Syntax vs Grammar

There’s a lot of confusion about the differences between syntax and grammar, but they are actually two different things. Syntax is the set of rules that govern how words are put together to create a sentence, while grammar is the set of rules that govern how words are used in a language. Understanding the difference between these two concepts can help you improve your writing skills and get ahead of your classmates.

What Is Syntax?

Comparison syntax grammar

Syntax is the study of how words and phrases are combined to form meaningful sentences.

  • Also known as, the study of sentence structure.

By understanding syntax rules in the English language, writers can create cohesive and well-organized essays, reports, blog posts, and other documents. These are the structural rules that we use to create complete sentences.

Syntax deals with word order and is comprised of several elements. The elements of syntax include:

  1. Parts of a Sentence: The four main parts of a sentence: the subject, the predicate, the object, and the direct object
  2. Phrases: A phrase is a group of words that does not contain a subject or a predicate. It is a group of words that cannot stand alone as a sentence (dependent clause).
  3. Clauses: A clause is a group of words with a subject and verb. A clause can be part of a particular sentence or it can be a complete sentence. The subject of a clause is the noun or pronoun that is doing the verb.
  4. Sentence Structure: Sentence structure is the way a sentence is put together. There are four main types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.

Takeaway: Syntax is the rules of a language that guide how words are combined to form sentences. Also known as the internal structure of a sentence.

Is There A Difference Between Semantics & Grammar?

Yes, semantics and grammar are not the same thing. Semantics refers to the study of meaning in language, focusing on the interpretation of words, phrases, and sentences. It mainly deals with the study of words & language and their relationship with the real world.

Grammar is more focused on the structural rules and principles that govern how words are combined to form meaningful sentences in a particular language. While semantics deals with meaning, grammar deals with the form and structure of language. Although semantics and grammar are similar concepts, they are not the same thing.

What Is Grammar?

Grammar is often defined as the “rules” of a language, but this definition is somewhat misleading. While it is true that grammar rules can be used to describe how a language should be used, these rules are not always followed by native speakers.

Grammar comes into play with word choice. For example, should you say “disorganized or unorganized“? The answer depends on the context of the sentence. Another example is dryer vs drier, changing a few letters can totally change a sentence!

In fact, many of the so-called rules of grammar are actually quite flexible, and there is often more than one correct way to say something. So, if grammar rules are not always followed, and they are not always set in stone, what exactly is grammar?

Types Of Grammar

Not all grammar rules are the same. There are two main types of grammatical rules: Prescriptive grammar & Descriptive grammar.

  • Descriptive Grammar: Descriptive grammar describes how native people actually speak. This type of grammar is much more flexible and doesn’t require you to follow concrete rules. Slang is a common example of descriptive grammar.
  • Prescriptive Grammar: This is the form of grammar that most people learn in school. It consists of a set of rules for how to speak and write properly, like the rules for parts of speech. It is a more restrictive form of grammar that is required to be followed.

What’s The Difference?

chalkboard comparing grammar and syntax

Just like writers confuse vocabulary and grammar, they also confuse syntax & grammar. For most people, grammar and syntax might seem like two words that can be used interchangeably. In reality, there is a big difference between the two terms.

Grammar refers to the rules of a language, while syntax deals with the ways in which words can be combined to form sentences. These rules matter no matter if you’re writing a prologue or research paper!


  • Tells you how language works
  • Discipline of linguistics
  • Rules for language


  • Tells you how words are ordered to create sentences
  • Rules for word order
  • Is part of grammar

How About Writing Conventions

Writing conventions are the rules and mechanics of writing. Mastering these conventions will significantly impact your writing ability.

The 3 main conventions are:

  1. Spelling (Try our FREE Spell Checker!)
  2. Punctuation
  3. Capitalization grammar

What Is The Best Way To Teach Writing Conventions?

The best way to teach writing conventions is to provide explicit instruction and many practice opportunities. Although all students learn differently, examples are a great way to learn effectively. Start by introducing students to the specific conventions they need to learn, such as grammar rules, punctuation, capitalization, and sentence structure. Model and demonstrate proper usage through examples and explanations, and then engage students in hands-on activities where they can apply the conventions in their own writing.

FAQs – Syntax vs Grammar

Q: What is the difference between grammar and syntax?

Grammar refers to the rules of a language & Syntax is one part of grammar that deals with the order of words on the sentence level. The terms grammar and syntax are frequently confused.

Q: Is syntax considered grammar?

Syntax is considered to be a part of grammar. Syntax is the study of the rules that govern how words are combined to form phrases, clauses, and sentences. T

Q: Is punctuation grammar or syntax?

Punctuation is neither grammar or syntax. It is a writing convention that helps to create cohesive and understandable text. Other major writing conventions include grammar, spelling, and capitalization

Q: What is an example of syntax?

An example of syntax is we arrange words and phrases to create sentences. In English, the subject usually comes before the verb. For example: “The girl is walking down the street.”

Q: What is grammar in writing?

Grammar is the rules governing how we form sentences in a language. Those grammar rules range from complicated to simple. Grammar rules show us how to use words to form complete sentences correctly.

Q: Why syntax is important in grammar?

Syntax is important in grammar because it helps us to understand how sentences work. In English, for instance, we use syntax to determine proper sentence structure. Syntax rules allow you to create clear & concise sentences that are easy to understand.

The Bottom Line

Now you know the difference between syntax and grammar. These two terms are commonly confused and cause a world of trouble for some writers. Understanding these two terms will put you ahead and take your writing to the next level!