What Is a Sentence?

Because I teach writing, I often have to remind students about basic sentence structure and syntax. So I thought I would give quick writing tips on here once in a while; as writing comprises most of my work and I have also received training in teaching composition, I think I have some ideas to share.

So welcome to Anabelle’s Minute Writing Workshops!

So today we start at the beginning: what is a sentence?

There are many ways to define a sentence:

  • A grammatical unit consisting of one or more words that generally bear minimal syntactic relation to the words that precede or follow it;
  • What is contained between a capital letter and a full stop. (“Sentence (linguistics)”, Wikipedia)

In grammatical terms, a proper sentence in the English language is minimally composed of two words: a subject and a verb.

A subject is the person or thing doing the action; a verb is the action being performed.

“I am” is a complete sentence. It’s not easy to understand on its own, but grammatically it is a proper, complete sentence. “John walks” is another example of a sentence that’s easier to understand on its own.

To this basic structure, you can add complements. Complements add information related to the subject or the verb, but I’ll be covering those in another post.

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4 Comments

Filed under Thoughts, Writing

4 responses to “What Is a Sentence?

  1. Aaron Is Rad

    Is “I am” a complete sentence? “Am” connotes being, and this is very shaky in philosophical terms. What is being? Is being a verb, or is this merely a grammatical trick, an accident of language? Surely being is foundational to acting, so can it be a verb in the same sense that the verb “give” is? Something must be before it can give, it appears that if being is a verb, then it is a peculiar one. Metaphysics aside, I suppose that “I am” can appear grammatical yet have no meaning. But this is idle sophistry, great post Anabelle!
    P.S. your name shows up as a spelling error in the reply box, egads!

  2. Anabelle

    Oh Aaron.

    “I am” has no meaning on its own unless you’re God, I suppose :p

    “I am a spelling error.” Direct complement. Next lesson.

  3. Pingback: What Is a Complement? | Anabelle's Blog

  4. Pingback: What Is a Clause? | Anabelle's Blog

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