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Sentence structure Sentence structure Document Transcript

  • Home · Learners · Teachers · Parents · Grammar · Vocabulary · Site Information learning English A guide to .. all your English needs .. icon iconicon Syntax - English sentence structure Introduction: This page contains some basic information about sentence structure (syntax) and sentence types. It also includes examples of common sentence problems in written English. ESL students who understand the information on this page and follow the advice have a better chance of writing well. [Note to teachers/advanced students] Definition: Linguists have problems in agreeing how to define the word sentence. For this web page, sentence will be taken to mean: 'a sequence of words whose first word starts with a capital letter and whose last word is followed by an end punctuation mark (period/full stop or question mark or exclamation mark)'. On the basis of this definition, some of the sentences written by ESL students (indeed by all writers) will be correct, and other sentences will be problematic. Good readers (English teachers, for example!) can quickly see the difference between a correct and a problematic sentence. Subject/predicate: All sentences are about something or someone. The something or someone that the sentence is about is called the subject of the sentence. In the following sentences the subjects are shown in red. Note how the subject is often, but not always, the first thing in the sentence. John often comes late to class. My friend and I both have a dog named Spot. Many parts of the Asian coastline were destroyed by a tsunami in 2004. The old hotel at the end of the street is going to be knocked down to make way for a new supermarket. Sitting in a tree at the bottom of the garden was a huge black bird with long blue tail feathers. The grade 7 Korean boy who has just started at FIS speaks excellent English. On Saturdays I never get up before 9 o'clock. Before giving a test the teacher should make sure that the students are well-prepared.
  • Lying on the sofa watching old films is my favourite hobby. The predicate contains information about the someone or something that is the subject. The example sentences above are shown again, this time with the predicate marked in green. John often comes late to class. My friend and I both have a dog named Spot. Many parts of the Asian coastline were destroyed by a tsunami in 2004. The old hotel at the end of the street is going to be knocked down to make way for a new supermarket. Sitting in a tree at the bottom of the garden was a huge black bird with long blue tail feathers. The grade 7 Korean boy who has just started at FIS speaks excellent English. On Saturdays I never get up before 9 o'clock. Before giving a test the teacher should make sure that the students are well-prepared. Lying on the sofa watching old films is my favourite hobby. Do a quiz on the subject and predicate. Simple subject/predicate: As you can see from the example sentences above both the subject and the predicate can consist of many words. The simple subject is the main word in the subject, and the simple predicate is the main word in the predicate. The simple subject is always a noun/pronoun and the simple predicate is always a verb. In the following sentences the simple subject is shown in red and the simple predicate is shown in green. My ESL teacher speaks a little Russian. The young girl with the long black hair fell from her bike yesterday in heavy rain. At the back of the line in the cafeteria yesterday was a large brown dog with a yellow collar around its neck!
  • My friend and I are going on holiday together this year. Your mother or your father must come to the meeting. Sitting in a tree at the bottom of the garden was a huge black bird with long blue tail feathers. From the last three examples sentences above you will notice that the simple subjects and simple predicates can be more than one word. Advice: To write strong, clear sentences you must know who or what you are writing about (subject) and what you want to say about them or it (predicate). Your writing will be more interesting if the subject is not the first thing in every sentence you write. Do a quiz to identify simple subjects and predicates. Sentence types: One way to categorize sentences is by the clauses they contain. (A clause is a part of a sentence containing a subject and a predicate.) Here are the 4 sentence types: Simple: Contains a single, independent clause. I don't like dogs. Our school basketball team lost their last game of the season 75-68. The old hotel opposite the bus station in the center of the town is probably going to be knocked down at the end of next year. Compound: Contains two independent clauses that are joined by a coordinating conjunction. (The most common coordinating conjunctions are: but, or, and, so. Remember: boas.) I don't like dogs, and my sister doesn't like cats. You can write on paper, or you can use a computer. A tree fell onto the school roof in a storm, but none of the students was injured.
