Grammar Presentation: The Sentence

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1 Grammar Presentation: The Sentence GradWRITE! Initiative Writing Support Centre Student Development Services The rules of English grammar are best understood if you understand the underlying structure of the language. In this presentation, we will explore the make up of a small, but important unit of the language: the sentence. 1

2 Outline What is a sentence? Phrases and Clauses Sentences We will start by defining a sentence, move on to examining its different parts and end off by looking at different types and usages of sentences. 2

3 What is a sentence? Purpose: To communicate an idea Components: Subject Predicate Punctuation A sentence s primary purpose is to communicate an idea. The three components of a sentence accomplish this purpose. 3

4 Subject What the sentence is about At the most basic level, a noun or pronoun Examples: She added methanol to the solution. Methanol was added to the solution. Add methanol to the solution. (Implied You ) The subject, simply, is what the sentence is about. At the most basic level, it can be just a noun or a pronoun, but it can be more complicated. In these similarly structured examples, there are three different subjects. 4

5 Predicate Describes what the subject is or does At the most basic level, a verb Examples: She added. She added methanol to the solution. Add methanol to the solution. The predicate is a modifier. It gives details about what the subject is or does. At the most basic level, it can be just a verb, but usually it gives a lot more detail about the subject. In these examples, everything except for the subject is considered the predicate. 5

6 Objects Part of the predicate What the subject is acting upon Direct objects and indirect objects Examples: She added methanol to the solution. Objects are part of the predicate and are what the subject is acting upon. Objects can get fairly complicated, with direct objects and indirect objects only scratching the surface of their complexity, but we will not discuss them much further because they do not really impact we construct sentences. 6

7 Punctuation Indicates where to pause in writing Most sentences end in periods The third part of a sentence is the punctuation. We use punctuation to indicate pauses in our writing, and to signify when a sentence is finished. See the GradWRITE presentation on Punctuation for a complete look at common issues with punctuation. 7

8 Phrases and Clauses Groups of words that are not quite sentences Now that we know the basic components of a sentence, we can see how we build them. Phrases and clauses are groups of words that are not quite sentences on their own. They need help to form complete sentences. 8

9 Phrases Word clusters without a subject-predicate pair Provide more information than simple subjects and predicates Cannot stand on own Examples: Noun phrase: The guitarist s performance... Verb phrase:... seems to be starting. Phrases are groups of words that do not have a subject-predicate pair; that is, they are missing either one component or the other. Because they use more words, they can give more information than simple subjects and predicates but cannot stand on their own as sentences. In the examples, the noun phrase is missing a predicate to complete it, and the verb phrase needs a subject. 9

10 Clauses Contain a subject and a predicate Two kinds: Independent clause Dependent clause Clauses are groups of words that do have a complete subject and predicate pair. There are two kinds. 10

11 Independent Clause Can stand alone as a sentence Example: She added methanol to the solution. Independent clauses actually can stand alone as a sentence. In the example, the presence of a subject-predicate pair expresses a complete thought. 11

12 Dependent Clause Cannot stand alone as a sentence Needs an independent clause to complete it Acts as a noun, adjective or adverb Example: After she added methanol to the solution, she stirred the beaker. Dependent clauses are a little tricky. They do have complete subject-predicate pairs, but they also have at least one other word in them that means they cannot stand on their own. They need to be joined with an independent clause in order to be a part of a complete sentence. Dependent clauses can act as nouns, adjectives or adverbs within a sentence. In this example, the word after makes the first clause dependent, meaning that we need a second clause to complete the sentence. 12

13 Sentences Expresses an idea using a subject and a predicate Four kinds: Simple, Compound, Complex, Compound-Complex Not just about length We ve been using the definition of sentence as a group of words that express an idea using a subject and predicate. In practice, there are four kinds of sentences. The differences have very little to do with length and much more with what kind of clauses are used. 13

14 Simple sentences One subject-predicate pair Independent clause Example: Methanol was added to the solution. In simple sentences, there is only one subject predicate pair. Basically, a single independent clause is the same thing as one simple sentence. 14

15 Compound Sentences Two or more independent clauses in one sentence Two methods A compound sentence has two or more independent clauses joined together. There are two methods of joining these independent clauses. 15

16 Compound Sentences Semi-colon Example: Methanol was added methanol to the solution; she stirred the beaker. Methanol was added to the solution; this caused a reaction. Methanol was added to the solution; subsequently, a reaction occured. In the first, you simply use a semi-colon in between the two clauses. Semi colons are not often used in many disciplines today, but used correctly, they can indicate relationships between ideas. 16

17 Compound Sentences Co-ordinating conjunctions FANBOYS: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So Example: Methanol was added to the solution, and this caused a reaction. The second method of joining independent clauses into compound sentences uses short transition words called co-ordinating conjunctions. The acronym FANBOYS incorporates the first letter of all seven of these important little words. To punctuate properly, simply separate the two clauses with a comma, add the appropriate conjunction and you re good to go. 17

18 Complex Sentences 1 independent clause and 1+ dependent clauses Example: After adding methanol to the solution, the beaker was stirred. Methanol was added to the solution, while the beaker was stirred. Complex sentences have one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. As we ve seen before, dependent clause needs the independent clause to complete the sentence. From the examples, we can see that the dependent clause can come either before or after the independent clause. 18

19 Compound-Complex Sentences 2+ independent clauses and 1+ dependent clauses Example: While methanol is added to the solution, the beaker is stirred, and the colour will change. Compound-complex sentence are a mix of compound and complex sentences. They have at least two independent clauses (compound) and at least one dependent clause (complex). Compound-complex sentences are not used often, mostly because they tend to be rather complicated. 19

20 Sentence Variety Think about the effect you want Short simple sentences attract attention Compound sentences invite comparison Compound-complex sentences give lots of information When writing, it is important to think about the types of sentences you are using. A large text should have a healthy mix, but you need to think about the different effects of each type. For example, short simple sentence will attract the readers attention because they are so short. Using a compound sentence allows you to compare elements in the different clause. A complex sentence can show how the element in the dependent clause relies on the independent clause and compound-complex sentence can communicate a lot of information. 20

21 Resources Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale APA Style Guide University of Ottawa s HyperGrammar hypergrammar/grammar.html Purdue University s Online Writing Lab Search for Grammar and ESL resources 21

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