Sentence and Its Structure

A Course on Fundamental English

1.1 A sentence is an arrangement of words that makes complete sense. It must be    meaningful. It must, at the same time, be acceptable to the speakers of the language.
1. Mary is singing a song.
2. The room is clean.
3. Stop!
4. Come in, please. 
5. A table is made of wood.
6. What has brought you here?

Each of these sentences tells us something about a subject which may be a person, place or thing. And each of these make complete sense in it self. Look at the first example.
  Mary is singing a song.
It is about Mary. Mary is the subject here. And it tells us something about her. She is singing. The meaning is complete. Similarly, other sentences have a subject and tell us something about the subject. Examples 3 and 4 also have a subject though it is not expressed. It is only understood.
(You) stop!
(You) come in, please.

!.2 Arrangement of words. The words in a sentence are arranged in a certain way. English has its own way of arranging words in a sentence. Look at the example below:
*Clean room the is.
These are all English words but they have not been put together correctly. We cannot call this example an English sentence. The correct order is:
The room is clean.

1.3 Acceptability. Correctness in grammar is not enough. A sentence must also look sensible and be acceptable to the speakers of the language.
Look at these sentences:
John killed a stone.
I was born 400 years ago.
Each word in these sentences has a meaning by itself but together they do not make sense.

Which of the following is acceptable as sentence in English?

1.      The chicken enjoyed him very much.
2.      John killed the bird with a stone.
3.      The house ran to reach him in time.
4.      The tree walked on to the road.
5.      My brother ate the moon.
6.      I was born forty years ago.


2.1 Every sentence has two parts, a Subject and a Predicate.

Look at the sentences in this table.

The children
played in the garden.
Children of this block
are playing a match in the school ground today.

The subject refers to a person, place or thing about which something is said in the sentence. It may consist of one word or more.

The predicate says something about the subject. it may consist just a verb or a verb plus other elements. The normal word-order in English is Subject+Predicate. And since there can be no sentence without a verb , the smallest English sentence must have the structure,

2.2 Look at these examples:

Get out of the room!
The subject (You) is understood here, so that,
Listen! = (You) listen!
Get out of the room! = (you) get out of the room!
Thank you= (I) thank you.
This is true of all sentences of this type.

2.3 Inversion. The normal word order is sometimes changed for special effect. Examples may be found both in literature and in common speech.
Red as a rose is she. (Normal word-order: She is red as a rose.)
Fish, I like very much. (Normal word-order: I like fish very much.)

Divide each of the following sentences into a subject and a predicate:

1.      Alice danced very well.
2.      Children swim in the swimming-pool.
3.      Men and women are working in the fields.
4.      All of us have seen this picture.
5.      Boys from next block broke the street lamp.
6.      Come in, please.
7.      Save me!
8.      Don’t disturb the class.


Sentences are of four kinds.

3.1 Statement. Statements are sentences that give facts or describe events or things. They may be affirmative or negative.
Clouds bring us rain.
Ours is a beautiful country.
A tiger doesn’t eat grass.
I am not playing now.

3.2 Interrogative. (Questions)
Did the principal visit the classroom?
What is your name?

3.3 Imperative (requests, commands, suggestions etc.)
Order the dinner.
Get ready to fire.
Let us go out for a picnic.

3.4 Exclamatory (to express surprise, anger, regret, joy, etc.)
What a surprise!
How stupid of you to say that!
Oh! How tragic!
Lucky man!


4.1 Simple sentence. A simple sentence contains only one predicate. That means it can have only one verb.
They danced with joy.
Will you write it down?
All the members of the team played well.
George stayed at home.
4.2 Compound sentence. When two or more simple sentences are joined together by a connecting word (like and, but, or etc.)we get a compound sentence . Look at these sentences.
Sam went out for a walk.
George stayed at home.
We can join them thus-
Sam went out for a walk but George stayed at home.
They reached the port and took a ship to Dundee.
You must return the book or pay its price.
Live to learn and you will learn to live.

4.3 Complex.  Look at this sentence:
Karim saw that the light was good.
It consists of two parts: (i) Karim saw
                                            (ii) that the light was good.
The first part is independent but the second part depends on the first for its meaning. The independent part is called the main clause; the dependent part is called the subordinate clause.
A complex sentence has only one main clause but may have more than one subordinate clause.

I know that you will succeed because you are hard-working.
There is nothing that this book can tell me which I do not already know.

You will notice that the main clause and the subordinate clause are joined together by connecting words like that, which, because, etc.

Which of the following is Simple, Compound and Complex sentence?
1.      Man is social animal.
2.      God helps those who help themselves.
3.      He told me that He was going abroad for a holiday.
4.      How did you enter the room if the door was locked?
5.      He told them that they could all get into the bus if they formed a queue.
6.      Reach the cinema hall in time or you will miss the newsreel.
7.      All the passengers on the boat jumped into the water.
8.      I was born in Kenya but have spent most of my childhood here.
9.      I have been learning English for the last two years and now I am studying Russian also.
          10. We can climb to the top of the mountain tomorrow.

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