Parts of a Sentence

If you know the parts of a sentence, you understand the sentence better.

A sentence is something built from words and phrases according to some system.
It is not simply some words randomly thrown in together.

How Does a Sentence Work?

As I said above, "according to some system..."

What is a system?

It's not as hard as it sounds. A system is something in which...

  • there are parts,
  • all the parts do different tasks,
  • so that the purpose of the whole is fulfilled.

A Sentence is a System

So, the important questions are...

  1. What are the different parts of a sentence and what jobs do these sentence parts do?

  2. How do these parts inter-relate so that a grammatically correct sentence is created?

What are the Different Sentence Parts?

As we learn about the parts of a sentence, we shall hear more about these different names...

Subject and Predicate

A sentence is made up of two parts:

  1. The Subject—tells us which person, animal, place or thing we are talking about;
  2. the Predicate—tells us what we are saying about that subject.

Have a look at these sentences...

  • Mohan ate those mangoes.
  • Cricket is played in India.
  • His sister is a teacher in Delhi.

The bold-faced part is the subject and the remaining part is the predicate in each of the three sentences above.

This above division of the sentence into Subject and Predicate is clearly according to meaning.

There is a more sophisticated explanation of these two sentence parts. That explanation is based on syntax where the subject is considered a noun phrase and the predicate a finite verb phrase. You can read here a detailed explanation about the 'subject os a sentence'.

Finite Verb

A finite verb is a one, two, three or four-word verb, which acts as a single meaningful sentence part and is essential (necessary) for the existence of the sentence.

Examples of finite verbs are:

  • eat
  • is eating
  • has been eaten
  • will have been eating

Read more about 'finite verbs' here.


Object

This is usually a noun phrase, i.e. a group of words built around a noun or a pronoun. The object answers the question:

  • finite verb + whom?
    or
  • finite verb + what?

as in these examples:

  • The teacher praised the student. (praised whom?—Answer: the student)
  • Mohan eats mangoes. (eats what?—Answer: mangoes)

The student and mangoes are the objects in the above sentences.

Adverbial

Sentences may contain words or phrases of information about when, where, how or why some action took place or something is in existence. Such words or phrases are called Adverbials.

Adverbial Adjunct

When an adverbial is not essential to the sentence, it is known as an Adverbial Adjunct. If you remove the adjunct, the rest of the sentence still remains a sentence.

Here are some examples of Adverbial Adjuncts...

  • in the morning—She completed the story in the morning.
  • at the railway station—I met him at the railway station.
  • brilliantly—She played the piano brilliantly.
  • for permission to go home—You should meet me for permission to go home.

Adverbial Complement

An Adverbial Complement is an essential part of the sentence. If you remove it, the rest of the sentence is not a sentence.

Here are some examples of Adverbial Complements...

  • at the railway station—She is at the railway station.
  • in the morning—That was in the morning.

Complement

As the name suggests, a complement is something that completes something.

What Does it Complete?

A complement completes...

  • sometimes the meaning of the Subject (subject complement or subjective complement) and

  • sometimes that of the Object (object complement or objective complement).

How Does the Complement Complete?

The Complement completes...

  • either by renaming the subject or object
  • or by describing them

Here are some examples:

  • Peter is a student.—the phrase a student renames the subject Peter. (Subject Complement)

  • That girl is clever.—the word clever describes the subject that girl. (Subject Complement)

  • We made Mohan monitor of the class.—the word monitor renames the object Mohan. (Object Complement)

  • The people found Susanna innocent.—the word innocent describes the object Susanna. (Object Complement)

Are Complements Essential?

Complements are essential parts of a sentence in a particular sense.

Every sentence does not require a complement; but when they occur in a sentence, you cannot remove them. The rest of the sentence will become...

  • either meaningless—Peter is a student.

  • or will carry an unintended meaning—The people found Susanna innocent.

What Next?

The answer to the second question, which is...

How do the various parts of a sentence (which I have listed and explained above) interplay to form a sentence? This is the subject-matter of the page here on sentence structure.

For Further Reading and Study...


English Grammar
Matters

New Ezine.
Watch this space.

Related Pages

The World of Sentences

The Phrase

A Semantic Understanding of the Phrase

The Clause

The Sentence

Parts of a Sentence

Sentence Structure

Subject of a Sentence