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English Grammar


 
 

The Parts of a Sentence

Sentence: a group of words that expresses a complete thought. Every sentence contains a subject and a predicate.

  1. Subject: the noun or noun phrase that tells whom or what the sentence addresses.

    Roger decided to save more money.

    Almost all cats dislike water.

    • Full or complete subject: the subject and all the words that modify it.

      Patrick Henry’s dream of freedom for all citizens compelled him to make his famous declaration.

    • Simple subject: the main noun of the complete subject.

      —Patrick Henry’s dream of freedom for all citizens compelled him to make his famous declaration.

    • Compound subject: a complete subject with multiple simple subjects.

      Miguel and the young boy became friends.

  2. Predicate: a verb or verb phrase telling what the subject does or is.

    • Full or complete predicate: the verb of the sentence and all the words that modify it.

      —The old dog climbs slowly up the stairs.

    • Simple predicate: the main verb in the full predicate that indicates the action or state of being of the simple subject.

      —The old dog climbs slowly up the stairs.

    • Compound predicate: a complete predicate with multiple verbs.

      —He thought of his lover and missed her dearly.

      —The goose was looking straight ahead and running for the pond.

  3. Clause: a part of a sentence that contains its own subject and predicate.

    • Independent clause: a clause that could function as its own sentence.

      —When the Mets are playing, the stadium is full.

    • Dependent clause: a clause that cannot function as its own sentence. A dependent clause relies on an independent clause to complete its meaning.

      • A dependent clause can function as a noun,

        —I realized that I owed Patrick fifty dollars.

      • as an adverb,

        When the Mets are playing, the stadium is full.

      • or as an adjective.

        —The beef that I ate for dinner made me queasy.

    • Elliptical clause: a type of dependent clause with a subject and verb that are implied rather than expressed.

      Though unhappy, she still smiled.

      In the clause Though unhappy, the subject and verb she was are implied: Although (she was) unhappy.

  4. Phrase: a group of related words without a subject or predicate.

    • Noun phrase: a phrase that acts as a noun. A noun phrase can function as a subject,

      The snarling dog strained against its chain.

      object,

      —He gave her the book of poems.

      prepositional object,

      —The acrobat fell into the safety net.

      gerund phrase,

      Dancing the tango is a popular activity in Argentina.

      or infinitive phrase.

      To dream is to be human.

    • Adjective phrase: a phrase that modifies nouns or pronouns. Participial phrases and many prepositional phrases are adjective phrases.

      —The actor playing Puck left much to be desired.

    • Adverb phrase: a phrase that begins with a preposition, and that functions as an adverb.

      —The theater was crowded with the actor’s fans.

    • Prepositional phrase: a phrase made up of a preposition, its object, and its modifiers.

      —The roof of the old theater was leaking badly.

  5. Modifier: a word or phrase that modifies or adds information to other parts of a sentence. Adjectives, adverbs, and many phrases and clauses are modifiers.

    • Limiting modifier: a word or phrase that limits the scope or degree of an idea. Words like almost, only, or barely are modifiers.

      —It was almost time for dinner.

    • Restricting modifier: a phrase or clause that restricts the meaning of what it modifies and is necessary to the idea of its sentence.

      —Any dog that has not had its shots should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.

    • Nonrestricting modifier: a modifier that adds information but is not necessary to the sentence. Commas, dashes, or parentheses set apart nonrestricting modifiers.

      —Seventeenth-century poets, many of whom were also devout Christians, wrote excellent poetry.

      —We could hear the singing bird—a wren, perhaps, or a robin—throughout the forest.