBI.
    S-Expression: [is [working [at [CIA [the]]]] [cooler [than [FBI [the]]]] [for [information [your]]]]

  1. Running fast isn’t fun.

Linking verb: ‘is’.

Subject: ‘running’.

Subject complement: ‘fun’.

‘Fast’ modifies ‘running’ (adjective).

‘Not’ modifies ‘is’ (adverb).

  1. I don’t want to stand on my porch when it’s wet.

Action verb: ‘do’ (auxiliary verb).

Subject: ‘I’.

‘Not’ modifies ‘do’ (adverb).

Main verb: ‘want’.

Object: ‘to stand’ (infinitive/noun).

Prepositional phrase: ‘on my porch’. The phrase functions as an adverb modifying ‘stand’. The preposition is ‘on’ and it governs the noun ‘porch’. ‘My’ is an adjective modifying ‘porch’.

Subordinate clause: ‘when it’s wet’.

Subordinate Conjunction: ‘when’.

Linking verb: ‘is’.

Subject: ‘it’.

Subject complement: ‘wet’.

  1. Swimming after work is too tiring.

Linking verb: ‘is’.

Subject: ‘swimming’.

Subject complement: ‘tiring’.

‘Too’ modifies ‘tiring’ (adverb). ‘Too’ is an adverb because it modifies an adjective, ‘tiring’. Oxford Languages (Google dictionary) and Merriam-Webster both have definitions of ‘too’ with its only part of speech being adverb.

Prepositional phrase: ‘after work’. The phrase functions as an adjective modifying ‘swimming’. The preposition is ‘after’ and it governs the noun ‘work’.

  1. John gets sweaty when he does his exercise routine.

Independent clause: ‘John gets sweaty’.

Action verb: ‘gets’.

Subject: ‘John’.

Object: ‘sweaty’.

Subordinate clause: ‘when he does his exercise routine’.

Subordinate conjunction: ‘when’.

Action verb: ‘does’.

Subject: ‘he’.

Object: ‘routine’.

‘His’ modifies ‘routine’ (adjective).

‘Exercise’ modifies ‘routine’ (adjective).

  1. I gave him gifts.

Action verb: ‘gave’.

Subject: ‘I’.

Object: ‘gifts’.

Implied prepositional phrase: ‘(to) him’. The phrase functions as an adverb modifying ‘gave’. The preposition is the implied word ‘(to)’ and it governs the noun ‘him’.

  1. I love to throw boomerangs to myself.

Action verb: ‘love’.

Subject: ‘I’.

Object: ‘boomerangs’.

The infinitive ‘to throw’ is an adverb that modifies ‘love’.

Prepositional phrase: ‘to myself’. The phrase functions as an adverb modifying ‘to throw’. The preposition is ‘to’ and it governs the noun ‘myself’.

  1. When a movie is boring, I stop watching.

Independent clause: ‘I stop watching’.

Action verb: ‘stop’.

Subject: ‘I’.

Object: ‘watching’ (gerund).

Subordinate clause: ‘when a movie is boring’.

Subordinate conjunction: ‘when’.

Linking verb: ‘is’.

Subject: ‘movie’.

Subject complement: ‘boring’.

‘A’ modifies ‘movie’ (adjective).

  1. I like reading non-fiction books out of order.

Action verb: ‘like’.

Subject: ‘I’.

Gerund phrase: ‘reading non-fiction books’. This whole phrase functions as the object of ‘like’.

Gerund: ‘reading’.

Direct object: ‘books’.

‘Non-fiction’ modifies ‘books’ (adjective).

Prepositional phrase: ‘out of order’. The phrase functions as an adverb modifying ‘reading’. The preposition is ‘out of’ and it governs the noun ‘order’.

I found the gerund phrase in this sentence confusing and I used the following article to aid my understanding:

  1. My broken speakers don’t work for making sound.

Action verb: ‘do’ (auxiliary verb).

Subject: ‘speakers’.

The main verb ‘work’ modifies ‘do’.

‘My’ modifies ‘speakers’ (adjective).

‘Broken’ modifies ‘speakers’ (adjective).

‘Not’ modifies ‘do’ (adverb).

Prepositional phrase: ‘for making sound’. The phrase functions as an adverb modifying ‘work’. The preposition is ‘for’ and it governs the ‘sound’. ‘Making’ is an adjective (participle) modifying ‘sound’. I’m pretty unsure about this one as it seems like ‘making’ could be a gerund. In that case it would function as the object of the preposition.

