How to Write a Sentence
All sentences contain one subject and one verb expressing a complete thought. Always start with a capital letter and end with punctuation which is either full-stop(.), a question mark (?), or an exclamation mark (!).
- He walks.
- She likes pears.
- Where are you going?
- Ruth studies French.
- Open the door.
- Close the door.
- Be quiet!
- Please try harder.
- How do you do.
- How cruel it is.
Sentences can be classified into four types: exclamatory, imperative, interrogative and declarative sentences.
An exclamatory sentence shows strong feeling or statement like surprise, anger or a greeting.
- That's great!
- How interesting!
- What a beautiful day.
These sentences are orders or commands, telling the readers to do something. Putting You into the sentence.
- Be smart and flexible.
- Don't park your lorry over there.
- Finish your assignment.
These sentences can be either positive or negative, and also called statements. These sentences inform or tell their audience something.
- The plane has two engines.
- The phone needs charging.
- I'm not going to the party.
Interrogative sentences ask for information feedback from the audience, listeners or readers.
- Are you a pilot?
- Where is your hotel?
- The video is interesting, isn't it?
The length of your sentence should automatically be adapted to fit the subject you are describing.
Using a long description can add a sense of relaxation, and of time slowing down. Shorter sentences are quick and punchy, good for describing dramatic events and action.
Here are a few examples:
"The History lesson seemed to Kevin, to be dragging on forever, as Mrs Bane's voice dragged on and on, in its weary, low monotone, about the apparently fascinating life of Henry V, who seemed to Kevin, to be unhealthily and unnaturally interested in scenes of death and decay".
"The waves crashed. The moon shone brightly. All else was silent on the deserted beach. From the distance came the sound of thunder".
Using short sentences repeatedly will create choppy, staccato rhythm. Longer sentences have more fluidity, and a longer rhythm.
- Slow, descriptive or explanatory.
- Creating a sense of relaxation, flow, or time slowing.
- Using a long sentence can create fluidity, and a longer rhythm.
- Great for action, or dramatic lines. For example 'a shot rang out'.
- Short sentences create a quick punchy rhythm.
Once you start varying the length of your sentence you should also try varying their construction.
A simple technique is to put in the occasional adverb before the subject or verb.
"He walked carefully".
Change it to:
"Carefully he walked".
Remember to always create variety.
Removing 'he did this' or 'he did that' gets rid of all repetition and creates variation. Instead 'he saw a picture above the fireplace' becomes, 'above the fireplace hung a picture'.
Sentences where the subject is kept til the end are often called 'suspenseful', because the reader has to wait and see who or what the subject is. You can create effects by using these suspenseful sentences.
"Donna ran through the long crowded corridors, where her school mates stopped to stare at her, she ran out through the big double doors at the front of the school, and down the main road that led to her home".
This sentence can become more effective by putting the subject (Donna) and her verb (ran) at the end:
"Through the long-crowded corridors, where her schoolmates stopped to stare at her, out through the big double doors at the front of the school, and down the main road that led to her home, Donna ran".
The Five Elements of a Sentence
There are five elements to a sentence these help to form various types and structures of sentences which include adverbials, verbs, objects, complements and adverbials.
These can either perform an action or tell what the sentences are about. They can be either nouns, pronouns, noun phrases, noun clauses or a group of words functioning as a noun. These subjects can be identified as complete, simple, or compound subjects.
A complete subject includes the noun (simple subject) and it's modifiers. Its a noun clause or phrase.
- A woman walking into a mall.
- A short man opened the door for her.
- What the woman is looking for is in his interest.
The single noun or pronoun is the Simple Subject which performs the action or tells what the sentence is about.
- He studies hard.
- She is doing her assignment.
- A teacher is in the classroom.
A Compound subject includes two or more nouns joined together by conjunction "and".
- A pilot and his passengers are on the plane.
- Water and food are your basic needs.
- What we say and how we say it are important for communication.
Expressed actions or states of being are all verbs. You have action verbs or state verbs.
Expressed actions or states of being are all verbs. You have action verbs or state verbs.
- The police are catching a thief. (Action)
- She had robbed a man. (Action)
- He looked scared and frightened. (State)
- He felt sick for a few weeks. (State)
Objects accept the action from either subjects or verbs. There are three different kinds of objects: objects of prepositions, direct objects and indirect objects. These objects can be pronouns, nouns, noun phrases, noun clauses, infinitive phrases, infinitives, gerunds or gerund phrases.