  • Complex: Contains an independent clause plus one or more dependent clauses. (A dependent clause starts with a subordinating conjunction. Examples: that, because, while, although, where, if.) I don't like dogs that bark at me when I go past. She did my homework, while her father cooked dinner. You can write on paper, although a computer is better if you want to correct mistakes easily. Note: A dependent clause standing alone without an independent clause is called a fragment sentence - see below. Compound-complex: Contains 3 or more clauses (of which at least two are independent and one is dependent). I don't like dogs, and my sister doesn't like cats because they make her sneeze. You can write on paper, but using a computer is better as you can easily correct your mistakes. A tree fell onto the school roof in a storm, but none of the students was injured, although many of them were in classrooms at the top of the building. Advice: Writing that contains mostly short, simple sentences can be uninteresting or even irritating to read. Writing that consists of mostly long, complex sentences is usually difficult to read. Good writers, therefore, use a variety of sentence types. They also occasionally start complex (or compound-complex) sentences with the dependent clause and not the independent clause. In the following examples the dependent clause is shown in red: Although it was raining, we decided to go fishing. If it doesn't rain soon, the river will dry out. Because the road was icy and the driver was going too fast, he was unable to brake in time when a fox ran into the road in front of him. Note: Sentences can also be categorized according to their function. [More] Note: Independent clauses are also called main clauses. Dependent clauses are also called subordinate clauses.
  • Do a quiz to identify clause types. Do a quiz to identify sentence types. Problematic 'sentences': To write a correct sentence, you need to have a good understanding of what a sentence is. Students who don't have this understanding, or don't take care, often include problem sentences in their writing. Native English speakers are just as likely to write problem sentences as ESL students. There are three main types of problem sentence: Run-on sentences: These are two sentences that the writer has not separated with an end punctuation mark, or has not joined with a conjunction. (Click the following run-ons to see where they should be separated into two sentences.) I went to Paris in the vacation it is the most beautiful place I have ever visited. It's never too late to learn to swim you never know when you may fall from a boat. If you're going to the shops can you buy me some eggs and flour I want to make a cake. I like our new math teacher, she always explains the work very clearly. He was late to school again, his bus got caught in heavy traffic. Advice: It is helpful to read your written work aloud. When you speak, you will make natural pauses to mark the end of your sentences or clauses. If there is no corresponding end punctuation mark in your writing, you can be almost certain that you have written a run-on sentence. Sentence fragments: Fragment sentences are unfinished sentences, i.e. they don't contain a complete idea. A common fragment sentence in student writing is a dependent clause standing alone without an independent clause. In the each of the following examples the fragment is the second 'sentence', shown in red: I don't think I'm going to get a good grade. Because I didn't study. She got angry and shouted at the teacher. Which wasn't a very good idea. He watched TV for an hour and then went to bed. After falling asleep on the sofa. She got up and ran out of the library. Slamming the door behind her. I have to write a report on Albert Einstein. The famous scientist who left Europe to live in the USA. After riding my bike without problems for over a year, the chain broke. 40 kilometers from my house!
  • Advice: If your 'sentence' is a dependent clause, or it doesn't contain both a subject and a predicate, then it is not a proper sentence. You can often detect fragments if you read your writing backwards sentence by sentence, i.e. from the last sentence to the first one. You can usually correct a fragment by connecting it to the sentence before or after it. Good writers, who have a full understanding of the sentence, occasionally choose to write a sentence fragment. So you may see sentence fragments in the fiction or even some of the nonfiction you read. As an ESL student, however, you should avoid fragments (except when writing your own creative stories). Rambling sentences: A rambling sentence is a sentence made up of many clauses, often connected by a coordinating conjunction such as and, or, so. John usually gets up before 7 o'clock, but yesterday his alarm clock did not ring, so he was still asleep when his boss called him at 10.30 to ask where he was and tell him that he would lose his job if he was late again. Although the blue whale has been protected for over 30 years and its numbers are increasing, especially in the North Pacific, where whale hunting has been banned, it is still at risk of extinction as its habitat is being polluted by waste from oil tankers and its main food, the plankton, is being killed off by harmful rays from the sun, which can penetrate the earth's atmosphere because there is a huge hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Advice: A rambling sentence is quite easy to spot. You have almost certainly written one if your sentence contains more than 3 or 4 conjunctions. If you read the sentence aloud and run out of breath before reaching the end of it, you have written a rambling sentence. If your sentence stretches over many lines of writing, you have certainly written a rambling sentence and most probably a run-on sentence too. Unlike run-ons or fragments, rambling sentences are not wrong, but they are tiresome for the reader and one of the signs of a poor writer. You should avoid them. Do a quiz to identify problematic sentences. General advice: If you are not sure whether you have written a good, correct sentence, ask your teacher! And remember: The more you read in English, the better a writer you will become. This is because reading good writing provides you with models of English sentence structure that will have a positive influence on your own written work.
