When it comes to English composition, you can't get more basic than the simple sentence. They're the foundation of complex communication, and yet, they can cause a lot of confusion. I've heard parents questioning whether or not what their toddler has just said counts as a full sentence or not. I've read papers where the student writes in run-on after run-on interspersed with sentence fragments. In teaching my children how to write, I've explained what makes a complete sentence several dozen times over the last four years or so.
This month, we will focus on sentence structure. Today's lesson will focus on simple sentences, and we'll take a look at compound and complex sentences on the 27th.
What makes a sentence a sentence?
A sentence is a group of words used to communicate a full thought set off by punctuation. In order to be a complete sentence, it needs to make sense all by itself. To do this, it must contain at least a subject and a verb.
A subject is a person, place, thing, or idea that performs an action. Subjects can be stated or implied, but they must be included.
A verb is a word that tells what someone or something does or how it exists. They include action verbs such as walk, run, yell, and said, or they can be state of being verbs such as is, am, are, and was. Without a verb, a sentence cannot convey any sort of action.
The simplest sentences have nothing but a subject and a verb. He ate. She reads. Fido sleeps.
So there are never any one word sentences?
No, you can have a grammatically correct, one word sentence with an implied you as the subject. Those sentences are almost always commands. Run! Go. Study. Duck! In each case, someone is telling you to do something without actually saying the word "you." These kinds of sentences rely on context clues to be understood, making them a bit more complex than simple sentences with a stated subject.
What I wrote has a subject and a verb, so it's a complete sentence.
Well, while all sentences have a subject and a verb, just having them doesn't necessarily qualify a statement as a complete sentence. As I've said before, a complete sentence, or independent clause, has to make sense all on its own. If your sentence has a subject and a verb but doesn't make sense without anything preceding or following it, what you have is a sentence fragment, not a complete sentence.
So what all do you have to remember when writing sentences? Make sure they all have a subject and a verb. Capitalize the first word of the sentence as well as any proper nouns, and end the sentence with the correct punctuation.
That's it for this week's lesson. Two weeks from today, we will take a look at writing complex sentences.
Here is the elementary version of today's lesson.
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