The Sentence

This page was first published on the 16th of November, 2016 and last updated on the 5th of May, 2017 by Patrick Carpen.

sentences photoThe sentence is a group of words which express a complete thought. The sentence is made up of the following units:

  1. Words
  2. Phrases
  3. Clauses

Words. We all know what a word is. Words are made of letters. A word expresses a single idea. This sentence has five words. The study of words and their meanings is called vocabulary. If you have a huge vocabulary, it means you know the meaning of lots of words and you therefore will possess a strong command of the English language. To build your vocabulary, use these exercises.

Phrases. A phrase is a group of words that fall short of  being a complete sentence. A phrase may contain a verb but not a subject, or a subject but not a verb. Therefore, a phrase does not express a complete thought.

Clauses. A clause is a group of words which contain both a subject and a verb. Some clauses express a complete thought. Some clauses may be modified to make a sentence. They are called principal clauses. Other clauses do not form a complete idea. They depend on the principal clause to complete their meanings. Theses are called subordinate clauses. To learn more about phrases and clauses, click here.

Punctuation of Sentences. Punctuation marks make a sentence more understandable, and they include the full stop, the comma, the question mark, quotation marks, the exclamation marks and a few others. Punctuation marks are like traffic signs: they tell you where to stop, where to slow down, where to accelerate and also where you are.

For example, the comma signals a brief pause, the full stop signals the end of one sentence, and a capital letter signals the start of a new sentence.

Every sentence has a subject and a predicate. The subject of a sentence is what is being spoken about, and the predicate of a sentence is what is said about the subject.

For example, in the sentence: The dog barks. dog is the subject and barks is the predicate. This is an example of a simple sentence.

Sentences are classified in two ways in the English language:

  1. By purpose
  2. By structure

When classified by purpose, there are four types of sentences:

The Assertive Sentence

The Imperative Sentence

The Interrogatory Sentence

The Exclamatory Sentence

To learn more about sentence types by purpose, click here.

When classified by structure, there are also four types of sentences. They are:

  1. The simple sentence
  2. The complex sentence
  3. The compound sentence
  4. The compound-complex sentence

To learn more about sentence types of structure, click here.

Each sentence needs a subject, that is, it needs something to talk about. What you talk about in a sentence is called its subject. Every sentence also needs a verb. The verb gives life to the sentence. Without a verb, a sentence cannot function. Try making a sentence without a verb.

A verb is part of the predicate of the sentence. To learn more about subjects and predicates of sentences, click here.

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