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    The Parts of a Sentence

    charradi myriam

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    The Parts of a Sentence

    Post by charradi myriam on Mon Dec 11, 2006 11:38 pm

    The Parts of a Sentence
    There is enough detailed terminology floating around on the parts of the sentence to make your head spin. But we’ll just focus here on the basic four: subjects, predicates, clauses, and complements. Before we launch into those, however, let’s make sure we’re straight on the precise definition of a sentence.

    Sentences vs. Sentence Fragments
    You can’t just string together any set of words and punctuation marks you like and call it a sentence—the selection committee for this club is a little more picky than that. In order to qualify, the group of words must express a complete thought.
    A sentence must identify what or whom you’re talking about and it must say something about that person, thing, or abstract concept. Without identification and explanation, you’ve got yourself a fragment, a bit, a piece, a parcel—but no sentence. Here are a couple of fragments:
    Ran to the front door.
    (This group of words isn’t a sentence because it doesn’t tell us who it was that did the running.)
    David and Elizabeth’s daughter, Kelly.
    (This is a fragment because we know who we’re talking about, but we’re not saying anything about her.)
    If we said Kelly ran to the door, however, we would have a complete sentence, including both an identification of whom we’re talking about and a statement about her. These two parts are known as the subject and the predicate, the basic foundation of the sentence.

    A Close-up Look at Subjects and Predicates
    The subject is the who or the what that a sentence is all about. The subject might be one word, such as “he,” but it might also be a group of words, such as “the sweater he got for Christmas” or “the idea that he would get yet another sweater next Christmas.” Here is an example of each of these subjects in a sentence:
    He got a sweater for Christmas.
    The sweater he got for Christmas was too small for him.
    The idea that he would get yet another sweater next Christmas frustrated him.
    Do you see that although the pronoun “he” and the noun “sweater” are involved in all three sentences, the subject changes from one to the other? The first sentence is about a person, and what we learn about him is that he got a sweater.
    The second sentence is about a thing, the sweater he got for Christmas, and the fact that it was too small. The third sentence is about an abstract concept, the idea of getting another sweater, and the fact that it was bound to frustrate the unfortunate person who would receive it.
    The predicate is the part of the sentence with the verb in it. The predicate is composed of every other word in the sentence that’s not the subject. As with the subject, this might be only one word, the verb, or it might be a whole group of words. If the sentence is I will go to Austria as soon as the rates get better, the subject, as you probably guessed, is “I,” and the predicate is everything else—”will go to Austria as soon as the rates get better.” Let’s identify the subject and predicate in a few more sentences:
    He jogs.
    (The subject is “he,” the predicate is “jogs.”)
    Dana’s father went into the hospital yesterday.
    (The subject is “Dana’s father,” the predicate is “went into the hospital yesterday.”)
    The television in the den doesn’t work.
    (The subject is “the television in the den,” the predicate is “doesn’t work.”)
    Notice that every single word in the sentence belongs to either the subject or the predicate—once those two parts are identified, there aren’t any words left over. You’ll also notice that while the subject always contains a noun or a pronoun, it can also have other descriptive words—adjectives, prepositions, etc.—surrounding that noun or pronoun. “The television in the den” is the complete subject in the last sentence. The simple subject is the noun “television.” Those same concepts of “simple” and “complete” apply to predicates. In the sentence Dana’s father went into the hospital yesterday, the complete predicate is “went into the hospital yesterday,” but the simple predicate is the verb, “went.”

    We explained earlier that all sentences need to express a complete thought. We also said they need a subject and a verb in order to do that. And we didn’t lie. But we didn’t tell the whole truth either, and that’s where complements come in. A complement is the part of the predicate that completes the meaning of the verb. Some verbs need a little help before the sentence they’re in can express a complete thought. And other verbs may not require this help, but you want to provide it anyway in order to express your meaning more precisely. For example, take the verb “take.” If you say she takes, you have both a subject and a verb, but hardly a complete thought. What is it that she’s taking? You need a complement, for example, piano lessons.
    The sentence She takes piano lessons expresses a complete thought.
    There are three types of complements: direct objects, indirect objects, and complements of linking verbs. Don’t worry if this sounds overwhelming—it’s actually fairly simple once you get the hang of it. Let’s look first at direct objects.
    Direct Objects
    Direct objects complete the meaning of verbs expressing action by telling you what or whom is on the receiving end of it. In the previous example, she takes piano lessons, “take” is an action verb and “piano lessons” is a direct object. See if you can identify the direct objects in these sentences:
    Jack set the table.
    (The direct object of “set” is “table.”)
    That diet used up all my willpower.
    (The direct object of “used” is “willpower.” Note that the object doesn’t always have to be a tangible object.)
    The burglars stole her cash and jewelry.
    (The direct objects of “stole” are “cash” and “jewelry.” Yes, this means there can be more than one direct object at a time.)
    Indirect Objects
    Indirect objects are also used as complements of action verbs, but they differ from direct objects in a couple of ways.
    First, they’re almost never used on their own; they usually precede a direct object. Second, rather than answering the questions what or whom, indirect objects answer the questions to whom or for whom. In the sentence Can you hand me that wrench? the indirect object is “me” and the direct object is “wrench.” “Wrench” answers the question what was handed, and “me” answers the question to whom it was handed. Practice picking out the direct and indirect objects in these sentences:
    Pay him 70,000 dollars for the first year.
    (What was paid? The direct object is “dollars.” To whom was it paid? The indirect object is “him.”)
    Her mother bought her the most awful dress.
    (What was bought? The direct object is “dress.” For whom was it bought? The indirect object is “her.”)
    Complements of Linking Verbs
    Linking verbs don’t express action, but simply “link” (as their name suggests) the subject of the sentence to the complement, which modifies or describes the subject. The most common linking verb is “to be” (for the forms of the verb “to be” see pages 89-90).
    He was the strangest person she had ever met.
    (Here the linking verb “was” links the subject “he” to the complement “the strangest person she had ever met.”)
    Why have a special category for the complements of linking verbs? Well, when you’ve got a pronoun in the complement of a sentence, it’s important to know whether you’ve got an action verb or a linking verb, because these verbs require different pronouns. All that the complement of a linking verb can do is to describe the subject, so it has the same grammatical form that a subject would, as in the following sentence:
    It was she who accidentally sat on your painting this morning.
    Here the linking verb “was” links the subject “it” with the complement “she.” If the verb were an action verb, it would be followed by “her” as either the direct object (I saw her at the store yesterday) or the indirect object (I gave her the cheese log). But because we’ve got a linking verb, we need the same kind of pronoun in the complement that we would use in the subject position, and that’s “she.”

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