Syntax is the rules for a language. For example, in the English language, the subject typically comes before the verb, and adjectives come before the nouns they describe. In Spanish, though, the adjectives come after the nouns.
We typically notice syntax more when writers do not follow the typical word order. Poetry often varies in syntax because poets play with word order to achieve the rhythm and rhyme that they want.
Here are a few examples for typical syntax in English:
You are afraid.
The boy eats a cookie.
If we use an atypical syntax, these sentences may sound like this:
Afraid, you are.
Eats the boy a cookie.
Examples for Syntax from Literature and Film
The character Yoda in Star Wars often uses atypical syntax:
Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.
Shakespeare used varying syntax so that his writing would fit a specific meter, iambic pentameter:
But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon.
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
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