Sentence Structure

Unit 1: Sentence Structure

What’s in a sentence?

A sentence contains a noun and a verb; there is a subject and a predicate (the part of the sentence that contains the verb). Also, almost every sentence we read is made up of clauses and phrases.When you put these elements together, they communicate a whole complete idea or ideas to the reader. Think of the subject, verb, phrase and clause as important pieces in a puzzle we call the sentence.

What exactly is a phrase and a clause? To understand what these are, it is perhaps better to start with what we are already familiar with: a sentence.

Let’s see what we can remember about sentences:

  1. A sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a period (full-stop), a question mark or an exclamation mark;
  2. A sentence has:

a subject or the thing doing the action (this is what the sentence is about-a human, animal, place, thing, quality or abstract idea such as peace or success);

a predicate (the part of the sentence that contains the verb);

a direct object (the part of the sentence that receives the action);

  1. A sentence contains at least one noun and at least one verb. This verb can be finite or nonfinite;

Finite verbs have a tense. For example, opened (past tense of open)

Nonfinite verbs have no tense.

  1. A sentence communicates a complete idea; it makes sense.
  2. There is no limit to the length of a sentence. A sentence can be as long or as short as the writer wants it to be. Sentences can have an extension. This is what usually makes a sentence seem long.

Look at the table below. It displays the five characteristics of a sentence we just discussed.

Example:  The boy called his mother to pick him up

 

Subject Verb Object Extension
The boy called
The boy called his mother
The boy called his mother to pick him up.

 

Let’s look at another sentence.

Joe and Mary stuck posters on the door so that the message could be read.

Subject Verb Object Extension
Joe and Mary stuck posters
Joe and Mary Stuck posters the door
Joe and Mary Stuck posters the door  

so that the message could be read.

 

The Subject of a Sentence

The subject of a sentence is the person or thing that does the action. It is what the sentence is about. To find the subject of a sentence, we must first find the verb. Then we ask, who or what is performing the action? Let’s look at our previous examples:

Sentence 1:

What action is being done?  Calling.

The verb is called.

Who or what called?

The boy called. Therefore, the boy is the subject of the sentence.

Sentence 2:

What action is being done or was done? Sticking.

The verb is stuck.

Who or what stuck the posters?

Joe and Mary stuck the posters. Therefore, Joe and Mary are the subjects of the sentence.

 

The Object of a Sentence

The object of a sentence is the part of the sentence that receives the action. To find the object of a sentence, we must ask, Who or what is being affected by the action of the subject? The object does not perform the action. It does nothing in the sentence. Let’s look at the examples again.

Sentence 1:

Who or what is being called by the boy? Who is receiving the action? His mother.

His mother is the object of the sentence.

Sentence 2:

Who or what is receiving the sticking? Who is being affected by the sticking of the posters? The wall.

The wall is the object of the sentence.

 

The Extension of a Sentence

Think of the extension of a sentence as the part which is added to the sentence to give extra detail. Without the extension, we would still have a complete sentence that makes sense. To find the extension in a sentence, we can ask, Would the sentence make sense without this group of words?

Sentence 1:

What can we omit from the sentence so that it still makes sense? To pick him up.

The boy called his mother. This is a complete sentence. We know that the boy called his mother. But why did he? We are given a bit of extra detail as to why he called his mother. He wanted her to pick him up.

Therefore, to pick him up is the extension of the sentence.

No let’s try the quiz to test our knowledge of subject, verb, object and extension.

Next Unit: Phrases

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