Use of grammar in chemistry

Example 1

We have learnt that the conjunction and implies addition (+).

Let’s consider following question from a chemistry test.

Balance the equation for the following reaction:

  • Sodium hydroxide and ammonium chloride form ammonium chloride, ammonia and water.
Step Grammatical analysis Language of chemistry
1 Compound subject is implied by and. There are two reactants.

Implication: Place these reactants side-by-side on a line. Replace and by a +.

2 Form is in present tense, a plural action verb. In a chemical equation, form can be depicted by the symbol →.

Other action verbs which stand for the symbol are as follows:

• yield
• produce

Implication: Substitute these action verbs with →.

3 The words in green are the direct objects. There are three products. As seen in the sentence, products are placed to the right of the arrow.

Implication: Place these products to the right of the arrow.

4 The commas and and implies that the direct objects are compound.

No. of objects = No. of commas + and + 1 (UK punctuation)

In the equation, following substitutions can be made:

,      =  +



Therefore, the word equation can be written as follows:

Sodium hydroxide and ammonium chloride form sodium chloride, ammonia and water


Sodium hydroxide + ammonium chloride sodium chloride + ammonia + water

Its chemical equation:

NaOH + NH4Cl NaCl + NH3↑ + H20

Example 2

Write an equation to describe the reaction which occurs when propane burns.

when clause = subject + predicate = propane burns

Burns (an action verb) = combines with O2

C3H8 + 5O2 CO2 + H20

Example 3

Write an equation for the formation of sulphur trioxide from oxygen and sulphur dioxide.

Word/phrase Interpretation in chemistry
from the reactants follow
and (implies plural) more than one reactant
for the formation of singular product

O2 + 2SO2 2SO3

Is grammar applicable in chemistry or other sciences?

Yes, it is.

Give me Grammar and More …

The toolkit for Spelling Bee competitions and lovers of words

We have used the examples and tips given under  to show how a competitor can use Phrase It Right to prepare for the competition. Lovers of words, word games, and crosswords can also use the tips given in this blog.

A. Greek and Latin roots

Make a list of important Greek and Latin roots. A comprehensive list is available at

Let’s consider the Greek prefix “tele”. First make a list of all the words you wish to learn with “tele” as the prefix.  We have listed few of them in the table below. Similar lists can be made for each root word.

Word Meaning
teledu omnivorous nocturnal mammal; plural: teledus
telekinesis supposed ability to move objects at a distance by mental power
teleman a noncommissioned officer in the US navy; plural: telemen
teleonomy (biology) the condition of having a fundamental purpose; ADJ = teleonomic
teleost alternate spelling for the fish order Teleostei; plural = teleosts
teleostean a fish of the order Teleostei
teleran navigational aid that uses radar to map the sky
telestics pertaining to religious mysteries; POS = N; ADJ = telestic
teleutospore spore of certain rust fungi

We can store these entries as Private Entries in the toolkit. The meaning can be added in the Context field. Each entry needs to be added separately. As we need a minimum of two words to create a collocation, we can consider “tele” as the headword, the main word as its collocation, and arbitrarily assign ADJ + N as the “formula”. The idea is to tweak the toolkit so that we can store and later retrieve the words we wish to learn. If we type the headword tele, all the words listed above are displayed. If we hover the cursor over the term, its context is displayed. Context is a free text field. We can add the definition, POS, etymological details, singular/plural forms, pronunciation, mnemonic, word pattern, or any other study tip.tele with context

If the words are to be added without the context, all can be entered under just one Private Entry.

 B. History of words

Roots are available for Greek and Latin words only. Patterns for other foreign words can be created by collecting them under each language. The table below lists words that come from Hawaiian.

Foreign word Meaning
aloha hello or goodbye
humuhumunukunukuapua’a reef triggerfish. The pronunciation of this long, troublesome word is as follows: Humu (hoo-moo) + humu (hoo-moo) + nuku (noo-koo) + nuku (noo-koo) + wa* (wah) + pua’a (poo-wuh’-uh)

*a is pronounced as wa

Mnemonic: humu and nuku are repeated once in succession

Laniakea galaxy supercluster that is home to the Milky Way and 100,000 other nearby galaxies
lei garland of flowers and/or leaves worn around the neck

Note: We can create a forbidden entry for the incorrect form “lie” and enter the correct word in the Context.

luau traditional Hawaiian feast
muumuu loose gown or dress
ukulele small guitar-like musical instrument

We can store these words as separate Private Entries (if the meaning of each word is entered under its respective Context field) by taking “Hawaiian” as the headword and the respective foreign words as the collocations. All the terms are displayed if we type “Hawaiian” as the headword.

Hawaiian with context

We can enter all terms as a single Private Entry if the context is not entered.


reef triggerfish C. Lists of sounds

Word lists can be made of the various ways a certain sound is spelled in English.

For example, in Greek, the following pronunciation rules are used.

Rule Examples Meaning
initial x- is pronounced z  xerox







coined word derived from Greek xeros (meaning dry)

ancient Greek officer in charge of gymnastic exercises

short pike used by Greek heavy cavalry

in clusters such as ps-, pn-, or gn-, the usual English pronunciation drops the first consonant (e.g. psychology) at the start of a word gnostic [nɒstɪk]

agnostic [ægnɒstɪk]

 g is silent as it is the first consonant

g is not silent as it is not the first consonant

We can store these words as separate Private Entries (if the meaning of each word is entered under its respective Context field) by taking the respective sound as the headword (for example, z-sound and gn-sound) and the respective foreign words as the collocations. All the terms are displayed if we type “z-sound” as the headword.


We can enter all the terms as a single Private Entry if the meaning of each word is not entered. We can enter the respective rule in the Context field.

xerox private

Using these features, you can use the toolkit in innovative ways to create separate Private Entries for different classifications of words. This is great practice for spelling competitions, word games, and even crossword puzzles. Let the Phrase It Right toolkit help you become a master wordsmith!