- Subjects and Objects
- Direct and Indirect Objects
- Preparatory It and There
- Phrases and Clauses
- Sentence Types
- Direct and Indirect Speech
A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. A complete thought is clear. A sentence always begins with a capital letter. It ends with a full stop (.), a question mark (?) or an exclamation mark (!).
- Ted sent me a letter.
- Jane slept soundly.
Subjects and Objects
Subjects and Predicates
The two fundamental parts of every English sentence are the subject and the predicate. A subject can be described as the component that performs the action described by the predicate. It tells who or what does or did the action. It may also name the topic.
The predicate tells about the subject. It tells what the subject does or is.
(Who or what) (What is said about the subject)
The antelope jumped over the high fence.
Pigs eat anything is sight when hungry.
In a sentence, a few key words are more important than the rest. These key words make the basic framework of the sentence. The verb and its subject are the key words that form the basic framework of every sentence. The rest of the sentence is built around them.
Sentence Key words
The young kids jumped playfully. kids, jumped
Their faces shone brightly. faces, shone
To find out the subject, ask who or what before the verb.
- Who jumped playfully? – kids
- What shone brightly? – faces
To find out the verb, ask what after the subject.
- The young kids did what? – jumped
- Their faces did what? – shone
The key word in the subject of a sentence is called the simple subject. For example, kids, faces. The complete subject is the simple subject plus any words that modify or describe it. For example, The young kids, Their faces.
The key word in the predicate is called the simple predicate. For example, jumped, shone. The complete predicate is the verb plus any words that modify or complete the verb’s meaning. For example, jumped playfully, shone brightly.
The simple subjects and predicates may sometimes be more than one word. For simple subjects, it may be the name of a person or a place.
- Barrack Obama won the US presidential race.
- South Africa is the home of many bats.
The simple predicate may also be more than one word. There may be a main verb and
a helping verb.
- Tanya has acted in many TV shows.
- She will be performing again tonight.
An object in a sentence is a word or words that complete the meaning of a sentence. It is involved in the action but does not carry it out. The object is the person or thing affected by the action described in the verb. It is always a noun or a pronoun and it always comes after the verb.
- The man climbed a tree.
Some verbs complete the meaning of sentences without the help of other words. The action that they describe is complete.
- It rained.
- The temperature rose.
Some other verbs do not express a complete meaning by themselves. They need to combine with other words to complete the meaning of a sentence.
- Christine saw the snake.
- Rose wears goggles.
- He opened the door.
In the above examples, the snake, goggles and the door are the objects as they are the things being affected by the verbs in the sentences.
Some sentences do not take objects or adverbs (or adverbial phrases) after the verbs. Instead, they take complements. A complement is the part of the sentence that gives more information about the subject (subject complement) or about the object (object complement) of the sentence.
Subject complements normally follow certain verbs like be, seem, look, etc.
- He is British. (British gives more information about he)
- She became a nurse. (nurse gives more information about she)
Object complements follow the direct objects of the verb and give more information
about those direct objects.
- They painted the house red. (red is a complement giving more information about the direct object house)
- She called him an idiot. (an idiot is a complement giving more information about the direct
The complement often consists of an adjective (e.g. red) or a noun phrase (e.g. an idiot) but can also be a participle phrase.
I saw her standing there. (standing there is a complement telling more about her).
Direct and Indirect Objects
Objects come in two types, direct and indirect:
The direct object is the word that receives the action of a verb.
- Christine saw a snake. ( a snake receives the action of saw)
- Rose wears goggles. (goggles receives the action of wears)
Sometimes the direct object tells the result of an action.
- Tecla won the race.
- She received a trophy.
To find the direct object first find the verb. Then ask whom or what after the verb.
- Christine saw a snake.
Saw what? a snake
- Rose ears goggles
wears what? goggles
- Tecla won the race
Won what? the race
- She received a trophy
received what? a trophy
Remember, we said earlier that a verb that has a direct object is called a transitive verb and a verb that does not have an object is called an intransitive verb. We also said that a verb may be intransitive in one sentence and transitive in another. Other verbs are strictly intransitive like disagree.
