What is a simple sentence?
Let’s start with the most basic unit of meaning: the simple sentence. In this lesson, we’ll break down a simple sentence into its parts, and we’ll learn to use these grammar terms to help us understand sentence structure:
First, we’ll break down a simple sentence into its two basic parts: 1) a subject and 2) a predicate.
- The subject is what the sentence is about. The subject is a noun: a person, place, thing, or idea.
- The predicate is what the subject does to something, what the subject is, what the subject has, or what happens to the subject. The predicate is a verb plus what the verb controls after it.
The following are the most basic and most common sentence structures. They all start with a subject that’s followed by a predicate. The predicate is a verb plus an object, complement, adverb, or preposition phrase.
1.1A Subject – Verb – Object
This is the fundamental sentence structure: a subject does something to an object.
Both subjects and objects are nouns. A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea.
1.1B Subject – Verb – Complement
In this case, the “be” verb means “=”. In other words, the complement “completes” the subject, or is equivalent to the subject.
a predator. (noun)
1.1C Subject – Verb – Adverb
The adverb is formed by adding the suffix “ly” to an adjective:
- silent = adjective
- silently = adverb
- Sometimes the adverb goes before the verb and sometimes it goes after the verb.
1.1D Subject – Verb – Preposition phrase
Prepositions are the little words that indicate where or when something happens.
- Pre = before
- Position = place
Literally, it is a word that goes before a place in space or in time.
from the farmer.
into the forest.
to his pack.
Clause: Together, a subject and predicate combination is called a clause.
- Clause = subject + predicate
Independent clause: If a clause makes sense on its own, if it’s a complete idea, it’s called an “independent clause.”
- Independent = by itself
- Simple sentence = Independent clause
In summary, a simple sentence is an independent clause, which means a Subject + Predicate (verb + object, verb + complement, verb + adverb, or verb + preposition phrase) that makes sense on its own. If your sentence doesn’t have one of these Subject + Predicate combos, then you don’t have a sentence.
1.1E Dummy subject – It is
You’ll often see sentences beginning with “It is.” In these examples, “it is” has no meaning:
- It’s a pleasure to meet you.
- It’s not often that I meet someone as interesting as you.
- It isn’t possible to do that./It’s not possible to do that.
- It’s not fair that he gets to go and I don’t.
1.1F Dummy subject – There is
You’ll often see sentences beginning with “There is.” In these examples, “there is/there are” has no meaning.
- There are only a few people in line ahead of you.
- There aren’t any tickets left.
- There isn’t enough time to do it.
- There’s been an accident.