Indirect objects tell who the direct object is to or for, it's the recipient of the action.
- Johnny lent me some cash last month.
- She sent her son a card.
- The officer allows the robber a phone call.
A Direct object receives the direct action from a verb.
- We are in discussion about the planning permission.
- I understand what she said.
- The man unlocked his mobile phone successfully.
The preposition and its object form the prepositional phrase which can be used as an adjective or adverb in a sentence.
- The lamp is on the table.
- He is in the classroom.
- We decided not to vote for her.
Subjects or objects are finished by a Complement. Complements which complete the meaning of a subject are subject complements and those which complete the meaning of an object or object complements.
Noun or adjectives can be Subject complements, completing the meaning of a subject. If the subject complement is a noun, it's called the predicate nominee, when its an adjective it's a predictive adjective. Subject complement goes after a linking verb.
- They are sailors.
- He has a big nose.
- The dog looks happy.
Object complements can be either adjective or noun, they complete the meaning of an object.
- The country appointed him President.
- The woman painted her house pink.
- She left the door open.
Adverbs give more information about the verb.
Adverbs can be used to say how something happens or how something is done.
- The children were playing quietly.
- She was riding as fast as possible.
- I saw her there.
- We met in Paris.
- They start work at four o'clock.
- They usually go to work by bike.
- Perhaps it might rain.
- She is definitely coming to the party.
Writing a complicated sentence can be difficult to some writers, and being able to write a rich and varied sentences is a skill in itself. Being aware of simple, compound and complex sentences can help you vary the sentences in your own writing.
Simple sentences contain the most basic elements that make up a sentence: subject, verb and a completed thought.
1. Sam waited for the train
"Sam" = subject, "waited" = verb
2. The car was late
"The car" = subject, "was" = verb
3. Kathryn and Helen took the bus.
"Kathryn and Helen" = compound subject, "took" = verb
Using compound subjects such as compound verbs, prepositional phrases (such as "at the bus station"), and many other elements help lengthen simple sentences, but simple sentences can be very short sometimes. Writing with too many simple sentences can make your writing seem "choppy" and prevent you from writing smoothly.
Compound sentences are made up of two independent clauses (complete sentences) which are connected to one another with a coordinating conjunction. Coordinating conjunctions are easily remembered if you remember words such as "FAN BOYS".
- Kevin waited for the train, but the train was late.
- I looked for Helen and Kathryn at the train station, but they arrived at the station before noon and left on the train before I arrived.
- Kathryn and Helen left on the train before I arrived, so I did not see them at the train station.
By using complex sentences you can be more clear and specific about established relationships.
Complex sentences are made up of one or more dependent clauses and an independent clause. Dependent clause is similar to an independent clause, or a complete sentence, but lacks one of the elements that would make it a complete sentence.
Examples of dependent clauses:
- because Helen and Kathryn arrived at the train station before noon
- while he waited at the train station
- after they left on the train
A dependent clause begins with subordinating conjunctions. See some of the most common subordinating conjunctions:
- even though
Dependent clauses can go first in a sentence, followed by an independent clause, like the following:
- Because Helen and Kathryn arrived at the train station before noon, I did not see them at the station.
- While we waited at the bus station, Sam realised that the bus was late.
- After they left on the train, Helen and Kathryn realised that Sam was waiting at the train station.
- I did not see them at the station because Helen and Kathryn arrived at the train station before noon.
- Sam realised that the bus was late while he waited at the train station.
- Helen and Kathryn realised Sam was waiting at the bus station after they left on the train.
Simple Tips to Remember
1. Avoid beginning a sentence with "and" or "but" or other coordinating conjunctions. These words normally join parts of a sentence together, not begin a new sentence.
2. It is acceptable to start a sentence with "because" as long as the sentence is complete (such as "Because Helen and Kathryn arrived at the train station before noon, I did not see them at the station").
Subjects and Verbs What are They?
Verbs are action words such as eat, sleep, talk, walk, buy all verbs.
Subjects are the thing or person doing the action of the verb.
- I eat.
- The dog sleeps.
- Harry talks a lot.
- They run for the bus.
