Common Syntax Errors That Change the Meaning of Phrases


Apr 25

Common Syntax Errors That Change the Meaning of Phrases

Syntax helps us make clear sentences that have the meaning we intend. Native speakers of a language learn syntax unintentionally, but people learning a second language may have syntax issues. They can struggle to piece words together to express a thought or idea clearly. Not surprisingly, the syntax is essential for effective translation. Let’s explore this more below.

What is a syntax error?

A syntax error is a mistake in using a language that involves organizing words and phrases that don’t make sense. In short, syntax tells you how a sentence is worded and structured, which can easily be misconstrued.

Here is an example of how syntax can affect the context and meaning of phrases or sentences:

  • The girl ran joyfully.
  • The girl joyfully ran.
  • Joyfully, the girl ran.

Four common syntax errors

Even seemingly minor syntax errors can dramatically change the meaning of phrases or sentences. Here are some of the most common examples of syntax errors to watch out for:

1. Inappropriate comma usage

Misplaced or inappropriately used punctuation can instantly change the meaning of phrases and the way a sentence reads aloud. For example:

Incorrect: “She enjoys cooking her family and her dog.”

Correct: “She enjoys cooking, her family, and her dog.”

2. Using sentence fragments instead of complete sentences

Using sentence fragments instead of complete sentences is sometimes okay when writing is meant to be conversational. But for people learning a new language they can be very confusing and are often misinterpreted. For example:

Incorrect: There are only a few things left to do. The sanding and painting.

Correct: There are only a few things left to do: The sanding and painting.

3. Squinting modifiers

A squinting modifier is a word used to describe something that is misplaced in the sentence. As a result, it could either modify the phrase that precedes it or the phrase that comes after it, which can be confusing. Here’s an example of how it can change the meaning of phrases:

Incorrect: “Running around quickly entertained her.”

Correct: “When she ran around quickly, she was entertained.”

Get expert translation and interpretation services to avoid syntax errors

Simple syntax errors like these are easy to make, but even small mistakes can have significant consequences, especially when your business relies on accurate translation services. If you need expert translation and interpretation services, contact Akorbi or call 1-877-4-AKORBI for more details.

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