Basic English Structure
Sentences §§≠^™©

Notes & Exercises

The Sentence
It is a group of words which make complete sense. It begins with a capital letter and ends with either a full stop(.), question mark(?) or exclamation mark(!). It must contain at least one independent clause.
e.g.
I see a pretty bird. (Statement)
Can you swim? (Question)
Open the window. (Command)
What a fool he is! (Exclamation)
Please help me with my work. (Request)

A sentence is composed of the Subject and the Verb.

The following sentences are complete sentences because
i. They have the subject and the verb;
ii. They make full sense.
1. John read the letter twice.
2. To be careful, John read the letter twice.
3. John read the letter twice, trying to understand it.
4. John read the letter twice because he was careful.
5. John read the letter twice but he could not understand it.

The following are not complete sentences:
1. To be careful. (no subject and verb, not in complete sense)
2. Trying to understand it. (no independent clause, not in complete sense)
3. Because he was careful. (no independent clause, not in complete sense)

The Subject
The subject of a sentence is the person or thing doing the action expressed by the verb. The verb agrees grammatically with the subject.
e.g.
Anita goes to church every Sunday.
(Subject: Anita)
Anita and Jenny are university students. (Subject: Anita and Jenny)
The black and white bird in the cage can sing. (Subject: bird)
Some of the eggs in the basket are rotten. (Subject: eggs)

A simple way to find the subject of the sentence is by putting the question "Who or What" in front of the verb.
e.g.
John likes singing. (Who likes singing?)
Exercise is good for health. (What is good for health?)


It is important to identify the simple subject (the doer of the action) of the sentence.
e.g.
A bright little boy with big eyes and dark hair won the first prize.
Who won the first prize? = boy (simple subject)
Descriptive words: a bright little, with big eyes and dark hair


The subject of a command, order or suggestion -you- is usually left out.
e.g.
(You) Turn on the light.
(You) Read the question carefully.


Exercise 1
Identifying the subject
Quiz I
Quiz II (higher level)


The Verb
The verb in a sentence tells what someone or something is and does.
e.g.
Winter is cold.
I wrote a letter.


Verbs are classified as finite and non-finite. A finite verb can stand by itself as the main verb of a sentence.
In the above examples, 'is' and 'wrote' are finite verbs. Non-finite verbs are verb forms that cannot be the main verb of a sentence.
The non-finite verbs include:
infinitive (to be, to write, to have been, to have written)
present participle & gerund (being, writing)
past participle (been, written)

Exercise 2
Identifying the main verb
Quiz I
Quiz II (higher level)


Phrases
A sentence is composed of a phrase(phrases) and a clause(clauses).
A phrase is a group of related words without a subject and a (finite) verb forming part of a sentence.

e.g.
a pretty young girl
a piece of paper
to watch a football match
swimming in the cold water

Exercise 3
Recognizing phrases
Quiz I
Quiz II (higer level)

Types of Sentences
A simple sentence
It consists of only one finite verb.

e.g. She has a lot to do.
They are working hard for the coming examination.
He does not know the correct answer.

A compound sentence
It consists of two (or more) clauses joining by a conjunction. Each clause has its own subject and finite verb. We often use the following conjunctions to make compound sentences:
and, but, or, either°Kor, neither°Knor
e.g. He is poor but (he is) happy.
He came to tea and (he) stayed to dinner.
He never smokes or (he never) drinks.

A complex sentence
It consists of a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses. The subordinate clause is either a noun clause, an adjective clause or an adverb clause.

e.g. He said that he would never come again. (noun clause)
Those are the men who want to see you. (adjective clause)
When she heard the news, she burst into tears. (adverb clause)

Simple sentences °V common patterns (A)

Subject
verb
object
adjective/ adverb /phrase/ (to) infinitive/~ing/~ed
1.The baby Is crying.    
2.I am   glad to see you again.
3.Kenny looks   mature enough to take care of himself.
4.They decided   not to take a short cut.
5.They set the bird free.
6.He read the book quickly.
7.The boy Is playing football with his cousin in the park.
8.She told her son to wake up immediately.
9. She made him tell the truth.
10. I heard them talking about the project.

Simple sentences °V common patterns (B)

Subject
verb
object
connective/preposition+nound
infinitive/gerund
1.We don°¶t know   which way to go.
2.He showed us how to play the violin.
3.She stopped     talking at once.
4.You can°¶t rely   on him to be punctual.
5.She gave the painting to the museum.  
6.They sold me all their stamps.  
7.The fire lasted   (for) three hours.  

Simple sentences °V common patterns (C)

It / There
verb
adjective/subject
for/of somebody
infinitive/~ing
noun/adverb phrase
1. It was hard   to recognise her voice.
2.It is difficult for him to make a decision.
3.It is cruel of you to abuse these animals.
4.It was a great honour   to be your guest.
5.There are seven dwarfs     in the story.
6.There were several dogs   barking at the entrance.

The three main elements of the sentence are words, phrases and clauses. In next unit, we help you to grasp the more complicated concept of clauses.

Basic English Structure