Context: She has known him for more than ten years.

In the above mentioned sentence, every word can separately be analyzed grammatically. For example:

  1. She is a subject / pronoun.
  2. has + known = present perfect tense
  3. him is an object / pronoun.
  4. for more than is a prepositional phrase.
  5. What is "ten"? Determiner/ Adjective?
  6. Years is a noun.

In order to understand grammar in detail, I am trying to focus on the usage of words in different contexts.


  • 3
    The cardinal numbers like "ten" are determiners (or more precisely determinatives). The preposition phrase is the whole sequence "for more than ten years".
    – BillJ
    Aug 27, 2016 at 17:39
  • 1
    This answer would be helpful ell.stackexchange.com/a/86301/3463 Aug 27, 2016 at 18:11

1 Answer 1


Rather than trying to split a sentence directly into words, it's often more instructive to break it down into phrases, each of which breaks down further. This lets us see the overall structure better.

For example, consider something like "tenth birthday card". Tenth is an adjective, and birthday and card are both nouns; but the phrase can mean either "card for someone's tenth birthday" (with tenth modifying birthday, and tenth birthday modifying card) or "tenth card for someone's birthday" (with birthday modifying card, and tenth modifying birthday card). If we focus too narrowly on individual words, we won't see this ambiguity.

One useful tool is a parse tree, which lets us visualize the structure. For example, we might parse your sentence something like this:

[example parse tree]

As you can see, the object of for is actually more than ten years (not just more than); and I've classified the numeral ten as a quantifier (following the terminology of the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language), though you could also call it a determiner, specifier, determinative, adjective, or even noun.

(Note: even setting aside terminology, the structure shown in the above parse tree is not the only possible analysis. A lot of the details are debatable, there are different schools of thought, etc.; but it should give you a sense of how to think about syntax.)

  • What an explanation! ruakh I thank you for your sincere efforts. Regards
    – user40875
    Aug 28, 2016 at 22:21

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