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A sentence is a group of words which expresses a complete thought.

– Fire burns.
– Wolves howl.
– Rain is falling.
– Charles is courageous.
– Patient effort removes mountains.
– London is the largest city in the world.
– A man who respects himself should never condescend to use slovenly language.

Some of these sentences are short, expressing a very simple thought; others are comparatively long, because the thought is more complicated and therefore requires more words for its expression. But every one of them, whether short or long, is complete in itself. It comes to a definite end, and is followed by a full pause.

Every sentence, whether short or long, consists of two parts,—a subject and a predicate.

The subject of a sentence designates the person, place, or thing that is spoken of; the predicate is that which is said of the subject.

Thus, in the first example in 1, the subject is fire and the predicate is burns. In the third, the subject is rain; the predicate, is falling. In the last, the subject is a man who respects himself; the predicate, should never condescend to use slovenly language.

Either the subject or the predicate may consist of a single word or of a number of words. But neither the subject by itself nor the predicate by itself, however extended, is a sentence. The mere mention of a thing (fire) does not express a complete thought.

Neither does a mere assertion (burns), if we neglect to mention the person or thing about which the assertion is made. Thus it appears that both a subject and a predicate are necessary to make a sentence.

Sentences may be declarative, interrogative, imperative, or exclamatory.

1. A declarative sentence declares or asserts something as a fact.

Dickens wrote “David Copperfield.”
The army approached the city.

2. An interrogative sentence asks a question.

Who is that officer?
Does Arthur Moore live here?

3. An imperative sentence expresses a command or a request.

Open the window.
Pronounce the vowels more distinctly.

4. An exclamatory sentence expresses surprise, grief, or some other emotion in the form of an exclamation or cry.

How calm the sea is!
What a noise the engine makes!

A declarative, an interrogative, or an imperative sentence is also exclamatory, if it is uttered in an intense or excited tone of voice.

In imperative sentences, the subject (thou or you) is almost always omitted, because it is understood by both speaker and hearer without being expressed.

Such omitted words, which are present (in idea) to the minds of both speaker and hearer, are said to be “understood.” Thus, in “Open the window,” the subject is “you (understood).” If expressed, the subject would be emphatic: as,—“You open the window.”

The subject of a sentence commonly precedes the predicate, but sometimes the predicate precedes.

– Here comes Tom.
– Next came Edward.
– Over went the carriage.
A sentence in which the predicate precedes the subject is said to be in the inverted order. This order is especially common in interrogative sentences.

– Where is your boat?
– When was your last birthday?
– Whither wander you?—Shakspere.


If we examine the words in any sentence, we observe that they have different tasks or duties to perform in the expression of thought.

– Savage beasts roamed through the forest.

In this sentence,
* ‘beasts’ and ‘forest’ are the names of objects;
* ‘roamed’ asserts action, telling us what the beasts did;
* ‘savage’ describes the beasts;
* ‘through’ shows the relation in thought between ‘forest’ and ‘roamed’;
* ‘the’ limits the meaning of forest, showing that one particular forest is meant.
Thus each of these words has its special office (or function) in the sentence.

In accordance with their use in the sentence, words are divided into eight classes called parts of speech,—namely, 1- nouns, 2- pronouns, 3- adjectives, 4- verbs, 5- adverbs, 6- prepositions, 7- conjunctions, and 8- interjections.


A noun is the name of a person, place, or thing.

Examples: Lincoln, William, Elizabeth, sister, engineer, Chicago, island, shelf, star, window, happiness, anger, sidewalk, courage, loss, song.


A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun. It designates a person, place, or thing without naming it.

In “I am ready,” the pronoun I is a convenient substitute for the speaker’s name. In “You have forgotten your umbrella,” the pronouns you and your designate the person to whom one is speaking.

Other pronouns are: he, his, him; she, hers, her; it, its; this, that; who, whose, whom, which; myself, yourself, himself, themselves.

Since pronouns stand for nouns, they enable us to talk about a person, place, or thing without constantly repeating the name.

Nouns and pronouns are called substantives.

Nouns and pronouns are very similar in their use. The difference between them is merely that the noun designates a person, place, or thing by naming it, and that the pronoun designates, but does not name. Hence it is convenient to have a general term (substantive) to include both these parts of speech.

The substantive to which a pronoun refers is called its antecedent.

– Frank introduced the boys to his father. [Frank is the antecedent of the pronoun his.]
– Eleanor is visiting her aunt.
– The book has lost its cover.
– The trappers sat round their camp fire.
– Washington and Franklin served their country in different ways. [Their has two antecedents, connected by and.]



#Tip 12.
An adjective is a word which describes or limits a substantive. (see #Tip 10)

This is usually done by indicating some quality.

An adjective is said to belong to the substantive which it describes or limits.

An adjective limits a substantive by restricting the range of its meaning.

The noun box, for example, includes a great variety of objects. If we say wooden box, we exclude boxes of metal, of paper, etc. If we use a second adjective (small) and a third (square), we limit the size and the shape of the box.

Most adjectives (like wooden, square, and small) describe as well as limit. Such words are called descriptive adjectives.