The Rules of Subject and Verb Agreement
1. A subject verb agreement means the subject and verb must agree in number. This means both need to be singular or both need to be plural.
The cat meows when she is angry. The cats meow when they are angry.
2. The words that come between the subject and verb do not affect agreement.
The cat, who is chewing on my slipper, is usually very good.
3. Prepositional phrases between verbs and subjects don't usually affect agreement.
The colours of the rainbow are beautiful.
4. Sentences starting with "there" or "here", the subject will always be placed after the verb, care needs to be taken to identify it correctly.
There is a problem with the spreadsheet. Here are the papers you requested.
5. In questions, subjects don't always come before verbs. Make sure you identify the subject before deciding on the proper verb form to use.
Where are the pieces of the jigsaw?
6. A plural verb is required if two subjects are joined by "and".
The cow and pig are jumping over the moon.
7. If two subjects are separated by "and" and refer to the same person, the verb is singular.
Black beans and rice is my mom's favourite dish.
8. When the words "each," "every," or "no" comes before the subject, the verb is singular.
No drinking or smoking allowed. Every man and woman is required to check in.
9. When the subjects are both singular and are connected by the words "or," "nor," "neither/nor," "either/or," and "not only/but also" the verb is singular.
Mary or Harry is to blame for the accident.
10. Objects and prepositions only factor into the decision of plural or singular verbs forms is when noun and pronoun subjects like "some," "half," "none," "more," or "all" are followed by a prepositional phrase. The object of the preposition determines the form of the verb.
All of the chicken is gone. All of the chickens are gone.
11. A singular verb is usually used for units of measurement or time.
Three quarts of oil was required to get the car started.
12. If both subjects are plural and are connected by the words "or," "nor," "neither/nor," and "not only/but also" the verb is plural.
Cats and dogs are available at the pound.
13. If the words "or," "nor," "neither/nor," "either/or." and "not only/but also" are connected to one singular subject and one plural, you use the verb form of the subject that is the nearest verb.
Either the lions or the bear has escaped from the zoo. Neither lion nor the bears have escaped from the zoo.
14. Indefinite pronouns typically take singular verbs. Everybody wants to be loved.
15. Other than the pronouns "few," "many," "several," "both,"all," and "some" that always take the plural form.
Few were left alive after the crash.
16. Two infinitives separated by "and" they take the plural form of the verb.
To walk and to chew gum requires great skill.
17. If gerunds are used as the subject of a sentence, they take the singular form of the verb, except when they are linked by "and," they take the plural form.
Standing in the mud was a bad idea. Swimming in the sea and playing the flute are my hobbies.
18. Shared nouns like "herd," "senate," "class," and "crowd," usually take a singular verb form.
The herd is stampeding.
19. The titles of books, movies and novels, etc. are treated as singular and take a singular verb.
Forrest Gump is a movie starring Tom Hanks.
20. Final Rule - Always remember, only the subject affects the verb!
Useful Things to Know About Paragraphs
Why Paragraphs are Shorter Today
The Long and Short of It
Blogging has brought in the short pithy paragraph, which is great for the eyes of online readers.
Due to the fact the average person has a rapidly declining attention span. People find too many sentences a problem when linked together in one paragraph.
If writing long paragraphs is a good idea, think again. People prefer short and to the point.
Reassessing Paragraph Construction
It wasn't that long ago you could write a paragraph, and have it occupy the whole page.
This was defined in educational and academic writing, with paragraphs having between 3 to 8 sentences, consisting of 100-250 words.
But there's no doubt about it, short paragraphs are here to stay, for the simple reason they're much easier to read.
Readers Love Space
E-readers, and online readers love a bit of white space to scroll up and down the document. All of that work put into writing sentences without lines and breaks, goes to waste on an e-reader or tablet. So keep your readers happy with short pithy sentences.
Books Haven't Changed
Fortunately people still love reading long paragraphs on the printed page. But this is still different for the kindle or e-reader. You should take more care to write for the small screen, than the page, in an e-reader.
Content Writing is Concise and Meaningful
Short single sentences have become normal practice for most bloggers, this even goes for larger publications online such as magazines and newspapers.
Take time and check over your current blog format. Do you need to write in a simpler fashion, or is that your writing style anyway?
Don't bore your readers with longwinded paragraphs, get straight to the point with amazing headlines. Add in keywords for SEO value, and you have the format for a great blog post!
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