October 1, 2014

The Sentence

Throughout this website, you will find opportunities to explore the details and building blocks of English grammar and spelling. From the tiny preposition to the unwieldy dependent clause, each component has its moment in the spotlight and its use in the language is clarified.

What  we may not have made clear but is certainly implied is that each of these elements of grammar exists (and is defined) based on its use in the sentence.

If you want to get all Grammar 101 about it, the sentence is “a grammatically independent unit of expression, made up of two essential parts called subject and predicate.”

Bored yet?

Sorry, but you will need to buck up and cope.

At some point, we all have to get this, if only to pass a class and leave it in the dust. (A brief aside: The dust comment was for effect. If you think it is possible to ignore the rules of writing and still reach your full potential, you, as my father would say, “have another think coming.” The sentence is at the core of thinking. It is the central player in the drama that is writing. Period.

Ok. Let’s dig in:

As mentioned, there are two parts of the sentence: the subject and the predicate.

You can read about subjects here.

The predicate:

The complete predicate is the part of the sentence that addresses the actual doing or being of the subject. The reason we don’t just call it a verb or a predicate is because the complete predicate is the verb plus all of the stuff that supports or modifies the verb. So we need to delineate between the two.

The simple predicate: The central word in the complete predicate that speaks to what the subject does or is. The words that are needed to complete the meaning of the verb are called complements.

Let start small. A simple subject and a simple verb:

  • Penelope jumped.

Penelope is the subject
Jumped is the simple predicate (AKA the verb)

Now stretch a little:

  • Penelope the rabbit ran around the room

Penelope the rabbit is the complete subject. (The simple subject “Penelope” is bold)
ran around the room is the complete predicate. (The simple predicate “ran” is bold)

Ready to stretch a bit?

  • The country’s foreign minister hinted at retaliation for the steps taken to punish Syria.

The country’s foreign minister is the complete subject.
hinted
at retaliation for the steps taken to punish Syria
is the complete predicate.

One last thing.

Of course all verbs are not action verbs. Some speak to a state of being rather than what the subject is doing. You can read all about them in the section on linking verbs.

When the subject is being rather than doing then the complement is typically an adjective or noun.

  • Barack Obama is president.
  • The birds are loud.
  • Your dad sounds angry.

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