  • Note: Good writing consists not only of a string of varied, correctly-structured sentences. The sentences must also lead from one to the next so that the text is cohesive and the writer's ideas are coherent. For information on these two important concepts, go to the Language words for nonlanguage teachers page and click on Cohesion. There are links to more sentence identification and sentence building exercises on the Writing Index of this website. Frankfurt International School: Art and artists. (Click to see at full size.) Home Learners Advice on learning English Top FIS homepage © Copyright Paul Shoebottom 1996-2014 http://esl.fis.edu http://eslbee.com Advanced Composition for Non-Native Speakers of English Home About Classes News Join Contact Why is it important to know whether a sentence is simple, compound, or complex? I believe a writer must know how to define simple, compound, and complex sentences before using them consciously. To me, that's so obvious it hardly needs stating. Once a writer knows how to write a simple sentence, it is possible to apply strict mechanical "rules" for writing both compound and complex sentences. And with just these three sentence
  • types, it is possible to write good essays, with good sentence variety, perfectly acceptable for academic work. The explanations to the left are followed by "sentence identification" quizzes. Review the results between quizzes so you completely understand the use of coordinators and subordinators and punctuation in compound and complex sentences. For information about online composition classes at this site, go to The ESLBEE.COM Academy. Sentences: Simple, Compound, and Complex Experienced writers use a variety of sentences to make their writing interesting and lively. Too many simple sentences, for example, will sound choppy and immature while too many long sentences will be difficult to read and hard to understand. This page contains definitions of simple, compound, and complex sentences with many simple examples. The purpose of these examples is to help the ESL/EFL learner to identify sentence basics including identification of sentences in the short quizzes that follow. After that, it will be possible to analyze more complex sentence varieties. Simple Sentence A simple sentence, also called an independent clause, contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought. In the following simple sentences, subjects are in yellow, and verbs are in green. 1. Some studentslike to study in the mornings.
  • 2. Juan and Arturoplay football every afternoon. 3. Aliciagoes to the library and studies every day. The three examples above are all simple sentences. Note that sentence 2 contains a compound subject, and sentence 3 contains a compound verb. Simple sentences, therefore, contain a subject and verb and express a complete thought, but they can also contain compound subjects or verbs. Compound Sentence A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator. The coordinators are as follows: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. (Helpful hint: The first letter of each of the coordinators spells FANBOYS.) Except for very short sentences, coordinators are always preceded by a comma. In the following compound sentences, subjects are in yellow, verbs are in green, and the coordinators and the commas that precede them are in red. 1. Itried to speak Spanish, and my friendtried to speak English. 2. Alejandroplayed football, soMariawent shopping. 3. Alejandroplayed football, forMariawent shopping. The above three sentences are compound sentences. Each sentence contains two independent clauses, and they are joined by a coordinator with a comma preceding it. Note how the conscious use of coordinators can change the meaningof the sentences. Sentences 2 and 3, for example, are identical except for the coordinators. In sentence 2, which action occurred first? Obviously, "Alejandro played football" first, and as a consequence, "Maria went shopping." In sentence 3, "Maria went shopping" first. In sentence 3, "Alejandro played football" because, possibly, he didn't have anything else to do, for or because "Maria went shopping." How can the use of other coordinators change the relationship between the two clauses? What implications would the use of "yet" or "but" have on the meaning of the sentence? Complex Sentence A True Story Some students believe it is possible to identify simple, compound, and complex sentences by looking at the complexity of the ideas in a sentence. Is the idea in the sentence simple, or is it complex? Does one idea in a sentence make it simple? Do two ideas make it compound? However, sentence identification does not work that way. Please take the time to identify the subjects and verbs in a sentence. Then identify coordinators and subordinators when they exist. With these two steps, sentence identification not only becomes easy, but it also provides the foundation for understanding and writing all other kinds of more complicated sentences.
