PARTS OF A SENTENCE

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Parts of a sentence
Parts of a sentence

Every sentence in English is a combination of some elements that have their separate roles to play in the sentence. In this post, we will learn the basic elements that we need in order to form a sentence.

Let’s first understand what a sentence in English is.

What is a sentence in English?

A sentence is a group of words that have a particular meaning. It contains two main elements: 

  1. Subject
  2. Predicate

To be called a sentence, it (a group of words) must make sense.

Examples:

  • I sleep.
  • We eat.
  • I have money.
  • We are working.
  • You me.
  • She living is.
  • I you love.

All these examples have a group of words. Notice the last three examples don’t make any sense; they don’t render a meaning. So, having a group of words doesn’t qualify into a sentence. It has to have the necessary elements, that too in the right order.

Let’s correct them and change them into sentences.

  • You trouble me. (Added a necessary element)
  • She is living. (Corrected the order)
  • I love you. (Corrected the order)
Parts of a sentence infographic

Parts of a sentence

A sentence has two major elements:

  1. Subject
  2. Predicate

1. SUBJECT

A subject is something or someone the sentence is about. It is what the sentence focuses on. It is either a person who performs the action or a person or a thing that the sentence gives information about (descriptive information).

Examples:

  • Rahul sings.
  • Jon lives in Canada.
  • Tom is working.
  • I teach English.

In all the above examples, the subject (italicized) is the part (person) performing the action in the sentence. A sentence doesn’t always indicate an action that the subject performs. It also gives information about the subject.

Examples:

  • Rahul is my English teacher. (Telling what the subject is)
  • Jon is talented. (Describing the subject with an adjective).
  • Tom is under pressure. (describing the subject with adjectival phrase)
  • I am your boss. (telling what the subject is)

Types of subjects in English

There are three types of subjects in English:

  1. Simple subject
  2. Compound subject
  3. Complete subject

SIMPLE SUBJECT

A simple subject is a one-word subject. It does not include any modifiers.

  • India is the biggest democratic country in the world.
  • Jacob loves pancakes.
  • The man in the white coat is a doctor.
  • Rahul called me after the meeting.

NOTE: a simple subject does not have to be a single word. It can be a group of words, but it won’t have any modifiers.

  • The Taj Mahal is one of the seven wonders of the world.
  • Justin Bieber is my sister’s favourite singer.

Here, the subject is a proper noun. It does not have any modifiers.

COMPLETE SUBJECT

A complete subject is a combination of a simple subject and the words that modify it.

Examples:

1. Some people just make excuses for their failures.

Simple subject = people
Modifier = some
Complete subject = some people

2. People living in this area are very poor.

Simple subject = people
Modifier = living in this area (present participle phrase)
Complete subject = people living in this area

3. A wise man once said that money is an illusion.

Simple subject = man
Modifiers = a, wise
Complete subject = a wise man

A complete subject is formed using a simple subject and one or more modifiers. Here are the ways to form a complete subject:

  1. Pre-modifier/s + simple subject
  2. Simple subject + modifier/s
  3. Pre-modifier/s + simple subject + post-modifier/s

Pre-modifier + simple subject

  • My friends love me. (Premodifier = my)
  • A school is being built here. (Premodifier = a)

Simple subject + post-modifier

  • People in my village support each other. (post-modifier = in my village)
  • Events of such nature kept happening. (post-modifier = of such nature)

Pre-modifier + simple subject + post-modifier

  • The man looking at us looks strange. (premodifier = the, post-modifier = looking at us)
  • The goal of this gathering is to raise money for some poor kids. (premodifier = the, post-modifier = of this gathering)

COMPOUND SUBJECT

A compound subject is a combination of two or more (generally two) simple subjects or complete subjects. It is joined by a coordinating conjunction, usually with ‘and’, ‘nor’, and ‘or’.

Examples:

  • Jon and Max came to see me the other day.
  • Susan or I can go there and talk to the mangement about this.

A compound subject can also be joined with correlative conjunctions such as ‘not only…but also‘, ‘Both…and‘, and ‘neither…not’.

  • Neither the doctors nor the patients were happy with the ongoing protests.
  • Both the police and the protestors are working together.
  • Not only my parents but I am also in support of this rule.

What can be a subject?

A subject is generally a noun or a noun phrase but can be any of these:

  • Noun
  • Noun phrase
  • Pronoun
  • Noun clause
  • Gerund
  • Infinitive

Noun as a subject

A noun is a name given to something or someone. It’s generally a name of a person, place, thing, animal, emotion, concept, subject, activity, etc.

Examples:

  • Mohit loves chocolates.
  • Dubai is a beautiful city.
  • Love overpowers hate.
  • Honestly is the best policy.

Noun phrase as a subject

A noun phrase is a group of words headed by a noun. It has a noun and a word or words that modify it.

