A sentence is a group of words or sub-clauses that expresses a complete idea. A sentence must contain at least one subject and one verb (sometimes the verb is followed by an object or a complement).
Note for Vietnamese students (for 95% of them): As you can see in the above, every sentence contains at least a verb. Please, use verbs in speech!
Types of sentences
There are 4 basic types of sentences: statement, question, exclamation and command.
- a statement sentence gives information; it is the most commonly used type of sentence (I enjoy swimming; I love English etc.)
- a question sentence is used to ask for information (Where are you from? Why do you live in Vietnam? Etc.). This type of sentence finishes with “?” (question mark).
- an exclamation sentence is used to express surprise, pleasure or any other emotion. (What a pretty bike you have! Etc.). This type of sentence finishes with “!” (exclamation mark)
- a command sentence is used to tell someone what or what not to do; it’s basically a command. (Stop that bike! Be quiet! Don’t do that! Don’t speak! etc.). The subject (you) is understood. What about Let’s go! – it’s also an imperative form (the subject: we).
Parts of a sentence
In a one-clause sentence, its parts are the words (grammatical units) that form a sentence when [they are] put together. These parts of a sentence are: verb, pronoun, noun, adverb, adjective, article, preposition and conjunction. In sentences which consist of more than one clause, the most important clause is called the main clause and the other/other clauses are known as sub-clauses. Naturally, all these clauses are formed of the same parts as single clause sentences.
Subject in a sentence
The subject is the most important part of a sentence. It can be a place, a person, a thing or an idea. The subject of a sentence can be a noun, a pronoun, a phrase or an entire clause.
- Dan has just arrived in Vietnam (a noun can be a person, a thing, a place or an idea). In this example “Dan” is the subject and the sentence is about him.
- He has studied English for 18 months (a pronoun replaces a noun). In this example “he” replaces “Dan”
- Few Romanian people have been in Vietnam (a phrase is a group of words that are related with a noun or a verb form). In this example the subject is “Few Romanian people”, the sentence is about few Romanian people.
- Why he left Romania for Vietnam is a mystery for everybody(What is a mystery? The mystery is “why he left Romania for Vietnam.). In this example ‘why he left Romania for Vietnam’ has been moved from its more natural place at the end of the sentence to the beginning. Why? Because the speaker wanted to emphasize, make stronger, this part.
Verbs in a sentence
Verbs are always part of a sentence. A sentence is incomplete without at least a verb. Some verbs tell us what the subject does and some others express what the subject is, feels etc. The verbs in the first category are classified in transitive and intransitive verbs. The verbs from the second category are called linking verbs. They connect the subject with the complement (Comment: perhaps it’d be a good idea to explain ‘complement’ somewhere before) in a sentence.
- Transitive verbs – A transitive verb always has an object. It is incomplete without an object.
Dan found a nice place to live in Vietnam. (Found what? Without “a nice place” the sentence doesn’t make sense.)
- Intransitive verbs – An intransitive verb is complete without an object.
Dan arrived on Thursday.
- Linking Verbs – Linking verbs are followed by information that describes the subject.
Dan is an English teacher.
Objects in a sentence
Objects can be classified into 2 categories: direct objects and indirect objects. Direct objects can be identified if they answer the questions who?, whom? or what?. Indirect objects answer to the following questions: to/for whom Comment: If you place a preposition before who, you must change it to whom!)? or what?.
- direct object – He made big money.
- Indirect object – He gave me the money
Sentences in all human language have similarities. There are over 1500 different languages in the world; although each language has a distinct set of words and grammar, they all have similar parts of sentence. All languages have words that function as nouns and other that function as verbs. Many parts of sentence are similar in all languages.