  • A complex sentence has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence always has a subordinator such as because, since, after, although, or when (and many others) or a relative pronoun such as that, who, or which. In the following complex sentences, subjects are in yellow, verbs are in green, and the subordinators and their commas (when required) are in red. 1. Whenhehanded in his homework,heforgot to give the teacher the last page. 2. The teacherreturned the homework aftershenoticed the error. 3. The studentsare studyingbecausetheyhave a test tomorrow. 4. Aftertheyfinished studying,Juan and Mariawent to the movies 5. Juan and Mariawent to the movies aftertheyfinished studying. When a complex sentence begins with a subordinator such as sentences 1 and 4, a comma is required at the end of the dependent clause. When the independent clause begins the sentence with subordinators in the middle as in sentences 2, 3, and 5, no comma is required. If a comma is placed before the subordinators in sentences 2, 3, and 5, it is wrong. Note that sentences 4 and 5 are the same except sentence 4 begins with the dependent clause which is followed by a comma, and sentence 5 begins with the independent clause which contains no comma. The comma after the dependent clause in sentence 4 is required, and experienced listeners of English will often hear a slight pause there. In sentence 5, however, there will be no pause when the independent clause begins the sentence. Complex Sentences / Adjective Clauses Finally, sentences containing adjective clauses (or dependent clauses) are also complex because they contain an independent clause and a dependent clause. The subjects, verbs, and subordinators are marked the same as in the previous sentences, and in these sentences, the independent clauses are also underlined. 1. 2. 3. 4. The womanwho called my mom sells cosmetics. The bookthat Jonathan read is on the shelf. The housewhich Abraham Lincoln was born in is still standing. The townwhere I grew up is in the United States. Adjective Clauses are studied in this site separately, but for now it is important to know that sentences containing adjective clauses are complex. Conclusion and Quizzes Are you sure you now know the differences between simple, compound, and complex sentences? Click QUICK
  • QUIZ(will open in new window) to find out. This first quiz is just six sentences. The key is to look for the subjects and verbs first. After taking the quiz, you will see your score, and you will also have an opportunity to LISTEN TO THE AUDIO (four minutes) explaining why the sentences are simple, compound, or complex. For extra practice, the Helen Keller Quiz (will open in new window) contains ten quiz questions, and The Americanization of Shadrach Cohen quiz (will open in new window) contains 29 questions. With the skill to identify and write good simple, compound, and complex sentences, you will have the flexibility to (1) convey your ideas precisely and (2) entertain with sentence variety at the same time! Good luck with these exercises! Finally, if you have not already done so, download the Transitions and Connectors Worksheet to help identify simple, compound, and complex sentences. Copyright © Eslbee.com, 2001-2014. All rights reserved. Types of Clauses: Adjective Clause Adverbial Clause Comment Clause Comparative Clause Complement Clause Conditional Clause Coordinate Clause Free (Nominal) Relative Clause Independent Clause Main Clause Matrix Clause Noun Clause Relative Clause Reporting Clause That-Clause Verbless Clause What-Clause Wh-Clause See also: Clausal Coordination and Phrasal Coordination Embedding Kernel Sentence Phrase Subordination Etymology:
  • From the Latin, "the close of a sentence" Examples and Observations: What Is a Clause? "Consider the following sentence: Tom married Amy when he was 19. The string Tom married Amy could be a complete sentence on its own; the additional string, when he was 19, could not be a complete sentence on its own. It is a clause. A clause is a sentence-like construction contained within a sentence. The construction when he was 19 is 'sentence-like' in the sense that we can analyse it in terms of the major sentence elements (subject, verb, etc. . . .). It has its own subject (he), it has a verb (was), and it has a subject complement (19). In addition to these major sentence elements, it has the subordinating conjunctionwhen, which tells us that the clause is a subordinate clause." (Sidney Greenbaum and Gerald Nelson, An Introduction to English Grammar, 3rd ed. Pearson, 2009) Types of Clauses and Types of Sentences - "We cannot walk alone." (Martin Luther King, Jr., "I Have a Dream") Note: "We cannot walk alone" is an independent clause--also known as a main