Examples:

  • A man can do anything.
  • A motivated man can achieve anything.
  • Your house looks amazing.
  • A tall girl came to my house yesterday.
  • The man in the blue coat is waving at you.

Click here to study noun phrases in detail.

Pronoun as a subject

  • You are amazing.
  • She is studying right now.
  • Everyone loves Ashish.
  • There are 15 students in the classroom. All are studying.
  • That is my house.

Noun clause as a subject

A subject can be a clause. Here are some examples:

  • What he is eating is pancakes.
  • What he wants is uncertain.
  • Who you are hanging out with is a criminal.
  • How she did this is shocking to us.

Click here to study noun clauses and noun clauses as the subject.

Gerund as a subject

A gerund is a progressive form of a verb that functions as a noun. 

Examples:

  • Dancing is my passion. (We are talking about an action: dancing. This action is not happening right now.
  • Smoking can kill you.
  • Teaching English is my passion.
  • Talking to kids makes me happy.

The last examples of subjects are gerund phrases.

Study these topics in detail by clicking on them:

Infinitive as a subject

An infinitive is the ‘TO + V1’ form of a verb that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb. 

Examples:

  • To go home is what I want right now.
  • To start an NGO is my dream.
  • To bring her back is difficult.

Related lessons to study:

2. PREDICATE

A predicate is a part of the sentence that gives information about the subject. It either indicates what the subject is doing or gives information about the subject in terms of giving it a name (using a noun) or modifying it (using an adjective).

Examples:

  • She slept.
  • She is working.
  • You are a great human being.
  • She is extremely talented.

Types of predicates in English

There are three types of predicates in English:

  1. Simple predicate
  2. Compound predicate
  3. Complete predicate

Simple predicate

A simple predicate is a verb or a verb phrase (a combination of an auxiliary verb and the main verb). It does not include ant objects or modifiers.

Examples:

  • She works.

Here, ‘she’ is the simple subject, and ‘works‘ is the simple predicate.

  • You can go.

In the sentence, ‘can go’ is the simple predicate. It is a combination of the auxiliary verb (can) and the main verb (go). You is the simple subject here.

  • Jon has been sleeping.

Here, ‘Jon’ is the simple subject, and ‘has been sleeping‘ is the simple predicate.

  • My mother is cooking my favorite dish.

In this sentence, the simple predicate is ‘is cooking’. The complete predicate is ‘is cooking my favorite dish’. The complete predicate is a combination of a simple predicate and the object of the verb.

  • She called me right after the meeting ended.

Called’ is the simple predicate here. It is the main verb. Notice that the verb called has its object and modifier after it, but a simple predicate does not include anything other than a verb (main verb) and a verb phrase (auxiliary verb + main verb).

More examples of simple predicates

  • She cries.
  • It works.
  • He finished the work.
  • You have done this beautifully.
  • Some of you may get a call in the evening.
  • Some people never learn from their mistakes.

Compound predicate

A compound predicate is a combination of two verbs or verb phrases. The verbs of a compound predicate share the same subject. The verbs are joined with coordinating conjunctions such as ‘and‘, ‘or‘, or ‘but‘. Forming a compound predicate is a way to avoid repeating the subject.

Study the following example to see how a predicate fits into a sentence.

Rahul calls me every day. He tells me everything.

These are two sentences where the doer of both the actions is the same: Rahul. Calls and tells. These are two simple predicates. When a subject performs two or more actions, we can bring them together and avoid mentioning the subject again in a new clause.

Rahul calls me every day and tells me everything.

Now, we have brought these two predicates using the coordinating conjunction ‘and’.

More examples:

  • They will hire you or let you go.
  • The company has changed their policy and opened 5 new posts.
  • I wanted to help you but didn’t have money.
  • Joanna fell off the roof and broke her foot.
  • Some of my friends moved to Dubai and bought houses there.
  • I will call your parents and tell them everything you did.
  • The movie was long but had an amazing storyline.
Compound predicate vs Compound sentence
Compound predicate vs Compound sentence

Complete predicate

A complete predicate is a combination of a simple predicate (verb) and the others parts of the sentence: objects, complements, and modifiers.

Examples:

  • Jon Jones finished his career at the top.

Simple predicate = finished
Complete predicate = finished his career at the top

  • You owe me 500 dollars.

Simple predicate = owe
Complete predicate = owe me 500 dollars

  • You have been working hard lately.

Simple predicate = have been working
Complete predicate = have been working hard lately

I should have listened to my father that day.

Simple predicate = should have listened
Complete predicate = should have listened to my father that day

  • They are sleeping.

‘Are sleeping’ is the simple predicate here. It does not have a complete sentence.