  1. FYI, working at the CIA is cooler than the FBI.

Linking verb: ‘is’.

Subject: ‘working’.

Subject complement: ‘cooler’. I think ‘cooler’ is an adjective.

Prepositional phrase: ‘at the CIA’. The phrase functions as an adjective modifying ‘working’. The preposition is ‘at’ and it governs the noun ‘CIA’. ‘The’ is an adjective (determiner) modifying ‘CIA’.

Prepositional phrase: ‘than the FBI’. The phrase functions as an adverb modifying ‘cooler’. The preposition is ‘than’ and it governs the noun ‘FBI’. ‘The’ is an adjective modifying ‘FBI’.

‘FYI’ is an abbreviation for the prepositional phrase: ‘for your information’. The phrase is an adverb that modifies the whole rest of the sentence. ‘For’ is the preposition and it governs the noun ‘information’. ‘Your’ is an adjective modifying ‘information’.

I looked through some of it and disagreed with 6 and 10.

I’m unsure what I should do with this project since I have already failed. Should I write a project conclusion? Should I continue trying to get my five posts for this project and then write a conclusion?

If I write a project conclusion my plan would be start another learning project, massively scaled down from this one. I’m leaning towards just trying to get my five grammar posts on here and then writing a conclusion.

It seems like at least re-attempting 6 and 10 and posting here would be a good thing but I don’t know. If nothing else I will just try to do that tonight unless someone points out some problem with posting those reattempts here.

I think what to do depends on what happened (why you stopped; what the problems were; why you came back).

  1. I love to throw boomerangs to myself.

Action verb: ‘love’.

Subject: ‘I’.

  • I can’t see anything wrong with ‘I’ as the subject or ‘love’ as the main verb of the sentence.

Object: ‘boomerangs’.

  • ‘Boomerangs’ looks like it could be the direct object of the infinitive ‘to throw’.

The infinitive ‘to throw’ is an adverb that modifies ‘love’.

  • I think ‘to’ in ‘to throw’ cannot be a preposition based on what I saw in the sources that I read. When ‘to’ is followed by a noun, it’s a preposition and when ‘to’ is followed by a verb, it’s an infinitive marker. So, it looks like ‘to throw’ has be an infinitive.

  • Infinitives can function as nouns or modifiers.

  • I have a hard time being able to tell when or why an infinitive functions as a noun vs a modifier. The image below has ‘to play’ as a noun in “He wants to play rugby.”. Given that ‘to play’ is a noun, I can’t tell what role ‘rugby’ plays in the sentence. I think rugby has to be a noun and I think that would mean that ‘rugby’ is the direct object of ‘to play’. I saw sources describing infinitives as having their own subjects and objects (when applicable).

    Image source:
    Non-Finite Verbs.

  • I have trouble seeing how ‘to play’ is an adjective in ‘He wants a game to play.’. Knowing that ‘to play’ is an adjective, my guess is that it answers the question; what kind of game? The answers to that could be a playful game, a fun game, or other such adjectives. I also guess that if the sentence were 'He wants to play a game.", then the phrase ‘to play a game’ would be the direct object of the sentence. In that case, ‘to play’ would no longer be a modifier.

  • I read that the entire infinitive phrase can be thought of as the direct object sometimes. After all the stuff I have looked at, that is my best guess here. The whole phrase, ‘to throw boomerangs’, is the direct object of ‘love’ and, within the direct object phrase, ‘boomerangs’ is the direct object of ‘to throw’.

Prepositional phrase: ‘to myself’. The phrase functions as an adverb modifying ‘to throw’. The preposition is ‘to’ and it governs the noun ‘myself’.

  • The prepositional phrase answers the question; who do you to throw to? The answers is ‘to myself’. I think the prepositional phrase could be thought of as modifying the whole clause ‘I love to throw boomerangs’. In that case, the prepositional phrase answers the question; who do you love to throw boomerangs to? I think the idea of the prepositional phrase modifying the whole clause makes the most sense here. The prepositional phrase seems be an adverb, since it’s modifying a whole clause, which is not a noun (I think). Got some useful info from this quora post: https://www.quora.com/Can-a-prepositional-phrase-modify-a-whole-clause-If-so-could-you-explain-with-some-examples
    I also seem remember ET saying a prepositional phrase can modify a whole clause, or the rest of the sentence, or something to that effect.

New tree:
S-Expression: [love [I][“to throw” [boomerangs]][to [myself]]]


grammar - When is "to" a preposition and when the infinitive marker? - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange.


