Sentence Diagramming


Since part of the writing process involves editing our work, we need to know how to recognize complete thoughts and how to vary our sentence structure. This makes our writing more coherent as well as more interesting to read. Understanding the functions of parts of the speech in a sentence and their relationship to one another can be very helpful in learning to construct good sentences.

A sentence (to be a sentence) at the very least must have a Subject (noun or pronoun) and a Predicate (verb). The remaining words in a sentence serve to describe, clarify or give us more information about the subject or the verb. A diagram arranges the parts of a sentence like a picture in order to show the relationship of words and groups of words within the sentence. Let us take a look at how this is done. We will begin learning how to diagram sentences and use this tool to become better writers.


Step #1

Look for the VERB in the sentence. A verb is a word that shows action (dance, sing, walk, run, etc.) or state of being (am, is, are, was, were, etc.)

Ask the question, "What action is taking place, or what happened in the sentence?" The answer you get will let you know which word (or group of words) serves as the verb in the sentence. The VERB is placed on the right hand side of the base line.

Examples:

Aunt Polly punished Tom for ditching school.

Tom started a fight with the new boy in town.

   

Try these:

Tom’s friends were painting the fence for him.

Huck Finn was a homeless boy.


Step #2

Find the SUBJECT of the verb (the person or thing that performs the action).

Ask the question, "Who? or What?" before the verb. The answer you get will let you know which word (or group of words) serves as the subject of the verb. The SUBJECT is placed on the left hand side of the base line.

Examples:

Aunt Polly punished Tom for ditching school.

Tom started a fight with the new boy in town.

   

Try these:

Tom’s friends were painting the fence for him.

Huck Finn was a homeless boy.


Step #3

Find the DIRECT OBJECT. (If there is one in the sentence, it is the person or thing that receives the action of the verb.)

Ask the question, "Whom? or What?" after the verb. The answer you get will let you know which word serves as the direct object of the verb. The DIRECT OBJECT is placed on the base line to the right of the verb separated by a line that goes upward from the base line.

Examples:

Aunt Polly punished Tom for ditching school.

Tom started a fight with the new boy in town.

 


Step #4

Look for ARTICLES (a, an, the) or POSSESSIVES (my, your, his, hers, its, their, Joe’s, Maria’s, etc.) Ask the question, "Whose?"  
ARTICLES
and POSSESSIVES are attached to the base line beneath the word they describe.

Examples:

Tom’s friends were painting the fence for him.

 


Step #5

Look for ADJECTIVES (words that describe or limit a noun or pronoun). Ask the questions, " Which one? How many? What kind? What size? What color? " ADJECTIVES are connected beneath the words they modify.

Examples:

Becky Thatcher wore two long braids

 

Tom’s little brother discovered the black thread.

 

Huck Finn was a homeless boy.


Step #6

Look for ADVERBS (words that modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs). Ask the questions, "How? When? Where? How much? Why?" ADVERBS are connected beneath the words they modify.


Examples:

Injun Joe ran away.

     

  Huck bravely saved the Widow Douglas


Step #7

Look for PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES. (These are groups of words that begin with a preposition and end with a noun or pronoun which is the object of the preposition. Together they serve the same function as an adjective or an adverb.) PREPOSITIONAL PHRASES are connected beneath the line of the words they modify.

Examples:

Huck overheard a conversation between two men.

 

Tom was exploring the cave with Becky.

 

The two of them were lost in the cave.


Now let's put what you have learned into practice.  Try these sentences:

We read a book about Tom Sawyer in English class.

 

 

Each student made a report on a chapter from the story.


Lots more on Sentence Diagramming


 

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