Oct 22, 2013

Who Knew Sentences Could Be So Complicated

by Terri Wagner

It’s grammar time! So here goes. Basic sentence structure gets creamed in today’s writing. And if you follow the rules as we all understand them, you will end up with very simple sentences,

So what’s that basic structure: A noun and a verb. Or as they say, subject and predicate. That is news to me, how about you?

I guess they use subject instead of noun because a pronoun can also be a subject but is closely related to a noun. Ok my head is aching already. Can anything else be a subject? Why yes…you can have invisible subjects. For example, Call the plumber, please. The implied, invisible subject is tada “you.” And we are just on the subject of a sentence. Yikes.

The predicate (or verb) expresses the subject’s or state of being. It can be action as in “He ran away,” or state of being as in “You are here.” Got that? Good, let’s move on.

Subjects can be modified by adjectives, be plural with the “and,” or as we have already discussed invisible. They can be clauses that “contain” the subject. And they can be independent clauses joined by a conjunctive words. I’m already confused how about you?

Predicates can be modified by other verbs but not by adjectives. Yes, there can be plural verbs, and they can also be contained in a clause. They do not have to follow the subject thus rendering them oddly placed in a sentence. Got that?

Finally, there is the truest way to figure out sentence composition…the diagram. It’s something they are coming back to doing in school these days. I took English 101 in college like every good Freshman does. My final was to diagram the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. I aced it. Couldn’t fathom how to do it today. For kicks, here’s a place you can find the Preamble Diagram

A simple sentence composition is an art with some scientific rules thrown in for good measure. I suspect we can use a brush up on something we may think we know very well.

Good luck. I may stick with “He ran. It was a sight to see.” At least I would know I was grammatically correct!!!


  1. Oh Terri, I love your sense of humor. I've been doing a great deal of editing lately and after awhile I start going around in circles and having to pull out my copy of Strunck and White and verify that what I am doing is correct...or not. Thanks for the laugh. hugs~

  2. I'm getting a headache just thinking about learning all this if English were my second language instead of first! Can you imagine? I'm having a hard enough time learning Spanish without all this craziness! So glad English is my FIRST language rather than second. Thanks Terri!


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