The indirect object refers to a person or thing who receives the direct object. They tell us for whom or to whom something is done. Others tell to what or for what something is done.
I gave him the book.
He is the indirect object as he is the beneficiary of the book.
Direct object or adverb?
Direct objects are sometimes confused with adverbs. The direct object tells what or whom as we have seen earlier. Adverbs on the other hand tell how, where, when or to what extent. They modify the verbs.
Brian Swam slowly. (slowly is an adverb telling how)
Brian Swam a tough race. (race is a direct object telling what).
Verbs can also be followed by a phrase that tells how, when, or where. This kind of a phrase is never a direct object but an adverbial phrase.
Brian swam across the pool. (a cross the pool tells where Brian Swam).
Therefore, to decide whether a word or a phrase is a direct object or adverb, decide first what it tells about the verb. If it tells how, where, when or to what extent, it is an adverb. If it tells what or whom, it is a direct object
Preparatory It and There
The preparatory It is used to show opinion or condition (especially concerning time, distance, and weather). The preparatory It acts as a dummy subject and is usually followed by the verb be (or a modal + be). The logical subject in sentences beginning with It is often a to-infinitive phrase or a noun clause.
- It is nice to meet you.
- It would be fun to live on a sailboat.
- It is important that we not litter in the park.
- It is 3:30 p.m. right now.
- It never snows in July around here.
- It is believed that he will arrive next week.
The preparatory There often begins sentences that show location or existence, especially when the existence of something or someone is mentioned for the first time. It is usually followed by the verb be (or a modal + be).
- Look! There’s a bear.
- There’s a shooting star in the sky.
- There will be a party on Saturday.
- There is a mosquito in my bedroom.
- There was a new girl at school today.
Phrases and Clauses
Phrases are groups of related words that can include either a subject or a tensed verb.
Prepositional phrases have a preposition and an object of the preposition.
- There was a delicious smell coming from the kitchen.
- The dog barked at the stranger.
Gerund phrases have a gerund and can function the same way as a noun. They often appear as the object of a preposition.
- Thank you for coming to my house.
- Walking alone late at night is dangerous.
Infinitive phrases have an infinitive and can function as a noun, adjective, or adverb.
- Lisa is going to university to study economics.
- To see the Eiffel Tower is a dream of mine.
Participial phrases have a participle and function as an adjective. They are set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.
- Having seen the play three times, she didn’t want to see it again.
- Janice, not used to ice skates, fell down and hurt her knee.
Clauses are groups of related words that include both a subject and a tensed verb
Independent clauses can stand alone as a sentence. Two independent clauses are often connected with a coordinating conjunction.
- Maria is afraid of animals, so she doesn’t go near them.
- We are going swimming, but they are going shopping.
Dependent clauses cannot stand alone as a sentence. They need an independent clause to form a complete sentence. When a dependent clause begins a sentence, a comma is used to separate it from the independent clause.
- We are going swimming since it is so hot outside.
- Since it is so hot outside, we are going swimming.
Simple sentences have just one independent clause.
- We celebrated Grandpa’s eightieth birthday yesterday.
- Amy loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Compound sentences have more than one independent clause.
- He finished all of his homework, but he forgot to bring it to school.
- Sue was late for swimming practice, and she left her goggles at home.
Complex sentences have one independent and one dependent clause.
- She didn’t eat because she wasn’t hungry.
- Although he sprained his ankle, he finished the race.
Compound-complex sentences have more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.
Before the plane took off, Sarah called her dad to say good-bye, but he didn’t answer the phone.
I like this class; though early in the morning, it’s very interesting.
Direct and Indirect Speech
Direct speech is used to give a speaker’s exact words. It is also referred to as direct quotation.
Direct speech is always enclosed within quotation marks.
- Hemedi announced, “My aunt works in a biscuit factory ”
- “Creating jobs will be my first priority” the governor said.
