I have been explaining the grammar and translating scriptures from other languages into English for you. My daughter and I began discussing today that we had heard that they were no longer teaching English grammar in American schools. I think it is a big mistake because if you can understand English grammar, it makes you better with being able to understand not only the text you are reading, but also it makes is easier to learn a foreign language. I decided that since I have been explaining the grammar and vocabulary from other languages, I would explain the grammar in an English translation of the Bible:
When King Herod heard this, he was disturbed, and all of Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea” they replied. (Matthew 2: 4-3).
1. These verses begin with a “when” clause.” It is a clause and not a phrase because it has both a subject and a verb in it: “When King Herod heard this.” It can’t be a sentence by itself because “when” subordinates the clause. It makes it so the clause needs the rest of the sentence even though it has a subject and a verb. The subject of the clause is “King Herod” because he does the action in the clause. The subject should be a noun or a pronoun, and “King Herod” happens to be a proper noun, so it must begin with capital letters. A noun is a person, place, or thing. A proper noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. “Heard” is the verb. It is a simple past tense verb. A verb is an action word or a state of being word. In this case, “heard” is an action verb. “This” is the direct object of the clause. Direct objects answerthe question “what?” A direct object is a noun or a pronoun. A pronoun takes the place of the noun.”That” is a special type of pronoun. It is called a demonstrative pronoun because it demonstrates. You usually think of pronouns as words like “he, she, me, them, etc.” but this is a demonstrative pronoun used the way it is used here.. Usually pronouns point to something in the sentence before them. The “that” this clause is referring to is the wise men coming to worship the Christ.
2. The next part of the sentence “he was disturbed” is the main part of the sentence. It is the part of the sentence that the “when clause” needs to lean on. Without this part, the “when clause” is not a sentence. However, this part of the sentence is called an independent clause, and it can be a sentence by itself. The subject is “he,” a pronoun referring to King Herod. The verb is “was.” Was is a state of being verb, and it is in the simple past tense. The simple past tense means that it happen, and then it was finished. “Disturbed” is a past participle of the verb “disturb” used as an adjective. “Disturbed” describes “he.” The function of adjectives is to describe nouns.
3. “And all of Jerusalem with him” is another subordinate clause. It is subordinated to “he was disturbed” by “and.” This means it could not be a sentence alone. It needs “he was disturbed.” “Of Jerusalem” is a prepositional phrase. “Of” is the preposition. Prepositions are words that are usually places, directions, etc. Prepositions are really hard to describe, so most grammar books give you a long list of them. Prepositions always have an object of the preposition. The object of the preposition is a noun or a pronoun. The object of this preposition is Jerusalem. “Jerusalem is a proper noun, and the object of the preposition. “All” is an adjective describing “Jerusalem.” However, you could also think of it as a noun that “of Jerusalem” describes.'”With him” is also a prepositional phrase. In this case, “with” is the preposition, and “him” is the object of the preposition, and it is an object pronoun. “him” could never be used as a subject, only an object, a direct object, and indirect object or the object of the preposition, so it is called “an object pronoun.”
4. The next sentence begins with another “when” clause: “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law.” “When” subordinates this part of the sentence, and even though there is a subject and a verb, this part of the sentence can’t be a subject on its own. It is not a phrase because it has a subject and a verb. “He” is the subject of the clause. Again, a subject is a noun or a pronoun. A noun is a person place, or thing, and a pronoun takes the place of the noun. “He” takes the place of “King Herod.” “He” is a subject pronoun, and can only be used as a subject, not an object. It is a third person singular subject pronoun. The object pronoun for this place is “him.”
“Had called” is the verb. It is a past perfect verb. A past perfect verb begins in the past, happens over a period of time, and ends in the past. To make a past perfect verb, you always need “had” and the past participle of the verb.”Called” is the past participle of “call.”
“Together” is an adverb. Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. In this case, “together” tells you how he called them together, so it describes “called,” so is the adverb. “All the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law” is the direct object phrase. The direct object receives the action of the verb, and all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law” receives the action of “had called.” The direct object also answers the question “what?””What did he call?” He called “all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law.” “All” describes the phrase, so it is an adjective. “Priests” is the actual noun in this set of words. The “s” makes it mean there is more than one. “The” means they are particular priests, and “people’s chief” describes “priests.” “Chief is an adjective describing “priests.””People’s” is a possessive plural noun used as an adjective.”The” makes it particular “people.” “The” is an article, a type of adjective. Another way of stating this is: The chief priests of the people.
