Obviously, sentences are the building blocks of a story. Without them, characters couldn’t communicate. We couldn’t envision the difference between a straw pallet heaped with moldering woolen blankets and a sumptuous four-poster piled high with plump feather mattresses and even plumper feather pillows dressed in bright silken jewel tones. We wouldn’t know who was the bad guy or how anyone felt. Is it raining, snowing, or is an avalanche about to hit?
We wouldn’t get anywhere without the flexible sentence providing information, atmosphere, emotion…motive that I want to absorb.
Grammar Explanations is…
…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… Are there areas of grammar with which you struggle? If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page and consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.
|Credit to: Pitt.edu|
|Definition: A sentence is a complete thought with a subject and a verb.
A.k.a., independent clause
A sentence is structured according to the number and type of clauses they have.
Sentence types are the kinds of sentences we all learned in grade school.
|Subject + Predicate|
|General Definition: Usually a noun that comes first, it is the doer of the sentence. See the post, “Predicate“, for more examples.
Doer is also known as agent.
|General Definition: Usually a verb, the predicate usually comes after the subject and is the action performed by the subject of the sentence. See the post, “Predicate“, for more examples.
Rule: The predicate must agree with the subject in number and person.
The ball rolled down the street.
The flowers will be blooming soon.
Helen got married last week.
It is snowing up a storm.
The game was cancelled due to the tornado.
I love the glass pyramid I.M. Pei designed for the Louvre.
|Simple Sentence||Definition: Contains a subject and a predicate and expresses a complete thought. It may also contain a compound subject and/or a compound predicate (see Compound Predicate for examples.)
A.k.a., Independent clause
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I threw a fit.
Mary worked on her new quilt.
Carol and Gene practiced their duet.
Bertram heads to the coffeeshop and works on his novel for two hours before work.
|Compound Sentence||Definition: Contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunctions. Except for very short sentences, a comma is always used to separate one independent clause from another.|
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I threw a fit, and
Mary worked on her new quilt, but she didn’t quite finish it.
Carol and Gene practiced their duet, but they had no one to play the xylophone for them.
Bertram worked on his novel, so Angela went to the concert.
Using so indicates that Bertram’s actions led to Angela’s.
Bertram worked on his novel, for
Angela went to the concert.
Bertram decided to work on his novel because his girlfriend went out.
|Complex Sentence||Definition: Contains an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence always has a subordinating conjunction or a relative pronoun.
Rule: A sentence that begins with a subordinating conjunction requires a comma at the end of the dependent clause.
A sentence with the subordinating conjunction in the middle does not require a comma.
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When she finished her quilt, we were all impressed with Mary’s artistic abilities.
We were all impressed with Mary’s artistic abilities when she finished her quilt.
Because she was such a bully, we all avoided Helene.
We all avoided Helene because she was such a bully.
Since I finished The Affair at Styles, I couldn’t get enough of Agatha Christie.
I couldn’t get enough of Agatha Christie since I finished the The Affair at Styles.
|Complex Sentence with Dependent Clause||Rule: Contains an independent clause and a dependent clause.|
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The books which are on my bookshelves are my favorites.
The dress which I wore last night is one-of-a-kind.
The book that I read is due back at the library.
The state capitol building which was built in 1799 is being restored.
|Complex-Compound Sentence||Definition: A sentence having two or more coordinate independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses (Richard Nordquist).|
“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others.” –Groucho Marx
“The door of the morning room was open as I went through the hall, and I caught a glimpse of Uncle Tom messing about with his collection of old silver.” –P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters
“We operate under a jury system in this country, and as much as we complain about it, we have to admit that we know of no better system, except possibly flipping a coin.” –Dave Barry, Dave Barry’s Guide to Marriage And/or Sex
|Sentence Fragment||Definition: An incomplete sentence that cannot form a complete thought, sometimes through the lack of a subject or a main verb.|
|Return to top||Sentence fragments happen by treating a dependent clause or other incomplete thought as a complete sentence. You can usually fix this error by combining it with another sentence to make a complete thought or by removing the dependent marker (Purdue Owl).
A.k.a., dependent clause
|Mixed Construction||Definition: Mixed constructions are sentences constructed out of an assortment of parts. They start one way (often with a long prepositional phrase) but end with a regular predicate.
Suggestion: Usually the object of the preposition (often a gerund, as in the last two examples) is intended as the subject of the sentence, so removing the preposition at the beginning is usually the easiest way to edit such errors (Purdue OWL).
|Run-on Sentence||Definition: Two independent clauses not separated by any form of punctuation.
Rule: Fix a run-on sentence by adding a period, semicolon, or colon to separate the two sentences.
A.k.a., fused sentence
|Definition: There are any number of sentence types, and grammarians have divided the types into formal and functional.
|Declarative Sentence||Definition: The structure is subject + verb.
|We’re going boating today.
Tom plans to ask Mary to play her cello.
The kids played with the dog today.
Harry and Tom flew their kites this afternoon.
|Exclamative Sentence||Definition: Expresses an emotion such as surprise, anger, or pain.
A.k.a., exclamation, exclamatory
Such a sad story.
Oh, woe is me.
What does he think he’s doing?
|Exclamatory Question||Definition: Sentence that is interrogative in form, but an exclamation in meaning.|
|Isn’t it gorgeous out today?
Isn’t he the biggest jerk!
|Imperative Sentence||Definition: Expresses a command.
A.k.a., command, directive, concession, wish, request
|Let’s do it!
Do it now!
Don’t forget to lock the car.
|Interrogative Sentence||Definition: Asks a question OR functions as a statement, directive or exclamation.
|What time are we supposed to be there?
Did you find the keys?
Are we there yet?
Haven’t we all made a mistake like that?
Could you please hold the noise down?
Are you ever coming to bed?
What’s his problem!
|Existential Sentence||Definition: Used to express a proposition that someone or something exists.|
There is a lot to do.
Can there be life on other planets?
Has there been anything in the papers about this?
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to make a stand.
Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess.
There is a hole in my pocket.
There are visitors waiting to see you.
|Experiential Sentence||Definition: Involving or based on experience.|
|It is raining.
It is snowing.
I am sad.
|Expletive Sentence||Definition: Uses empty words or phrases to fill out a sentence or a line of verse without adding any sense to the sentence.|