" Infinitives are known as non-finite verbs, meaning they do not express actions being performed by the subjects of clauses. Instead, infinitives function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs to describe actions as ideas."

Non-finite verbs cannot be main verbs:

Non-Finite Verbs.

I really don’t know why I stopped. I have some ideas but they are really just guesses. I have tried making daily/weekly goals, for doing active learning, but I don’t follow through very often. Like, my follow through seems to be around 25%, maybe even lower. I often do other learning activities, other than the ones I wrote down. So I will think that I want to learn grammar but then the next day I really feel like doing some other learning activity instead. Usually that activity is just reading. Since I stopped doing the grammar, I read “The Goal”, a few chapters from “Conjectures and Refutations”, a few chapters of “The Selfish Gene”, and a little bit of “The Virtue of Selfishness”.

Trying a reattempt for #6 made me think of another idea. I was just underestimating how hard learning grammar has been for me. I spent over 3 hours on that reattempt, when including reading, reviewing, and searching for material. I spent time on tangents like direct objects vs indirect objects, and a bunch of stuff related to infinitives. I think the time spent on tangents was actually useful in this case and maybe even mostly necessary. Part of the problem with difficulty could be from the break itself.

I do plan to go on with a reattempt for #10, but I just wanted to make note of what’s going on and what the problems might be.

On the grammar activities specifically, I stopped planning to do them because I had planned to do them and failed to follow up many times in a row.

Did you want to post about those, but didn’t because the grammar topic was pending? Or not?

Did you watch (like?) my grammar videos?

I have wanted to post about my reading at some points over the last couple months. I think wanting to complete the grammar project first has been inhibiting me. I seemed to be fooling myself in thinking that I want to do the grammar work right now but I don’t know where to begin getting more motivated. I feel like I have many of the common problems you talk about with not wanting things and not keeping goals in mind and lacking persistence. I free-wrote a couple thousand words of introspection trying to brainstorm but I haven’t come up with a solution.

I watched one or two of the grammar videos (I think at least one full video). I stop watching one because when you were about the break something down, you mentioned that it would be good to try on your own first. I stopped watching the video at that point because I thought I should finish the grammar work and then come back to this.

OK, so you have an inner conflict about working on grammar. Part of you wants to and part of you doesn’t. You have some ideas in favor of it and some opposed to it – and you don’t have decisive arguments letting you reach a clear conclusion. You don’t have a win/win solution to satisfy all your ideas and their values/sub-goals.

So don’t fight with yourself. Don’t try to coerce yourself with repression, suppression, willpower, etc., in order to make some ideas the winners and others the losers. Don’t assume the conclusion that certain ideas are the right ones (something similar might be right but in their current form those ideas are unable to address the other side’s points well enough to reach a conclusion, so they’re actually wrong).

Don’t declare parts of yourself irrational, wrong, bad, static memes, hang ups. Don’t try to override ideas that disagree with your consciously preferred conclusion instead of reasoning with them.

Instead, do non-judgmental information gathering to better understand what the issues even are (what criticisms of grammar some of your ideas have; what alternative things they want; etc.). And seek a win/win solution that satisfies all parts of you.

Make sense so far?


I think that all makes sense to me so far.

It seems like I might need to try doing a bit more brainstorming and introspection. I could try exposing some of what I come up with there to criticism.

If I get in the right mood to try doing a bunch a grammar again should I try to go for it? Or should I hold off on using that motivation and try to do introspection about how I got back into that mood?

I have felt like being on the verge of doing more grammar work on several occasions but have not gotten to the point of doing much more. On those occasions, I think that I have ended up re-reading or re-watching more of your content or reading some Ayn Rand. I don’t want to rely on chance motivation but I do want to take advantage of high energy levels and motivation to make the best use of my limited resources.

Just to kind of summarize where I’m at:
I have an inner conflict. I don’t know too much about this inner conflict. I don’t have much understanding of the inner dynamics.

In the light of my lack of understanding, I should take an evenhanded approach to the conflicting ideas. I should analyze the state of debate objectively. I shouldn’t be biased to any one side. That would be assuming the conclusion without knowing why its right.

At this point, I don’t even know which ideas are conflicting. Ideas that I have about what the conflict might be a somewhat broad and vague, like passivity vs interest in learning. I could make some more guesses about why passivity is good, what positive role it serves in my life. What problems does low motivation/interest in practicing grammar serve? I guess it depends on the alternatives.

I think the following information is is not very accurate but they’re my best guess for the last few months and it’s roughly similar back to the beginning of 2022.

