Grammar Notes: Simple Sentences

When you start to delve into sentence structure and grammar, you will often come across terms that are unfamiliar, or which you've forgotten about since those dull high school grammar lessons. In this article we investigate simple sentences, subjects, predicates, and objects.

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Simple sentences

The simplest sentence structure is a subject + a predicate.

A subject is defined (by The Oxford Dictionary) as a noun phrase functioning as one of the main components of a clause, being the element about which the rest of the clause is predicated. The subject is often seen as the "actor" or "agent", or the carrier of attributes.

A predicate is defined as the part of a sentence or clause containing a verb and stating something about the subject.

In simpler terms, the subject is the person or thing being discussed or described in the sentence, the thing being written about. And the predicate is the part of the sentence that has the verb (doing word) in it, and that says something about the subject. (The word predicate comes from the Latin, pre- (prae) meaning "before", and -dicate (dicare) meaning "make known".)

In these following simple sentences, the subject is in bold, and the predicate is in italics.

Sophie went to the café.

The ducks quacked.

The actor tripped.

Now, what about the object? The object in a sentence is defined as "a noun or noun phrase governed by an active transitive verb or by a preposition". In other words, it's the thing that the verb is being done to. The object can be part of the predicate. In the examples below, the object is in blue. The subject is still in bold, and the predicate in italics.

David hit the cricket ball. 

Rebecca baked a wedding cake.

Lydia screamed at the squirrel.

Subjective vs objective

The word subjective comes from the grammatical meaning of subject. Subjective is an adjective meaning "based on or influences by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions". Subjective views are personal, individual, emotional, and often not based on facts or logicPeople's views on art and music, for example, are almost always subjective — based on their personal interpretations and feelings.

Objective, on the other hand, means "not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts". In other words, impartial, unbiased, fact-based, and neutral. Researchers in any field do their best to be objective in their work, not letting personal feelings influence their results or conclusions.

A simple way to remember these two? Subjective starts with S, and so does Self. And Objective relates to the word Objects (ie, inanimate things without feelings, not people). Well, that's how I remember them anyway — you may well come up with a better mnemonic!

Alexander was too subjective as a dog show judge. As soon as a dog merely wagged its tail at him, he thought it was the best dog in the competition. 

Charlotte did excellent objective research on the psychology of mass murderers, not allowing her horror of their behaviour to cloud her judgement.

Simple sentences exercise

Identify the predicate in these sentences:

1. Adriana went by bus to Athens.

2. Fabian played Macbeth.

3. The ducks planned their attack.

Find the subject in these sentences:

4. Troy loved to go on the swings.

5. The book was praised by everyone. (This one is a bit tricky!)

6. Dian cooked the best curry.

State the object in these sentences:

7. The car was raced by Mark.

8. Grace won the rock climbing competition easily.

9. Finn decided to buy a new jacket.

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Answers: 1. went by bus to Athens 2. played Macbeth 3. planned their attack 4. Troy 5. book (the sentence is passive) 6. Dian 7. Mark (another passive sentence) 8. rock climbing competition 9. jacket



Last modified on Saturday, 28 November 2015 08:17
English Language Skills (Denise)

English Language Skills (Denise)

I'm a syndicated puzzle writer, with 8 puzzle books to my name, including Word Searches for Dummies and Cracking Codes and Cryptograms for Dummies (with Mark Koltko-Rivera). I have a background in science and graphic design, and am a trained indexer. My favourite puzzles are cryptic crosswords. and my favourite books are murder mysteries and cookbooks. I am also a very keen knitter.

I write a blog all about puzzles, called Puzzling.

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