English onomatopeias: Snap!

La semana pasada inauguré la sección de Interjections i ahora lo hago con la de Onomatopeias.SNAP-logo-300x235

A pesar de que en el diccionario no encontramos esta palabra con la categoría gramatical de onomatopeya, yo he querido incluirla en esta sección porque representa un sonido en algunas ocasiones. Además de ello, snap, tiene otras categorías gramaticales y significados.

To snap means ‘to make a sudden cracking sound,’ ‘to break something with a cracking sound,’ or ‘to move or strike with a loud noise.’ To snap is also ‘to speak sharply’ or ‘to lose control.’ As a noun, a snap is a sudden sound from something breaking or striking something. It can also be a short period of time or, informally, a quick and easy task.

Example sentences

Tom realized someone was behind him when he heard the snap of a twig.
The strong winds snapped the old branch in half.
Elizabeth snapped the lid of the box shut.
I asked her what was wrong, but she just snapped at me.
The pressure got too much for Jeremy and, finally, he snapped.
The snap of the door closing woke Nell from her sleep.
We had a snap of cold weather just after Christmas.
Robert is so lucky; learning new languages is a snap for him.


Words often used with snap
Snap is also when you make a snapping noise with your fingers, usually by striking two fingers on the same hand together. We can say just snap, or snap your fingers.
Example: «It is rude to snap (or, snap your fingers) at waiters when you want to get their attention.»
Snap is also the noun for this movement of your fingers. For example, «With a snap of his fingers, the magician made my wish come true.»
Multi-word forms
Snap something up: to grab something quickly or before anyone else can. Example: «When she saw how cheap the shoes were, Joyce snapped them up.»
Snap out of something: make an effort to pull yourself out of a mood or attitude. Example: «You need to snap out of your daydreaming and do some work, if you want to pass your exams!» (We also often say just «Snap out of it!»)
Snap decision, snap judgment: a decision or judgment made quickly and without much thought. Example: «The old lady made a snap judgment about her granddaughter’s boyfriend as soon as she met him and she never changed her mind.»
Did you know?
A snap is also an informal word for a photograph, short for «snapshot,» and can be used as a verb to mean ‘to take photographs.’ Examples: «I have some snaps from my holiday; would you like to see them?» «The photographers were all snapping photos of the stars as they arrived at the premiere.»
Pretty traveler woman with backpack is taking selfie on the top of mountain

Pretty traveler woman with backpack is taking selfie on the top of mountain

Other forms:
snapless (adjective), snappable (adjective), snappingly (adverb)
Snap dates back to the late 15th century and comes from the Dutch or Low German word snappen, meaning ‘to bite or seize.’
Other info:
There are many other meanings of snap. Check the full definition to find out more!
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See the picture on explosm.net

In the first post about punctuation and style we learned something about the use of commas in subject. Important issue when we have to do inverse translations (Spanish into English), reviews, academic texts, and so on.

Remember, on the basis that the normal word order in an independent clause is SUBJECT + PREDICATE, and talking specifically about the predicate:

  • Never put a single comma between a subject and its verb.
  • Use commas with verb modifiers displaced from their normal word order.

Take into account that, although noun modifiers have to stay near their head nouns, verb modifiers can wander about in the sentence. When they have a normal position do not require internal punctuation.

1.- Normal order for verb modifiers, NO PUNCTUATION needed:

SUBJECT            ADVERB            VERB      OBJECT

The judge          reluctantly           sentenced the thief.

SUBJECT     SPLIT VERB PHRASE (adverb following the first auwxliary verb)   OBJECT

The judge                                       had relunctantly sentenced                              the thief.

SUBJECT           VERB    OBJECT            ADVERB

The judge        sentenced  the thief          reluctantly.


The judge       sentenced the thief           in a quick speech.


The judge        cleared the court           to hear the objection.


The judge       sentenced the thief        because he was guilty.

Notice that you normally don’t put verb modifiers between a verb and its object.

On the second hand, verb modifers which don’t follow the normal word order have to be grouped separately from the rest of the sentence with commas.

2.- Displaced verb modifiers, PUNCTUATION needed:

ADVERB,        SUBJECT      VERB          OBJECT

Reluctantly,    the judge sentenced        the thief.


In a quick speech,                        the judge sentenced        the thief.


The judge           ,in a quick speech,                setenced the thief.


To hear the objection,      the judge         cleared the court.


The judge        ,to hear the objection,         cleared the court.


Because he was guilty,     the judge     sentenced        the thief.


The judge     ,because he was guilty,     sentenced        the thief.

The last two sentences are ambiguous: they both suggest that the judge is the person who was guilty. This situation occurs in many example sentences, and this is a problem in pronoun reference which can be easily corrected by reordering the pronoun and the noun:

Because the thief was guilty, the judge sentenced him.

The judge, because the thief was guilty, sentenced him.

But another problem can appear, like in the second sentence above: it is better not to separate the subject from its verb with a lengthy adverbial (example in bold), your readers may forget what the subject is when they reach the verb. It is not a grammar rule, in fact it is a grammatically correct sentence, it is a matter of common sense; always make things as easy as possible for your readers.

In a next post I’ll write about other internal punctuation in clauses.

For further information check A Writer’s Guide, Easy ground rules for successful written English, by Jane Walpole. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey 07632.