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THE GRAMMAR POLICE: PART 1
BY AP VON K’ORY
Grammar Basics: Sentence Parts and Sentence Structures
Methods of Shaping Words Into Sentences in English
The job of grammar is to organise words into sentences, and there are many ways to do that. (Or we could say, Words can be organised into sentences in many different ways.) For this reason, describing how to put a sentence together isn't as easy as explaining how to bake a cake or assemble a model plane. There are no easy recipes, no step-by-step instructions. But that doesn't mean that crafting an effective sentence depends on magic or good luck.
Experienced writers know that the basic parts of a sentence can be combined and arranged in countless ways. So as we work to improve our writing, it's important to understand what these basic structures are and how to use them effectively.
We'll begin by introducing the traditional parts of speech and the most common sentence structures.
1) The Parts of Speech
One way to begin studying basic sentence structures is to consider the traditional parts of speech (also called word classes): nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections. Except for interjections ("ouch!"), which have a habit of standing by themselves, the parts of speech come in many varieties and may show up just about anywhere in a sentence. To know for sure what part of speech a word is, we have to look not only at the word itself but also at its meaning, position, and use in a sentence.
Lordy, Milton, you can't lose paradise if you haven't found it yet
2) Subjects, Verbs, and Objects
The basic parts of a sentence are the subject, the verb, and (often, but not always) the object. The subject is usually a noun--a word that names a person, place, or thing. The verb (or predicate) usually follows the subject and identifies an action or a state of being. An object receives the action and usually follows the verb.
- Akinyi read the book aloud
3) Adjectives and Adverbs
A common way of expanding the basic sentence is with modifiers--words that add to the meanings of other words. The simplest modifiers are adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives modify nouns, while adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
- The obese Akinyi walked slowly
4) Prepositional Phrases
Like adjectives and adverbs, prepositional phrases add meaning to the nouns and verbs in sentences. A prepositional phrase has two basic parts: a preposition plus a noun or a pronoun that serves as the object of the preposition. I've found in my classes that many students have trouble with knowing exactly what a prepositional phrase is. So I dug up a "show-er" that does better than my "tell-er". So here goes:
The Prepositional Phrase
Recognize a prepositional phrase when you see one
At the minimum, a prepositional phrase will begin with a preposition and end with a noun, pronoun, gerund, or clause, the "object" of the preposition.
The object of the preposition will often have one or more modifiers to describe it. These are the patterns for a prepositional phrase:
preposition + noun, pronoun, gerund, or clause
preposition + modifier(s) + noun, pronoun, gerund, or clause
Here are some examples of the most basic prepositional phrase:
At = preposition; home = noun.
In = preposition; time = noun.
From = preposition; Richie = noun.
With = preposition; me = pronoun.
By = preposition; singing = gerund.
About what we need
About = preposition; what we need = noun clause.
Most prepositional phrases are longer, like these:
From my grandmother
From = preposition; my = modifier; grandmother = noun.
Under the warm blanket
Under = preposition; the, warm = modifiers; blanket = noun.
In the weedy, overgrown garden
In = preposition; the, weedy, overgrown = modifiers; garden = noun.
Along the busy, six-lane highway
Along = preposition; the, busy, six-lane = modifiers; highway = noun.
Without excessively worrying
Without = preposition; excessively = modifier; worrying = gerund.
Understand what prepositional phrases do in a sentence.
A prepositional phrase will function as an adjective or adverb. As an adjective, the prepositional phrase will answer the question Which one?
Read these examples:
The book on the bathroom floor is swollen from shower steam.
Which book? The one on the bathroom floor!
The sweet potatoes in the vegetable bin are green with mold.
Which sweet potatoes? The ones forgotten in the vegetable bin!
The note from Akinyi confessed that she had eaten the leftover pizza.
Which note? The one from Akinyi!
As an adverb, a prepositional phrase will answer questions such as How? When? or Where?
Origi is stiff from yesterday's long football practice.
How did Origi get stiff? From yesterday's long football practice!
Before class, Kevin begged his friends for a pencil.
When did Kevin do his begging? Before class!
Feeling brave, we tried the hot chilli Samaki at Owino's Palace.
Where did we eat the hot chili Samaki? At Owino's Palace!
Remember that a prepositional phrase will never contain the subject of a sentence.
Sometimes a noun within the prepositional phrase seems the logical subject of a verb. Don't fall for that trick! You will never find a subject in a prepositional phrase.
Look at this example:
Neither of these cookbooks contains the recipe for the Luoland tilapia stew.
ENOUGH for now. The 5-12 Grammar Basics coming up next month.
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