Friday, December 12, 2008

Sentence structure

Written for Helium, I thought this may help someone here as well. It never hurts to take a look at your sentences to see if you are at least attempting to follow the rules of grammar.

Sentence structure is a dying art form. The only ones who understand parts of a sentence are grade school children, but since writing is so important in today’s world, it would benefit others to learn again the strengths of writing a decent sentence. Here is a brief and dirty overview of the basic parts of speech.

Sentences start off with a noun and a verb. These two words can make up an entire sentence, though it is not an easy feat. However, you will most likely need and article to make something comprehensible.

The boy ran.

The: This is an article and always precedes a noun or pronoun. Articles included “a” and “an”. Pronouns are words such as she, he, it, their, theirs, and so on.

Boy: This is the noun. Nouns can be a person, place, thing, or idea. It is the “actor” of the sentence. Nouns can also be listed separated by a comma and linked with “and” such as “the boy, girl, and dog”.

Ran: This is the verb. It is a word that describes any type of action.

The boy is young.

Is: This is a linking verb. It is a form of the verb “to be” and so indicates a state of being.

Young: This is an adjective. It describes the noun. It can describe the noun from the linking form or it can precede a noun such as “young boy”. Adjectives can also be strung together in the form “smart, young boy.”

The boy ran quickly.

Quickly: This is an adverb. It describes the verb and enhances the understanding of the action. It can both precede and follow a verb, such as “quickly ran.” Adverbs often end in “-ly”, but there are a few exceptions to that rule such as “very”.

The boy ran to the store.

To the store: This is a prepositional phase. These phrases start with various words such as “to”, “after”, “before”, “about”, “for”, “from”, and many others. They can be adjective or adverb phrases. “The boy under the table cowered in fright,” is an example of both types of prepositional phrases.

The boy ran home.

Home: Although a noun, this word is the object of the verb. Where did the boy run? Home. It usually answers the question of the verb. What did they want? Glasses. Indirect objects such as “The boy gave the glasses to her” are the receivers of the object – in this case “her”.

These are the basic part of a sentence, but this is by no means an exhaustive guide. There are many various places on the internet that offer advice on grammar, parts of speech, and sentence structure. There are also structures that a sentence can use in addition to the simple sentences described above. For instance, the compound sentence, linked by a linking verb such as “and”, “but”, and “or”.

The boy ran to the store, and he bought a gallon of milk.

This links two simple sentences and is used to vary the lengths of sentences in a piece. Too many simple sentences are choppy and hard to read. However, overly complex sentence can confuse a reader. This is a complex sentence:

Since he bought the gallon of milk, he ran home.

The first part of the sentence before the comma is known as a complementary phrase and is used to enhance and describe the simple sentence. Note that is it is a fragment and cannot stand on its own. Now to make things even more interesting, here is a complex-compound sentence:

Since he bought the milk, he ran home, and he gave it to his mother.

Two simple sentences are linked together by “and” and preceded by a complementary phrase. Complementary phrases can also come at the end of the sentence or in the middle.

The boy ran home, and he gave his mother the gallon of milk since he bought it at the store.

The boy ran home, since he bought the gallon of milk, and he gave it to his mother.

The structure of sentences is fascinating and provides for multiple permutations that make writing unique. This guide provides a quick overview for you to grasp the basic concepts, but all writers should delve into this field. As you can see, it helps to make a sentence more interesting and that makes your writing more interesting as well.

Suggested link: Diagramming Sentences

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