clause. This construction is a simple sentence. - "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, Animal Farm) Note: Orwell's sentence contains two independent clauses joined by the conjunction "and." This combination is called a compound sentence. - "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction." (Virginia Woolf, "A Room of Her Own") Note: Woolf's sentence begins with an independent clause--"A woman must have money and a room of her own"--and ends with an adverb clause. This combination is called a complex sentence. - "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) Note: "Life moves pretty fast" and "you could miss it" are independent clauses. "If you don't stop and look around once in a while" is an adverb clause. Therefore, Ferris's first sentence is simple; his second sentence is complex.
  • - "I was more independent than any farmer in Concord, for I was not anchored to a house or farm, but could follow the bent of my genius, which is a very crooked one, every moment." (Henry David Thoreau) Note: Thoreau's sentence contains two independent clauses joined by the conjunction "for"; the second independent clause is interrupted by an adjective clause--"which is a very crooked one." This combination is called a compound-complex sentence. Clauses and Phrases "Clause contrasts with sentence. Except in the case of a whole sentence, which is technically said to be also a clause, a clause is always smaller than the sentence that contains it. "Clause also contrasts with phrase. Clauses contain phrases. Clauses are bigger than the simple phrases they contain. The crucial characteristic of a clause, which is lacking from a phrase, is that a clause normally has its own verb and all or many of the other basic ingredients of a whole sentence. So Billy's brand new bicycle and on Sunday morning at ten o'clock are both phrases but not clauses, because neither contains a verb.. "Clauses can themselves be contained in complex phrases; such clauses are always, by definition, subordinate clauses." (James R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge University Press, 1994) MESSAGES LOG IN EXPLORE HELP US EDIT Home » Categories » Education and Communications Article Edit Discuss Edit Article
  • How to Diagram Sentences Edited by Englishgrammarrevolution, Teresa, Krystle, Eric and 26 others Diagramming sentences might seem complicated at first, but you'll quickly get the hang of it. Once you understand the essentials, diagramming a sentence can be like completing a sudoku or a crossword puzzle. That's not a bad way to learn grammar! Steps 1. 1 Locate the verb of the sentence. Verbs are words that show action (walk, dance, sing, run for example) or present a state of being (am, are, is, was). Look for the action in the sentence and ask yourself what happened. You'll find the verb there.[1] o o o Ad 2. 2 Once you've found your verb draw a straight horizontal line, with a vertical line through its center. On the right side of the vertical line place the verb. For example: "Harry searched for his dog." The word "searched" is the verb as it is a word that shows action. A second example: "Harry was looking for his dog." The words "was looking" represent the word, because they are a state of being, also known as a gerund.
  • Find the subject of your sentence. This will be the thing or person that is performing the action. The subject will go to the left of the vertical line (the verb is already on the right). A good question to ask when locating the subject is "who did the verb." o From the example above, "Harry was looking for his dog," Harry is the subject as he is the one looking for the dog. 3. 3 Find your direct object if you have one. This will be the person or thing receiving the action. Not all sentences have a direct object. If you have a direct object, draw a vertical line after the verb, and place the word here. o o o Using the same example "Harry was looking for his dog," the word "dog" is the direct object. Now, if you had a sentence like "Harry was upset," there is no direct object. If you have a linking verb with a complement, draw a slanted line after the verb, and write the complement here. A linking verb connects the subject of the sentence to the complement.[2] The complement is the part of the sentence that comes after the verb to complete the sentence.[3] For example: "Harry looked sad when his dog went missing." In this sentence "looked sad" is a linking verb and "when his dog went missing" is the complement. 4. 4 Find the articles (a, as, the) or possessions (my, your, his, hers). You'll draw a slanted line down from whatever is being modified by the articles or possessions. Your sentence might have both, or either, or neither of these kinds of words.