NOTE: a complete predicate must have more than a verb. It must include objects, complements, or modifiers. A verb or a verb phrase can’t be a complete predicate.

Parts of a predicate

Here are the basic things we have in a predicate:

  • Verb or verb phrase
  • Object (direct and indirect)
  • Subject complement
  • Object complement

NOTE: A sentence can be formed using a subject and a verb or verb phrase, at minimum. 

Examples:

  • Ron dances.
  • She sings.
  • We are working.

But sometimes, with the other information we want to render, that’s not enough.

  • We are having dinner.
  • Your sister wants some money.
  • She has finished the assignment.

But it’s important to note that we need only two things to form a subject: a subject and a verb.

Verb and verb phrase

A verb in English either indicates the action the subject performs, or shows the state of the subject, or links the subject to its complement.

Examples (action):

  1. My parents help everyone.
  2. Ashish teaches amazingly.
  3. I am reading a book. 

Examples (stative):

  • We love this concept. 
  • I understand you.
  • Jon appreciates your work.

A stative verb shows the state of the subject. Click here to study stative verbs and their types in detail.

Examples (linking):

  • Ashish is a teacher. (Ashish = a teacher)
  • Jon was a writer.
  • You are great.
  • These boys are notorious.

Linking verbs link the subject to a word or a group of words (subject complement) that gives information about the subject. Click here to study subject complement in detail.

Verb phrase

All these verbs (action, stative, and linking) are main verbs. Sometimes, main verbs are combined with an auxiliary verb to show the tense and the number of the subject.

Examples:

  • They are playing there.

Verb phrase = are playing
Main verb = playing
Auxiliary verb = are

  • Some students were dancing in the corridor.

Verb phrase = were dancing
Main verb = dancing
Auxiliary verb = were

  • I have been sitting here.

Verb phrase = have been sitting
Main verb = sitting
Auxiliary verb = have been

  • I have done it.

Verb phrase = have done
Main verb = done
Auxiliary verb = have

  • You can do this.

Verb phrase = can do
Main verb = do
Auxiliary verb = can

Verbs phrases and tenses

TENSESVERB PHRASES EXAMPLES
Present Indefinite tense
Do + V1
Does + V1
(only in negative and interrogative sentences)

I do not like cheese.
Do you have my number?
Does she know you?

Also used in an emphatic way: I do want to work with you.
Present Continuous tenseIs/am/are + present participle (V1+ing)
Jon is sleeping.
Present Perfect tenseHas/have + past participle (V3)
I have completed the project.
Max has left the company.
Present Perfect Continuous tenseHas/have + been + present participle (V1+ing)
I have been teaching English since 2014.
Sneha has been waiting for some time.
Past Indefinite tenseDid + V1
(only in negative and interrogative sentences)
Did you see her last night?
I did see you her night. (emphatic)
Past Continuous tensewas/were + present participle (V1+ing)
I was sleeping.
We were studying.
Past Perfect tensehad + past participle (V3)
I had left his place when you called.
Past Perfect Continuous tenseHad + been + present participle (V1+ing)
We had been playing video games before the light went out.
Future Indefinite tenseWill/shall + V1
I will call you soon.
We shall do it.
Future Continuous tenseWill/shall + present participle (V1+ing)
We will be studying.
Future Perfect tensewill have + past participle (V3)
He will have left before us reaching.
Future Perfect Continuous tensewill have been + present participle (V1+ing)He will have been sleeping.
Tenses and verb phrases

Object

An object is a noun or a pronoun that receives the action. It is something or someone that the action is acted upon. It sometimes is needed to complete the meaning of the verb. Only transitive verbs take an object. Intransitive verbs can’t do that.

NOTE: an object is not always necessary to have a grammatical sentence. But with certain verbs, it’s vital to use the object of the verb to make the sentence grammatical and complete.

Examples:

  • I have a lot of money.

Have what? The sentence doesn’t give a clear meaning without the object. Here, the object (a lot of money) is needed to complete the sentence.

  • Do you want my help?

Want what? The sentence again looks incomplete with the object (my help).

But an object is not always needed for the grammatical sanctity of the sentence. Intransitive verbs don’t take an object. Here are some examples:

  • Jon slept late.
  • Keep smiling.
  • You can sit on my seat.
  • I was shivering whem you called.

Can you sleep someone or something? No, right? You can sleep with someone or something but someone/something can’t receive this action directly. Similarly, smile, sit, and shiver are intransitive verbs. You can’t smile, sit and shiver someone or something.

Sometimes, you can avoid using a direct object after a transitive verb either. The sentence remains grammatical without it. Here are some examples to study:

  • I am studying right now. Call me later.

You study something (direct object). But here, the object has not been mentioned as it’s not important or the speaker does not want to share it.

  • I don’t feel like eating right now.

