Grammar is back in the news in Australia, and not in a good way. According to Justine Ferrari, "Grammar guide an 'education disaster'", The Onion Australian 2/20/2010:
ONE of the world's most respected authorities on grammar has written to every school principal in Queensland, warning them of an error-strewn grammar guide distributed by the state's English Teachers Association.
University of Queensland emeritus professor Rodney Huddleston says he was forced to write to schools directly because the English Teachers Association of Queensland refused to acknowledge or correct the 65 errors he had identified in its teaching guide on grammar, printed as a series of eight articles in its magazine.
The whole thing is bizarre. We're talking about a school grammar guide that includes analyses like these:
In The small boy won't eat his lunch,"won't" is an adverb.
In The small boy is capable of eating his lunch, "capable of" is an adverb.
In a set of bowls, "set of" is an adjective.
In Sam's folder, "Sam's" is a possessive pronoun.
There's more about the controversy in a series of LL posts from 2008: "Queensland grammar brouhaha", 6/13/2008; "Grasshoppers and women on horseback as frogs", 6/15/2008; "ETAQ strikes baq: more from Queensland", 6/20/2008; "Twenty selected Coalface errors", 6/21/2008. And a collection of relevant documents is here, including the cited letter from Rodney Huddleston to Queensland school principals.
If the English Teachers' Association of Queensland can't accept help from Rodney Huddleston, they ought at least to call in Dave Barry, whose approach to grammatical analysis is as eccentric as ETAQ's, but funnier:
Q. Please explain the correct usage of the word "neither."
A. Grammatically, "neither" is used to begin sentences with compound subjects that are closely related and wear at least a size 24, as in: "Neither Esther nor Bernice have passed up many Ding Dongs, if you catch my drift." It may also be used at the end of a carnivorous injunction, as in: "And don't touch them weasels, neither."
Q. Is there any difference between "happen" and "transpire"?
A. Grammatically, "happen" is a collaborating inductive that should be used in predatory conjunctions such as: "Me and Norm here would like to buy you two happening mommas a drink.'" Whereas "transpire" is a suppository verb that should always be used to indicate that an event of some kind has transpired.
WRONG: "Lester got one of them electric worm stunners."
RIGHT: "What transpired was, Lester got one of them electric worm stunners."
An infinitive is the word to and whatever comes right behind it, such as "to a tee", "to the best of my ability," "tomato," et cetera. Splitting an infinitive is putting something between the "to" and the other words. For example, this is incorrect:
"Hey man, you got any, you know, spare change you could give to, like, me?"
The correct version is:
"… spare change you could, like, give to me?"
Or more historically and systematically:
When Chaucer's poem was published, everybody read it and said: "My God, we need some grammar around here." So they formed a Grammar Commission, which developed the parts of speech, the main ones being nouns, verbs, predicants, conjectures, particles, proverbs, adjoiners, coordinates, and rebuttals.
And, of course:
Q. Please explain how to diagram a sentence.
A. First spread the sentence out on a clean, flat surface, such as an ironing board. Then, using a sharp pencil or X-Acto knife, locate the "predicate," which indicates where the action has taken place and is usually located directly behind the gills. For example, in the sentence: "LaMont never would of bit a forest ranger," the action probably took place in a forest. Thus your diagram would be shaped like a little tree with branches sticking out of it to indicate the locations of the various particles of speech, such as your gerunds, proverbs, adjutants, etc.