Parts of a Sentence



Verbs (Predicate)


Direct object

Indirect object




-ing Phrases



Other types of phrases


Independent Clause

Dependent Clause

Relative Clause


A sentence is a group of words that has a subject and verb (also called a predicate) and completes a thought.

o See Parts of Speech for more information on types of words.

o See Sentence Structure for more information on how to create grammatical sentences.

o See Sentence Variety for more information on creating lively, informative, and robust sentences.


  • A complete sentence has both a subject and verb

o Many people have seen the movie Titanic.

subj. verb

  • A subject tells who or what is doing something. A subject can be either a noun (ex: house, Brittany Spears, war) or a pronoun (ex: he she, it).
  • A subject can be singular (ex: boy, country, I) or plural (ex: boy and girl, countries, we).
  • A subject can end in –ing. These are called gerunds: verbs ending in –ing that function as nouns

o Running is good exercise

o Dancing can be fun.

  • A subject can be an infinitive phrase: a group of words beginning with an infinitive.

o To fly to a vacation location gives more time to enjoy the destination.

o To dive in the coral reefs of Australia is a great experience.

Things that are NOT subjects:

o Prepositional phrases cannot be the subject of a sentence. They contain a preposition such as the word in and a noun.

Ex. in the corner around the curve among the flowers

o Crossing out any prepositional phrases will allow you to more clearly see the real subject and verb of a sentence.

Ex: In the corner of the classroom, the printers for writing class quietly hum.

o Introductory phrases are not subjects.

Ex: Walking to school, I saw a horrible car crash.


  • An action verb (ex: run, kiss, play) tells what the subject is doing.
  • A linking verb (ex: is, were, smell) describes or renames the subject.

o He is tall.

  • Sometimes the verb in a sentence is more than one word (should go, is running, had sung).

Things that are NOT verbs:

o Infinitives (ex: “to go,” “to play,” “to study”) are not verbs.

o –ing words (leaving, going, jumping) are not verbs by themselves. You have to add a helping verb. Ex: is leaving, are going, were jumping

o Adverbs (slowly, not , always) are not verbs. She does not always go to church.

Complete Verbs:

o Past participles (gone, drunk, rung) are not verbs unless you add a helping verb)

Ex: I never drunk vodka before.

I have never drunk vodka before.

o When a question is asked, don’t forget the helping verb!

Ex: Does the file contain anything useful?


An object is word that receives the action of a verb

  • Direct object

    – a word or words that receive the direct action of a verb.

He threw the ball. Ball is the direct object.

  • Indirect object

    – a word or words that receive the indirect action of a verb.

He threw the ball to her. To her is the indirect object.


A complement is a word or words that describes or defines the subject.

The young boy was tall for his age. Tall is the complement.


A phrase is a group of words that does not have a subject and verb. They are used to further describe nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. While there are different types of phrases, it is not important to identify which type of phrase it is. It is, however, important to be able to identify that a word group is a phrase and not the subject or verb.

The most common phrases are prepositional, -ing phrases, infinitive phrases, and appositives.

  • -ing Phrases

are groups of words that do not have a subject and a verb and that further describe or define.

The student walking as fast as she could crossed the campus more quickly than she expected.

Walking as fast as she could is a phrase describing the student.

  • Prepositional phrases

    start with prepositions and need a comma before finishing the rest of the sentence.

o In the mornings, she walks the dog.

o By forgetting his homework and failing all the tests, the student failed the course.

  • Infinitive phrases

    begin with an infinitive (the to form of the verb).

She wanted to see the world.

He worked to buy his car.

Caution: An infinitive phrase can be a subject.

To see the world is an exciting experience.

To enjoy good food is a favorite pastime.

  • Appositives

are word groups which are not necessary to the meaning of the sentence and merely rename or further describe something else in the sentence. Since they are not necessary to the meaning of the sentence, such they should be separated by commas:

o My teacher, Mrs. Jones, is in the library.

Teacher is the subject; is is the verb. Mrs. Jones is just part of the appositive phrase.

  • Clauses

    A clause is a group of words that has a subject and a verb.

    • Independent clause

      – a group of words that has a subject and a verb and can stand alone as a sentence.

    o She closed the windows.

    o He completed the work.

    • Dependent clause

      - a group of words that has a subject and a verb and cannot stand alone as a sentence. They are called dependent because they depend upon an independent clause to form a sentence. Dependent clauses (also called subordinate clauses) begin with subordinate conjunctions or relative pronouns.

    Subordinate conjunctions include words such as because, although, while, though, even though, when, until, unless. For further information, see Subordination and Coordination.

    o Because it was raining.

    o Although he took his time.

    Here are examples where the dependent clause follows the independent clause.

    • She closed the windows because it was raining.
    • He completed the work although he took his time.

    Note that there is no comma when the independent clause is before the dependent clause.

    Here are examples where the dependent clause precedes the independent clause.

    o Because it was raining, she closed the window

    o Although he took his time, he completed the work.

    Note that when the dependent clause is stated before the independent clause, it becomes introductory and must be followed by a comma.

    Relative clauses

    are a type of dependent or subordinate clause which begins with a relative pronoun that show a relative relationship with the independent clause and begin with words such as that, which, who, whom, whose.

    • The woman struggled to open the door which was stuck.
    • The dog who was running down the block had escaped from the yard.
    • Oranges which are green should not be eaten.
    • Oranges, which are high in vitamin C, are good for a snack.

    Note that in the above sentences, there are commas around words that are not necessary to the meaning of the sentence. See Commas for more information.