A comma always separates the quoted words from the speaker’s name, whether the name comes before or after the quotation
- Jim asked “Who are you voting fir?”
- “I don’t know yet” answered Carol.
A direct quotation always begins with a capital letter
- Senator Karabba said, “You must believe in the new constitution”.
When a direct quotation is divided by speech tags, the second part of the quotation must begin with a small letter.
- “Register to vote,” said the senator, ‘before the end of the day”.
If the second part of the quotation is a complete sentence, the forst kword of this sentence is capitalized.
- “I did register,” said Carol. “It took only a few minutes”
Commas and full stops are placed inside quotation marks
- “Last night,” said Joyce,” I listened to a debate”
Quotation marks and exclamation marks are placed inside a quotation mark if they belong to the quotation. If they do not, they are placed outside the quotation.
- Joyce asked, “Whom are you voting for?
- Did Carol say, “I don’t know yet’?
- I can’t believe that she said, “I don’t know yet’!
Speech tags may appear before, in the middle or at the direct speech.
- He said, “You know quite well that you have to vote”
- “You know quite well, he said, “that you have to vote”.
- “You know quite well that you have to vote,” he said.
Indirect speech is used to refer to a person’s words without quoting him or her exactly. It is also referred to as indirect quotation or reported speech. The original spoken words are not repeated.
The exact meaning is given without repeating the speaker’s words.
Direct speech: The governor said, “Creating new jobs will be my first priority”
Indirect speech: The governor said that creating new jobs would be his first priority.
Several changes do occur when changing a sentence from direct to indirect speech
- Quotation marks
Quotation marks are left out when writing a sentence in direct speech.
Direct: Hemedi announced, “My aunt works in a biscuit factory”
Indirect: Hemedi announced that his aunt worked in a biscuit factory.
- Tense - The tense of a verb in the direct sentence will change in indirect speech
- Simple present changes to past simple
Direct: John said, “She goes to school early”
Indirect: John said that she went to school early.
- Simple past changes to past perfect
Direct: John said, “She went to school early”
Indirect: John said that she had gone to school early.
- Present progressive changes to past progressive
Direct: “The baby is eating a banana,” the nurse said.
Indirect: The nurse said that the baby was eating a banana.
- Present perfect changes to past perfect
Direct: “South Sudan has become a republic,” the new president declared.
Indirect: The new president declared that South Sudan had become a republic
- Past progressive changes to past perfect progressive
Direct: “ I was dreaming when the fire started,” the boy said.
Indirect: The boy said the he had been dreaming when the fire started.
- Future simple changes to modal
Direct: “I will visit you tomorrow,” my desk mate said.
Indirect: My desk mate said the he would visit me the following day.
- May changes to might
Direct: : I may also visit you too,” I replied.
Indirect: I replied that I might also visit him too.
- Simple present changes to past simple
Sometimes the verb in indirect speech does not change tense. This occurs in sentences that are universal truths
Direct: Our Geography teacher said “The earth rotates round the sun”
Indirect: Our Geography teacher said that the earth rotates round the sun
Words referring to place also change
Direct: “I live here,” retorted the old man.
Indirect: The old man retorted that he lived there
Direct: “This place stinks,” noted the boy.
Indirect: The boy noted that that place stunk.
Words referring to time also change
Direct: “I will visit you tomorrow,” he shouted.
Indirect: He shouted that he would visit me the following/next day
Direct : “ He died last year,” the policeman reported.
Indirect: The policeman reported that he had dies the previous year/ the year before.
Demonstrative pronouns also change:
Direct: “This book is mine,” Jane claimed.
Indirect: Jane claimed that that book was hers.
Direct: “These are hard times,” observed the president.
Indirect: The president observed that those were hard times.
Pronouns also change when rewriting a sentence from direct to indirect speech.
Direct: “My car is better than yours,” the teacher bragged.
Indirect: The teacher bragged that his/her car was better that his/hers/theirs.
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