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Constructing Sentences: Sentence parts

Constructing sentences

In English writing, sentences can vary in length. Whether they are short or long, all sentences have a subject and a verb.  This guide gives you an overview on basic sentence components, sentence types, connectors, punctuation, and common sentence errors. 

Understanding the basics of how to construct a sentence will help you become a better editor and guide you in constructing clear sentences. Also, it will help you avoid writing run-on sentences and sentence fragments.

Click each tab to learn more about how to construct sentences and try the exercises in each section! If you have a question about any of the exercises, come see an English Language Tutor.

Sentence parts

What is a subject?

A subject can be a noun, a pronoun, or an activity.  
 

*Some common pronouns are:
I you (s)he we they
this these that those it
anybody/one everybody/everyone nobody/no one somebody/someone one another
anything everything something nothing each other

Exercise 1: Can you identify the type of subject in each sentence? 

  1. The wind blew. 
  2. New students arrived. 
  3. We will go. 
  4. It rained. 
  5. Shopping with friends is fun. 
 
Exercise 1 Answers:
 
  1. The wind blew. -  noun
  2. New students arrived. - noun
  3. We will go. - pronoun
  4. It rained. - pronoun
  5. Shopping with friends is fun. -  activity

Exercise 2: Find the subject in each sentence and write whether it’s a noun or a pronoun.

  1. Bulldogs bark.
  2. Something fluttered.
  3. He dreams.
  4. My friend sneezed.
  5. I screamed!
  6. A new ship can sink.
  7. She swims.
  8. The good news spread.
  9. You whispered.
  10. These will change. 

Exercise 2 Answers:

  1. Bulldogs bark. - noun
  2. Something fluttered. - pronoun
  3. He dreams. - pronoun
  4. My friend sneezed. - noun
  5. I screamed! - pronoun
  6. A new ship can sink. - noun
  7. She swims. - pronoun
  8. The good news spread. - noun
  9. You whispered. - pronoun
  10. These will change. - pronoun

Exercise 3: Find the subjects in the sentences and write whether they are nouns, pronouns, or activities.

  1. She wished.
  2. Education is very important.
  3. Working out is helpful.
  4. The bagels were hard.
  5. Everyone ran.
  6. The pelicans flew away.
  7. Giving a presentation isn't easy.
  8. A bus driver greets.
  9. More laundry piled up.
  10. No one moved.

Exercise 3 Answers:

  1.  She wished. - pronoun
  2. Education is very important. - noun
  3. Working out is helpful. - activity
  4. The bagels were hard. - noun
  5. Everyone ran. - pronoun
  6. The pelicans flew away. - noun
  7. Giving a presentation isn’t easy. - activity
  8. A bus driver greets passengers. - noun
  9. More laundry piled up. - noun
  10. No one moved. - pronoun

What is a verb?

 

Verbs are commonly known as action words. A verb usually is an action (i.e. run, drive, study, etc.), but a verb can also identify a state of being (i.e. is, are, am, become, appear, etc.).

 

Action verbs:

Words that identify the action that the subject carried out.

 

Examples:

  1. Anne leaped into the air.
  2. Most athletes run fast.
  3. Charles grabbed the bread.

A good way to identify the verb in a sentence is to ask “what” after the subject.  In the first example above, if we know “Anne” is the subject, we can ask “Anne what?” and the answer is the verb “leaped”.

 

State of being verbs:

Verbs are not always actions.  Often, they are a state of being, a feeling, or what something is. They describe “a state” so they are also called “stative” verbs.

 

Some stative verbs: 

be (am/are/is/was/were) become appear
look feel seem
smell sound taste

Examples:

  • Tony was unhappy.
  • The pizza smelled good.
  • My friend seems angry.
  • Tom felt tired.

 

Many of these verbs can be both action verbs and stative verbs depending on how they are used.  Let's consider the word "taste":

 

  • Taste” is a stative verb when it describes how something tastes.
    • Example: “The soup tastes delicious”
    • --> This verb expresses the nature of the soup. The soup is not doing the action of tasting.
  • "Taste” is an action verb when it describes what someone does.
    • Example: “Bob tasted the soup”
    • --> This is an action of tasting that Bob performs. 


Exercise 1: Find the action verbs in the sentences.

