Sentences & Examples

Hear the Lecture

Overview of Sentences in Chapter 2

Later this semester, we'll look at sentences in detail--focusing on simple, compound, and complex sentences and on coordination and subordination.  Before we get back to the topic of sentences, we'll have spent much of the term looking at the various types of words that are combined in various types of units that make up sentences.  That is, we'll be looking at the forms that make up sentences before we spend much time looking at sentences. In other words, we have to start somewhere and we pick a starting point--and keep circling around and back and forward as we try to understand and to explain how the system works.


Basic Concepts

Here are some concepts that you really need to understand as background to what we do next as we start to study verbs in Lecture 3.
 

  
Sentences have 2 major subdivisions: a subject and a predicate. 
 
Subjects can be nouns, pronouns, gerunds, infinitives, or clauses.
 
Predicates are even more varied in their structures than subjects.
 
The verb controls the rest of the structure of a predicate. 
 
Some verbs have objects.  These are called transitive verbs.
 
Some verbs are followed by information that links back to the subject to describe the subject.  These verbs are called linking verbs or copular verbs.  The most common of these is the verb be.   The "something that describes the subject" is called a complement
 
Some verbs cannot be followed by anything (other than a stray adverbial or two).  These verbs are called intransitive verbs.
  

 
The Most Important Concept of All

Concept #1: A generalization without an example is worthless. 

Such generalizations prove that you've memorized some words.  They do not prove that you understand them or that you can apply them.  Thus, that set of generalizations (without examples) that I just provided is worthless.  I'll try again by adding examples from a sociology textbook to illustrate the concepts.


 
   
Sentences have 2 major subdivisions: a subject and a predicate. 

In the examples the subject is in bold type and the predicate is red.  They are put in columns so that the examples are placed to the immediate right of the generalization they belong to--making the connection more apparent than other formats.

Sociology offers a perspective, a view of the world.
   
Subjects can be nouns, pronouns, gerunds, infinitives, clauses.

In his book on English grammar, Henry Sweet gives us an important and challenging rule for all sets of rules and examples:  Every part of a rule must have an example.  That's not always easy to do and sometimes might lead us to revise the rule to make it less complicated.

Infinitves can be used in subjects but rarely are so used except in sayings--"To know him is to love him."   I haven't yet seen an example in my sociology textbook source but I will keep looking. In the meantime, I'll provide an example myself.

Clauses are also rare in the subject position.  I'll keep looking. In the meantime, I'll provide an example myself.

Generally it's good practice to number examples--as a way of making it easier for you and your students to find the same example quickly.

noun
1. The sociological perspective opens a window onto unfamiliar worlds, and offers a fresh look at familiar worlds.

pronoun
2. You will find yourself in the midst of Nazis in Germany, chimpanzees in Africa, and warriors in South America.

gerund
3. Growing up as a male or a female influences not only our aspirations, but also how we feel about ourselves and how we relate to others in dating and marriage and at work.

4. To be a teacher is to work hard.

5. When they moved to Atlanta is still a mystery.

   
Predicates are even more varied in their structures than subjects.

Example 1: transitive verb + noun phrase as direct object

Example 2: reflexive pronoun and adverbial phrase

Example 3: passive verb followed by adverbial (prepositional phrase as an adverbial)

Example 4: transitive verb followed by a noun phrase

Example 5: linking verb followed by an adjective

Example 6: an intransitive verb (grow up) followed by an adverbial phrase
 
 

It's fine to repeat sentences in example sets.  Remember--an example can be an example of many different things. 

1. The sociological perspective opens a window onto unfamiliar worlds.

2. You will find yourself in the midst of Nazis in Germany, chimpanzees in Africa, and warriors in South America.

3. I have always been enchanted by the perspective that sociology offers.

4.  Each society has certain broad characteristics.

5. Hamburgers are delicious.

6.Children grow up with the values of their society.

   
The verb controls the rest of the structure of a predicate. 

Example 1: a transitive verb with a noun phrase as its direct object

Example 2: a linking verb with an adjective as its complement

Example 3: an intransitive verb with an optional adverbial phrase

1.The sociological perspective opens a window onto unfamiliar worlds.

2. Hamburgers are delicious.

3.Children grow up with the values of their society.

   
Some verbs have objects.  These are called transitive verbs. 1. The sociological perspective opens a window onto unfamiliar worlds, and offers a fresh look at familiar worlds.

2. Sociologists consider people's jobs, income, education, gender, age, and race.

   
Some verbs are followed by information that links back to the subject to describe the subject.  These verbs are called linking verbs or copular verbs.  The most common of these is the verb be.   The "something that describes the subject" is called a complement

Examples 1 and 2 have adjectives as their complements

Examples 3 and 4 have noun phrases in the complement

Example 5 illustrate the use of a prepositional phrase as the complement of a linking verb.  Often these sentences are about location or place:  She is in the library.  They are at the store.

1.Hamburgers are delicious.

2.The war was over.

3.The natural sciences are the intellectual and academic disciplines designed to comprehend, explain, and predict the events in our natural environment.

4.Our focus is sociology.

5.The focus of psychology is on processes that occur within the individual.

   
Some verbs cannot be followed by anything (other than a stray adverb or two).  These verbs are called intransitive verbs.

Intransitive examples are harder to find because they are much rarer than transitive or linking verb.  Indeed, most verbs are transitive verbs.  Notice that most examples of intransitive verbs include an adverbial--English does like to have sentences with 3 parts!  Good real world examples of intransitive verbs include warnings-- Speed kills; Drugs kill.

Children grow up with the values of their society.
   


Questions

Why does any of this information about sentences mastter for ESL/EFL teachers?  We need to start talking about your answers to that question.  Please send me your questions about sentences--or about selecting and using examples from authentic sources.  These are topics we'll keep on talking about all term.