We may, however, limit the noun box to a single specimen by means of the adjective this or that or the, which does not describe, but simply points out, or designates. Such words are called definitive adjectives.


A verb is a word which can assert something (usually an action) concerning a person, place, or thing.

– The wind blows.
– The horses ran.
– The fire blazed.
– Her jewels sparkled.
– Tom climbed a tree.
– The dynamite exploded.

Some verbs express state or condition rather than an action.

– The treaty still exists.
– The book lies on the table.
– Near the church stood an elm.
– My aunt suffers much from headache.

A group of words may be needed, instead of a single verb, to make an assertion.

A group of words that is used as a verb is called a verb-phrase.

– You will see.
– The tree has fallen.
– We might have invited her.
– Our driver has been discharged.

Certain verbs, when used to make verb-phrases, are called auxiliary (that is, “aiding”) verbs, because they help other verbs to express action or state of some particular kind.

Thus, in “You will see,” the auxiliary verb “will” helps see to express future action; in “We might have invited her,” the auxiliaries “might” and “have” help “invited” to express action that was possible in past time.

The auxiliary verbs are: is (are, was, were, etc.), may, can, must, might, shall, will, could, would, should, have, had, do, did.

Their forms and uses will be studied in connection with the inflection of verbs.

The auxiliary verb regularly comes first in a verb-phrase, and may be separated from the rest of it by some other word or words.

– Where was Washington born?
– The boat was slowly but steadily approaching.

“Is or the verb to be” (in its various forms) and several other verbs may be used to frame sentences in which some word or words in the predicate describe or define the subject.

1. Gold is a metal.
2. Charles is my friend’s name.
3. The colors of this butterfly are brilliant.
4. Iron becomes red in the fire.
5. Our condition seemed desperate.
6. Bertram proved a good friend in this emergency.
7. My soul grows sad with troubles.—Shakspere.

In the first sentence, the verb is not only makes an assertion, but it also connects the rest of the predicate (a metal) with the subject (gold) in such a way that a metal serves as a description or definition of gold.

In sentences 4–7, becomes, seemed, proved, and grows are similarly used.

In such sentences “is” and other verbs that are used for the same purpose are called copulative (that is, “joining or linking”) verbs.

Is in this use is often called the copula, that is, the “joiner” or “link.”

The forms of the verb “is” are very irregular. Among the commonest are: (am, is, are, was, were, and the verb-phrases has been, have been, had been, shall be, will be).



An adverb is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

To modify a word is to change or affect its meaning in some way. Thus in “The river fell rapidly,” the adverb “rapidly” modifies the verb fell by showing how the falling took place. In “I am never late,” “This is absolutely true,” “That is too bad,” the italicized words are adverbs modifying adjectives; in “He came very often,” “He spoke almost hopefully,” “The river fell too rapidly,” they are adverbs modifying other adverbs.

Most adverbs answer the question “How?” “When?” “Where?” or “To what degree or extent?”

Observe that adverbs modify verbs in much the same way in which adjectives modify nouns.

– A bright fire burned.
– A fierce wind blew.

– The fire burned brightly.
– The wind blew fiercely.

A word or group of words that changes or modifies the meaning of another word is called a modifier.

Adjectives and adverbs, then, are both modifiers. Adjectives modify substantives; adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.



#Tip 20.
A preposition is a word placed before a substantive to show its relation to some other word in the sentence.

The substantive which follows a preposition is called its object.

A preposition is said to govern its object.

In “The surface of the water glistened,” “of” makes it clear that surface belongs with water. In “Philip is on the river,” “on” shows Philip’s position with respect to the river. In, or near, or beyond would have indicated a different relation. Water is the object of the preposition of, and river is the object of the preposition on.

#Tip 21.
A preposition often has more than one object.

Over hill and dale he ran.
He was filled with shame and despair.


A conjunction connects words or groups of words.

A conjunction differs from a preposition in having no object, and in indicating a less definite relation between the words which it connects.

In “Time and tide wait for no man,” “The parcel was small but heavy,” “He wore a kind of doublet or jacket,” the conjunctions “and”, “but”, “or”, connect single words,—time with tide, small with heavy, doublet with jacket.

In “Do not go if you are afraid,” “I came because you sent for me,” “Take my key, but do not lose it,” “Sweep the floor and dust the furniture,” each conjunction connects the entire group of words preceding it with the entire group following it.


An interjection is a cry or other exclamatory sound expressing surprise, anger, pleasure, or some other emotion or feeling.

Interjections usually have no grammatical connection with the groups of words in which they stand; hence their name, which means “thrown in.”

Examples: Oh! I forgot. Ah, how I miss you! Bravo! Alas!


The meaning of a word in the sentence determines to what part of speech it belongs.

The same word may be sometimes one part of speech, sometimes another.

Words of entirely separate origin, meaning, and use sometimes look and sound alike: as in “The minstrel sang a plaintive lay,” and “He lay on the ground.” But the following examples (§ 25) show that the same word may have more than one kind of grammatical office (or function). It is the meaning which we give to a word in the sentence that determines its classification as a part of speech.


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