  1. She often dances.
  2. Paul studies.
  3. The nurse phoned.
  4. I will write.
  5. George blew your nose.
  6. The manager frowned.
  7. You can sit.
  8. My younger sister draws.
  9. Sarah ate.
  10. The kitten hid.

Exercise 1 Answers:

  1.  She often dances.
  2. Paul studies.
  3. The nurse phoned.
  4. I will write.
  5. George blew his nose.
  6. The manager frowned.
  7. You can sit.
  8. My younger sister draws.
  9. Sarah ate.
  10. The kitten hid.

Exercise 2: Determine whether the verbs in the sentences are action verbs or "state of being verbs". 

  1. The food seemed cold.
  2. The boy laughed.
  3. The old building smells musty.
  4. The dog smelled the bone. 
  5. The bus stopped.
  6. The kids looked bored.
  7. The kids looked at the comic book. 
  8. Frank was hungry.
  9. I remember you.
  10. The students listened carefully.
  11. Naomi felt terrible.
  12. Naomi felt the fabric of the dress.

Exercise 2 Answers:

  1. The food seemed cold. - state of being
  2. The boy laughed. - action
  3. The old building smells musty. - state of being
  4. The dog smelled the bone. - action
  5. The bus stopped. - action 
  6. The kids looked bored. - state of being 
  7. The kids looked at the comic book. - action
  8. Frank was hungry. - state of being
  9. I remember you. - state of being
  10. The students listened carefully. - action 
  11. Naomi felt terrible. - state of being
  12. Naomi felt the fabric of the dress. - action

What is an object?

 

The object is the person or thing affected by the action. Some simple sentences do not have objects (for example, “John relaxed”), so they only have subjects and verbs , but many some simple sentences have subjects, verbs, and objects.

 

Examples:

Subject Verb Object 
The mail deliverer delivers mail.
Tom passed the ball.
We cooked dinner. 

 

Note: This section just covers direct objects. There are also indirect objects and prepositional objects. Check out the link on objects in the resources box to the right for more information.

 

Exercise: Complete the sentences by adding objects.

Example: Can you pass the salt?

 

1. His accident ruined _________.

2. The children found __________.

3. Laura enjoys ____________.

4. They studied _____________.

5. The travelers forgot ____________.

6. The music students played _____________.

7. The federal government mailed out _____________.

8. Modern technology affects _____________.

9. The professor emphasized _____________.

10. The manager saw __________.


Possible answers:

1. His accident ruined his sports career.

2. The children found the Easter eggs.

3. Laura enjoys watching movies.

4. They studied philosophy.

5. The travellers forgot their passports.

6. The music students played string instruments.

7. The federal government mailed out a census form.

8. Modern technology affects the job market.

9. The professor emphasized the deadline of the paper.

10. The manager saw the accident.

 

What is an indirect object?

An indirect object is the recipient of the direct object.

Its function is to tell the reader to whom or for whom something is done.

example:

John handed Monika the bottle.

Here's another way to write this sentence:

John handed the bottle to Monika.

The Bottle is the direct object of the verb handed because it is the object that was handed.

Is there a recipient for the direct object the bottle? Yes, Monika.

Thus, Monika is the indirect object of the verb "handed."

 

As in the examples above, the indirect object usually can be written as part of a prepositional phrase that begins with to or for.

example:

Joe passed the note to us

The note is the direct object of the verb passed.

who is the recipient for the object the bear? us.

 

A simple 3 step process to find the indirect object.

Example sentence:

The author gave his character a mustache.

1 what is the verb?

gave

2 what receives the action of the verb?

gave what? A mustache.

3 who/what received this object?

Who or what received a mustache? The author’s character.

 

Exercise: Find the indirect objects.

Example:  She gave me a present.

  1. Monika couldn't reach her purse, Joe passed it to her.
  2. Joe send a blueprint for Isaac to build.  
  3. It may not be john's birthday, but Joe got John a birthday present anyway.
  4. Monika save me the trouble of rebooting my computer
  5. John couldn't sleep at night, so Joe read John a bed time story

 

Answers: 

  1. to her (part of the prepositional phrase)
  2. for Isaac (part of the prepositional phrase)
  3. John
  4. me
  5. john

Credits

Created under the direction of Learning Centre faculty at Douglas College, British Columbia.

 

Content Developers & Editors

  • ‚ÄčMegumi Taguchi
  • Cecil Klassen
  • Julia Robinson
  • Janice Penner
  • Joy Kim
  • Joyce Cameron