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Before you can start and write a good paper, letter, job application, or business report, you need to be able to write a correct and interesting sentence. In this lesson, you will learn the parts of a sentence and how to organize sentences effectively.

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A builder will tell you that solid, quality materials make a better building. As writers, we need quality materials for good writing. While a baker needs flour and sugar, and a builder needs wood and nails, a writer needs sentences.

If you want to be a better writer, the first step is to learn how to start and write an excellent sentence.

The Ingredients of a Sentence

A sentence has four basic parts:1. Capitalization: A sentence begins with a capital letter.

2. Punctuation: A sentence ends with one of three punctuation marks – a period ( . ), a question mark (?), or an exclamation point (!).3. Subject: The subject is a word that tells who or what the sentence is about.4.

Verb: The verb is a word that tells the action of condition of the subject.Capitalization and punctuation are fairly simple to understand (although people often ignore them in casual writing and texting). Therefore, we will only examine the subject and verb more closely.

The Subject

The subject of the sentence is usually a noun, which is a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea, or a pronoun which replaces a noun.

Here are some examples of subjects:

  • Nouns: Mom, Lucas, teacher, cat
  • Pronouns: I, you, he, she, it, we, they

The Verb

The verb can be an action verb, which is a word that shows action, or it can also be a linking verb, which connects the subject with a word that describes or renames it.Here are some examples of verbs:

  • Action verbs: eat, sleep, run, swim
  • Linking verbs: be, seem, appear, become

Starting Your Sentence

Choose a Subject and Verb

Now that we know the four basic sentence ingredients, we can build a sentence. First, let’s choose a subject and a verb. Howe about cat for the subject. Now think about something the cat might do. Let’s use the action verb hide.Once we choose a verb, we also need to choose a tense.

The tense tells when the action happens, in the past, in the present, or in the future. For example, yesterday the cat hid, today the cat hides, and tomorrow the cat will hide.Finally, the verb must ‘agree’ with the subject in number. This means that the words make sense whether you have a single subject or multiple. One cat hides, but two cats hide.Our sentence has one cat and is past tense, so our verb is hid.

Choose Additional Words

So far, our sentence has two words: ”cat” and ”hid.” You don’t often see a two-word sentence, and it isn’t very interesting. To add information, there are a few options.

  • Modifiers are words that describe.
  • Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns.
  • Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

    The words a, an, and the are modifiers called ‘articles’.

Let’s add these modifiers to our sentence: the, yellow, yesterday.Objects are words that receive the action of the action verb.

We can ask what the cat hid. Maybe it was keys. We can add a modifier to make it my keys.

Complements

When the verb is a linking verb, there needs to be a subject complement. A complement is a word that comes after a linking verb. It is either an adjective that describes the subject, or it is a noun that renames the subject.

To practice using complements, we will make a second sentence. We will keep the subject cat, and add a linking verb was. Now we can choose a complement. We will use the adjective sneaky.

Normal Word Order

Let’s note one more point before assembling our sentence. In English, most sentences follow what’s called ‘normal word order’.

Normal word order is:subject + action verb + objectorsubject + linking verb + complementEach modifier should be placed close to the word it modifies in order to avoid confusion.

Put It All Together

Sentence One:

  • Subject: cat
  • Action verb: hid
  • Modifiers: the, yellow, yesterday, my
  • Object: keys

The yellow cat hid my keys yesterday.

sentence one

Sentence Two:

  • Subject: cat
  • Linking verb: was
  • Modifier: the
  • Complement: sneaky

The cat was sneaky.

sentence two

We have two complete sentences! Notice both sentences begin with a capital letter and end with a period.

There are other rules to writing sentences, but these basics will have to do until you read other lessons!

Lesson Summary

A sentence begins with a capital letter, has a subject and verb, and ends with a punctuation mark. The four parts of a sentence are capitalization, punctuation, subject, and verb. Let’s review some of the kind of words that can go into a sentence:

  • Noun – names a person, place, thing, or idea
  • Pronoun – replaces a noun
  • Action verb – shows action
  • Linking verb – connects the subject with a word that describes or renames it
  • Adjective – describes nouns and pronouns
  • Adverb – describes verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs
  • Modifier – description words
  • Object – receives the action of the action verb
  • Complement – an adjective or noun that comes after a linking verb

The tense tells when the action happens, in the past, in the present, or in the future. Remember your agreement, making sure the verb agrees with the subject in number.

When putting your sentence together, attend to normal word order, which is (subject + action verb + object) or (subject + linking verb + complement).

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