  • o For example: "Harry's dog left the house." In this sentence "Harry's" will be on the slanted line beneath our subject "dog," because it is a possessive. The sentence also has an article "the" which will be on the slanted line beneath "house." 5. 5 Locate the adjectives. These are words that describe a noun or a pronoun. Place adjectives on a slanted line beneath the words they modify. o Example: "Harry looked for his red dog." The word "red" is the adjective, because it describes the dog. Therefore, it would be placed on a vertical line beneath "dog" which is the object in this sentence.
  • 6. 6 Find the adverb. Adverbs modify verbs and adjectives, as well as other adverbs. They often end in -ly. Good questions to ask yourself when trying to find an adverb are: How? When? Where? How much? Why? You'll put the adverb on a vertical line beneath the word it modifies. o Example: Harry ran quickly after his dog." The word "quickly" is modifying "ran" and therefore would be placed on a vertical line beneath "ran."
  • 7. 7 Look for any prepositional phrases. These are usually groupings of words beginning with a preposition and ending with a noun or pronoun. Prepositional phrases do not contain verbs, usually containing adjectives, nouns, and pronouns. You will connect the prepositional phrase on a horizontal line beneath the word they modify. o o Example: "The computer on the chair is yours." The prepositional phrase is "on the chair." Once you remove that phrase you will see that "computer" is the subject and "is" is the verb. Another example: "Harry didn't want to go outside without his sweater." The prepositional phrase is "without his sweater," which contains the preposition "without" and the noun "sweater."
  • 8. 8 Check if your sentence is compound. Compound sentences had words like "and" or "but." If any part of your sentence is compound, you will connect each compound part with a dotted line and the conjunction that connects them. For instance, if you have a compound subject, draw two lines for the subject and write each subject on a line. Connect them with a dotted line. o For example: "Harry and his friend searched for Harry's dog." The "and" makes this sentence compound and the dotted line will go between "Harry" and "friend." The word "his" will go on a slanted line beneath "friend"
  • 9. 9 For more complex sentences, connect the independent clause with the subordinate clause with a dotted line. Diagram both of them as you would normally. o Example: "Harry and his friend went to the supermarket where he found his dog." The first clause runs from "Harry" to "supermarket" while the second clause runs from "he" to "dog." Once you've split the two sentences you can diagram them normally. The word "where" will link to the two sentences together. Ad Know another method for How to Diagram Sentences? Add it here... 1. Name your me Video Tips Add Method
  • If you are new to sentence diagramming, choose easy sentences to start with. (The dogs barked. The black cat meowed.) Note that these are only the basics of diagramming a sentence. Remember that grammar is not an exact science! Ad Warnings Don't give up if you feel frustrated at first. It can take time for sentence diagramming to be easy. Related wikiHows How to Cheat in Workbooks How to Avoid Colloquial (Informal) Writing How to Use "Who" and "Whom" Correctly
  • How to Understand the Difference Between Passive and Active Sentences How to Improve Your Grammar Sources and Citations 1. ↑http://drb.lifestreamcenter.net/Lessons/TS/diagram.htm 2. ↑http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/linking-verb.html 3. ↑http://www.usingenglish.com/glossary/complement.html http://www.english-grammar-revolution.com - Original source, shared with permission. Article Info Featured Article Categories: Featured Articles | English | Homeschooling Recent edits by: Nicole Willson, Ron D, Brendan In other languages: Español: Cómodiagramarenunciados, Français: Comment schématiserune phrase, Português: Como DiagramarOrações, Русский: рисоватьдиаграммыпредложений, Deutsch: Sätzegrafischdar stellen Discuss
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