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Simple Sentence

A simple sentence contains a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought. It might contain other components as well, but only requires a subject and verb to be a complete sentence.

Simple Sentence Basics

1. Subjects

The subject names who or what the sentence is about.

Simple Subjects:

Simple subjects identify only one noun or pronoun.

Fish swim.
The sentence pattern here is subject verb. Fish is the subject and swim is the verb. In this example and throughout this handout, subjects will be indicated in bold and verbs will be italicized.

Compound Subjects:

Compound subjects contain two or more simple subjects joined with a coordinating conjunction such as "and" or "or."

Fish and turtles swim.
The sentence pattern here is subject subject verb. Both fish and turtles are the subject.

Implied Subjects:

In imperative (advice or command) sentences, the subject is an understood "you," though it may not appear in the sentence.

[You ] Eat some fish.
You is understood by the reader to be the subject of this sentence.

Gerunds as Subjects:

A gerund is the –ing form of a verb that behaves as a noun.

Fishing is frightening in the Black Lagoon.
The gerund fishing is the subject of this sentence.

2. Verbs

A verb expresses an action or state of being.

Fish swim.
Swim is the verb (what the subject does, an action).

Fish are feisty.
Are is the verb (a state of being).

As with subjects, verbs can be compound, too.

Fish swim and eat.
Swim and eat are both verbs.

Valuable Sentence Additions

3. Direct Object

A direct object completes the meaning of the verb. A simple direct object, usually a noun or pronoun, answers “what” or “whom” after the verb.

The fish gave kisses.
"Kisses" is the direct object: The fish gave what? The fish gave kisses.

4. Indirect Object

The indirect object of the verb comes before the direct object and usually tells to whom or for whom the action of the verb is done.

The fish gave their offspring kisses.
"Offspring" is the indirect object: The fish gave kisses to whom? The fish gave kisses to their offspring.

5. Complements

While direct and indirect objects occur with action verbs, complements occur with linking verbs that express a state of being.

Those fish are gangsters.
In this sentence, a noun is used as the complement

Gangster fish are dangerous.
In this sentence, an adjective is used as the complement.

Their plan smells fishy.
In this sentence, an adjective is used as the complement.

6. Phrases

Phrases are word groups that function as adjectives, adverbs, or nouns. They can’t stand alone because they don’t contain both a subject and active verb.

Fish swim in the Missouri River.
The prepositional phrase "in the Missouri River" functions as an adverb because it describes or modifies swim.

Fish, our new pets, swim in the Missouri River.
The appositive "our new pets" renames the subject fish. Appositives are noun phrases that rename nouns or pronouns.

To fish is fun.
An infinitive phrase consists of "to" followed by a verb (to fish). This infinitive is a noun, the subject of the sentence.

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