In recent history, my chosen alternatives have mostly consisted of watching Youtube. These days, I would probably watch a few hours (2-4) of video a week from Elliot’s channels, a higher number of hours (4-8) from the Ayn Rand Institute, and maybe another 10-20 hours on various other topics like history, geopolitics, politics, interview podcasts, and popular science. I also listen to another between 2 and 4 hours of Elliot’s podcast or video per week while exercising. There, I mostly re-listen to the podcast because I have heard them all or re-listen to video because it’s hard to not have some idea about what’s on screen while listening.

I think that I read for about an hour a day on average, including books and articles. Most of my reading is Critical Fallibilism related (ET’s articles or recommended books)

3 hours is a lot. The activity being hard is probably one of the main reasons you don’t do it more.

It’s not just the effort but the uncertainty. It’s doing something and then not knowing if it’s right and not having a good way to find out. Looking it up in many places trying to check your work but still being unsure. (FYI, you ended up actually changing something that was correct originally to be wrong in the reattempt, which is one of the pieces of evidence I’m going by.)

Part of the solution is to be less perfectionist. If you just do a bunch of different ones quickly, you might be able to make progress despite errors. Your error rate might be low enough to keep going rather than being overwhelming.

Finding some easier practice problems can help too. You could probably find something with really basic sentences meant for elementary school students and do 10 sentences in under an hour and get most or all of them right. It’s good to have some experience with things going smoothly and fast. With really easy sentences, you could race – maybe do 10 in 30min or even 10min (without errors). The majority of your activities should be closer to that than to agonizing over something for 3 hours. And if it goes well maybe you could then find something that’s a bit harder, and escalate a few times until you get a good level of challenge that’s useful practice but without stuff you get stuck on.

Some people resist trying way more basic problems because they are getting stuck on anything and it’s really embarrassing to make mistakes or get stuck on such basic stuff. If you can actually go through it quickly and successfully, that’s not so bad, but what if it’s hard for you? If so, that probably actually indicates some kinda general purpose blocker (like a psychological issue that applies to all learning, such as perfectionism), not ignorance of basic grammar. In that case, it’d be good to find that out and explore that problem using really easy practice problems where the subject matter is less distracting.

FYI, in short, non-finite verbs or multiple clauses are the hard stuff. Sentences without those are easier. Before that, I’ve been told that some students (doing regular school, not grammar trees) struggle with prepositions. Figuring out the parent node for a modifier is pretty easy in most cases but sometimes trickier; it can require conceptual thinking about what makes sense rather than just looking at grammatical structure.

I just spent 25 minutes doing analysis on these sentences from a short story for 1st graders. Took another 4-5 minutes uploading and formatting for post.

  1. Jack wants to build a birdhouse.

[wants [Jack] [“to build” [birdhouse [a]]]]


Verb: wants.

Subject: Jack.

Object: to build (infinitive as a noun).

‘A’ modifies ‘birdhouse’ (adjective/determiner).

I think ‘birdhouse’ is the object of the infinitive ‘to build’, so ‘birdhouse’ is just another noun.

  1. He gets some wood.

[gets [He] [wood [some]]]


Verb: gets.

Subject: He.

Object: wood.

‘Some’ modifies ‘wood’.

  1. He gets some nails and paint.

[gets [He] [and [nails] [paint] [some]]]


Verb: gets.

Subject: He.

Object: nails and paint.

‘Some’ modifies ‘nails and paint’ (adjective).

  1. His mom helps too.

[helps [mom [His]] [too]]


Verb: helps.

Subject: mom.

‘His’ modifies ‘mom’ (adjective/possessive pronoun).

‘Too’ modifies ‘helps’ (adverb). ‘Too’ tells you the mom’s help is in addition to something or someone else’s help.

About 5 minutes effort total.

She gets a saw and a hammer.
[gets [She] [and [saw [a]] [hammer [a]]]]

She gets a pencil and ruler.
[gets [She] [and [pencil [a]] [ruler]]]

Your trees look correct.

If you haven’t already, you should try some other tools to compare. You might find it faster to use a tree app than s-expressions.

I tried Visual Paradigm for like 15-20 minutes but I couldn’t figure out how to make trees effectively. I didn’t like the software overall. I will move on to trying some others. I plan to try Free Mind next. Mind Node looks like it would be nice but I’m on Windows. What is the best option you know of for Windows users?

I like XMind alight for the purposes that I have used it for so far. I have found the grammar trees take about the same amount of time with s-expressions and XMind.