In this case, we have “and” again, and here it is called a coordinating conjunction instead of a subordinating conjunction like before.The last time it was used, it was used to connect a phrase to the main clause, so it was called subordinating, but this time, it connects two things, so it is called a coordinating conjunction. It connects “priests” and “teachers.” What is on one side of the “and” has equal importance to what is on the other side of “and.” “Of the law” is a prepositional phrase. “Of” is the preposition. “Law” is the object of the preposition. It is a noun.”The” is the article that makes “law” a particular law.
5. “He asked them where the Christ was to be born” is the main clause of the sentence. It is an independent clause, and it can be a sentence all by itself without the rest of the sentence. “He” is the subject pronoun referring to King Herod. It is a third person singular pronoun. “Asked” is the verb. It is in simple past tense which means it happened, and then it finished. “Them” is the indirect object. “Where the Christ was to be born” is the direct object clause or a relative clause. In this case, the relative clause is being used as a direct object. “Where” is being used as a relative pronoun rather than a question word. Examples of other relative pronouns are words like “who”, “that”, and “which.” These kinds of words begin relative clauses within the sentence. Since the relative clause is being used as a direct object clause, it makes “them” an indirect object. “Them” is an object pronoun, and can only be used as either a direct object, an indirect object, or the object of the preposition. It can’t be used in the subject. It is third person plural. Indirect objects are the only thing that can come between the verb and the direct object, and it is between the verb and the direct object clause. “Where the Christ was to be born” is the direct object clause because it answers “What did he ask?”
“Christ” is the subject of this clause. “Christ” has “the” before it because it is an article making “Christ” a special Christ, not just any old Christ. Many people don’t realize that “Christ” was not Jesus’ name. It can’t be because names don’t take “the” before them. This would make a serious Bible student try to figure out what the meaning of “Christ” is. You can learn a lot from the grammar. “Was” is the past tense state of being third person singular verb. “to be” is the infinitive of the verb, “be,” which means it has not been conjugated at all. “Be” is the form you will find this verb in in the dictionary. “Born” is a past participle of the verb “bore” used as an adjective that describes “Christ. Knowing this makes this word much easier to translate to other languages.
6. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they replied. This sentence is called “reported speech.” “They replied” is actually the subject and the verb of the sentence. “Replied” is a simple past tense verb.” “They” is a third person plural subject pronoun. “They refers to “the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law.” ” In Bethlehem of Judea” is not a sentence alone because there is no subject nor verb. When we speak, we often don’t speak in complete sentences. It is only when we write that we are supposed to use complete sentences. You can see the quotation marks telling you that someone said it.”In Bethlehem” is a prepositional phrase. “In” is the preposition, and “Bethlehem” is the object of the preposition. “Of Judea” is also a prepositional phrase. “Of” is the preposition, and “Judea” is the object of the preposition.
I hope you can see that if you want to speak a foreign language, learning the grammar helps a lot. Every language has the same kid of grammar. It is in different places in the sentence. Sometimes, it is stated differently. An example of this is that in Spanish, there are two “be” verbs, and you will have to figure out which one needs to be used in the place where you want to use it, ser or estar. I always think of “ser” usually to identify things and as being used with adjectives, and “estar” to talk about health and the location. Korean and Japanese also have more than one state of being verb. Korean and Japanese also have adjectives that can be part of the state of being verb. Most languages have almost the same verb tenses, but there are verb tenses or conjugations that don’t exist in English. If you learn how to understand the English grammar, it gives you a basis to begin learning another language. Reported speech and relative clauses also exist in other languages. In Spanish and Romanian, the subject can be included in the verb, so you don’t always have to say the subject, but it is there. In Japanese and Korean, you often just leave the subject out, and it is not included in the verb, but people guess from context what the subject is. That is why it is important to know what a subject is. You can get much further in a foreign language if you understand your own grammar first.
Besides all this, you can understand the text you are reading in your first language even better if you understand the grammar. For example, I told you that what is on one side of “and” is just as important as what is on the other side of “and.” Understanding something as simple as that could mean that Theological questions that people argue about the Bible would be easily answered. I have actually had preachers say to me they would love to see me write a commentary from the point of view of how the writing is organized and the grammar as an English professor because they thought I could give a lot of people a better understanding of what they are reading. I actually recommend that they not stop teaching grammar in schools. The Japanese claim that the second nuclear bomb that America dropped on them in World War 2 would never have been dropped, except that someone mistranslated. That is how important understanding grammar at the right time can be.