How to Write a Better Sentence

 

A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete idea. It can be as short as “Hello!” or quite long, as this sentence is.  

Most sentences are made up of the following elements: 

  • Words or groups of words that identify things, places, people or ideas;
  • Words or groups of words that tell us more about these things, place, people or ideas;
  • Words or groups of words that identify actions, acts of being or feeling;
  • Words of groups of words that tell us more about action.

These basic elements may be combined or joined into good sentences by using linking words or phrases. Their function is to connect parts of a sentence.

To summarise, the building blocks of a sentence are:

  • parts that identify or name things, states, actions or ideas;
  • parts that modify (tell more about) them;
  • parts that connect or link other parts.

 

To write correct sentences in English, we must organise these elements in certain ways. Since every language has its own ways of structuring sentences, one of the rules we must learn when learning another language is how sentences are constructed in that language. If a sentence is not correctly structured, it might be understood, but it will be considered incorrect. Therefore, correct sentence structure is very important.
 
 

The subject of a sentence

A sentence has at least one verb, and usually identifies who or what is performing or experiencing the verb action or state.  

The dog chased the cat.            

Verb = chased    

Who chased? = the dog   

Those apples fell from the tree.

Verb = fell            

What fell? = those apples   

I am not ready yet.    

Verb = am             

Who is not ready? = I am not

 

The person or thing that is performing or experiencing is called the subject. It answers the question, Who or what is doing, or is being?  

The curtains are blowing in the breeze.   (What is blowing?)

      Subject          verb

 

 On the radio, a sweet song is playing.   (What is playing?)
 
 According to the witness, the van full of students was not at the scene of the accident. (What was not at the scene? The van).
 
 

One factor that contributes to premature death is lack of intimate relations.

            (The answer to What is lack of intimate relations is not just one factor, but the whole clause, One factor that contributes to premature death. Therefore, that is the subject of the sentence.  

In commands or instructions, the subject is usually not stated, but is understood. 

Give me the book.   (“You” is understood. You give me the book).

When working with electricity, wear protective gloves. (“You” is understood).

 

Position of the subject

Normally, the subject precedes (comes before) the verb. The usual structure of an English sentence is: subject….verb…..object.  

I (subject) have finished (verb) my assignment (object).

The children (subject) played happily (verb phrase) in the park (modifying phrase).

 

However, the subject can sometimes come after the verb.  

There were three solutions to the problem.

Here is your dinner.

Can you see him yet?

“Come here!” called the girl.

Another approach is the humanist approach.

Never have I seen such rudeness!

Into the room flew three black birds.

 

Object of a sentence

A direct object is the thing, person or abstraction that receives the action in a sentence. 

    We bought the house.   The gazelles jumped over the bushes. 

     My daughter fed the cat.

 An indirect object is the thing or person for whom an action is performed.
 
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