Eat is a transitive verb; you can eat something. But here, the object of the verb hasn’t been used, and the sentence is still grammatical without it.

Notice, the sentences make sense without the objects (italicized). But adding the object does make the sentence better. But it’s important to note that with some verbs, objects need to be used always.

A few verbs: want, love, need, have, hate, desire, admire, make

Types of objects

There are two types of objects in English:

  • Direct object
  • Indirect object

A direct object is someone or something that directly receives the action. It answers the question ‘what’ or ‘whom’.

An indirect object receives the direct object. It is generally a person whom the action is done for. It answers the question ‘for whom’ or ‘to whom’.

Examples:

  • I love you

Direct object (love ‘whom’)= you

  • Max plays the piano.

Direct object (play ‘what’) = the piano

  • My mother gave me a phone.

Direct object (gave what) = a phone
Indirect object (who received it) = me

  • Jon gifted us a dog.

Direct object (gifted what) = a dog
Indirect object (who received it) = us

Notice, in the last two examples, the indirect object receives the direct object.

Some verbs always take both direct and indirect objects, and that’s why they become a part of a sentence. Here are a few of them:

  • Gift
  • Give
  • Pass
  • Lend
  • Get

Related posts:

Subject complement

A subject complement is a word or a group of words that comes after a linking verb and gives information about the subject. It either renames the subject (using a noun) or modifies it (using an adjective).

Examples:

  • Tarang is a businessman.

Linking verb = is
Subject complement = a business (noun phrase, renaming the subject)

  • My father is an accountant.

Linking verb = is
Subject complement = an accountant (noun phrase, renaming the subject)

  • Aakriti was the head of my team.

Linking verb = was
Subject complement = the head of my team (noun phrase, renaming the subject)

  • You have been my backbone.

Linking verb = has been
Subject complement = my backbone(noun phrase, renaming the subject)

  • You are amazing.

Linking verb = amazing
Subject complement = amazing (adjective, modifying the subject)

  • His journey has been very difficult.

Linking verb = has been
Subject complement = very difficult (adjective phrase, modifying the subject)

  • I am happy.

Linking verb = am
Subject complement = happy (adjective, modifying the subject)

A prepositional phrase can also act as a subject complement, modifying the subject.

Examples:

  • We are under pressure.
  • She is in heavy debts.
  • Max is in London.

NOTE: subject complements are absolutely necessary to complete a sentence and make it grammatical. Without them, sentences are incomplete and ungrammatical.

Related posts:

Object complement

An object complement is something that complements the direct object: indicates that the object has become. It either renames the object (using a noun) or modifies it (using an adjective).

Examples:

  • My friends call me a genius.

Direct object = me
Object complement = a genius (noun phrase)

Removing the object complement changes the meaning of the sentence. Here, the verb ‘call’ doesn’t mean to ring. It’s used differently. They call me what? We need to know that. 

  • My company made him the branch manager.

Direct object = him
Object complement = the branch manager (noun phrase)

Ask again: the company made him what? The sentence looks incomplete without the object complement.

  • You made Ashish upset

Direct object = Ashish
Object complement = upset (adjective)

Here, the object complement indicates what Ashish has become: upset. It refers to the change in his state of being.

NOTE: there are only certain verbs (with a certain meaning) that will take an object complement. Only with these verbs do we need an object complement. Else, it’s not an essential part of a sentence.

Verbs that take a direct object and an object complement: 

  • Make
  • Call
  • Name
  • Consider
  • Elected

Important points to note

A) A sentence can be formed only with a subject and a verb.

There are two things we need in order to form a sentence, that is a subject and a verb.

Examples:

  • We work.
  • Jon cries.
  • I am typing.

Note that it’s not always possible to form a sentence with these two elements. Sometimes, you need other parts like objects, subject complements, and object complements too. The selection of the elements you need to form a sentence is decided by the information you want to render.

B) A linking verb takes a subject complement.

If a sentence has a linking verb (main verb), it has to follow a subject complement. The sentence would be incomplete without a subject complement if the main verb is a linking verb.

Examples:

  • My father is a doctor.

Here, my father is a subject complement. The sentence without it (My father is) incomplete. So, it’s not that you can always form a sentence with a subject and a verb. The type of the verb and what you want to say decide the elements that need to be there in a sentence (essential elements).

More examples:

  • You will be very successful someday.
  • We are grateful to you.
  • They were great dancers.

C) Some verbs must have an object to complete the meaning of the sentence.

  • I have.
  • We need.
  • My brother owns.

Do these sentences make complete sense? These are incomplete without the direct object. Let’s complete them adding an object of the verb.

  • I have his number.
  • We need some food.
  • My brother owns this house.

Now you know what a sentence is and what essential parts it has. Do share the lesson with others to help, and do share your questions and doubts in the comment section.

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