My ninth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Swisher, immersed our whole class in diagramming sentences. She invited us to bring in long, intricate sentences—one from Darwin ran a page and a half—to diagram as a class, sometimes covering the two full chalkboards on the front and side walls of the classroom.
Lately it’s the short sentences that have me puzzled:
Who cares? Probably only those of us who learned to love grammar with teachers like Mrs. Swisher. If that's you, I’ll welcome your solutions as I continue to puzzle over this odd structure. When the isn’t a definite article—as it isn’t, in this construction—what part of speech is it? Given that the first and second phrases aren’t interchangeable, what’s their relationship? And how on earth do you diagram “The more, the merrier”?
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.