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Sentence Structures:

There are many different ways of organizing words into sentences. (Or we might say, Words can be organized into sentences in many different ways.) For this reason, describing how to put a sentence together isn't as easy as explaining how to bake a cake or assemble a model plane. There are no easy recipes, no step-by-step instructions. But that doesn't mean that crafting an effective sentence depends on magic or good luck. Experienced writers understand that the basic parts of a sentence can be combined and arranged in countless ways. So as we work to improve our writing, it's important to understand what these basic structures are and how to use them effectively. We'll begin by introducing the traditional parts of speech and the most common sentence structures. For practice in shaping these words and structures into strong sentences, follow the links to the practice exercises, examples, and expanded discussions.

1. Parts of speech:
Learning the names of the traditional parts of speech probably won't make you witty, wealthy, or wise. In fact, learning just the names of the parts of speech won't even make you a better writer. But you will gain a basic understanding of the English language, which will help you follow the other lessons here at About.com Grammar and Composition. And those lessons will help you to improve your writing. As you study the table at the bottom of the page, keep in mind that only interjections ("Yes!") have a habit of standing alone (or alongside complete sentences). The three articles (now often identified as a type of determiner rather than a distinct word class) appear before nouns. However, the other parts of speech--nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions--come in many varieties and may appear just about anywhere in a sentence. To know for sure what part of speech a word is, we have to look not only at the word itself but also at its meaning, position, and use in a sentence. For example, in the first sentence below, work is a noun; in the second sentence, a verb; and in the third sentence, an adjective:

Bosco showed up for work two hours late. [The noun work is the thing Bosco shows up for.] He will have to work until midnight. [The verb work is the action he must perform.] His work permit expires next month. [The adjective work modifies the noun permit.]

Don't let this variety of meanings and uses confuse or discourage you. Keep in mind that learning the names of the basic parts of speech is just one way to understand how sentences are put together. Now review the parts of speech listed below, and for each one see if you can provide examples of your own. (Click on the term for more detailed explanations and additional examples.) You will grow more familiar with the parts of speech as you practice using them in other lessons on this site, such as Basic Sentence Structures.

Parts of Speech

PART OF BASIC FUNCTION SPEECH noun

EXAMPLES

pirate, names a person, place, Caribbean, or thing ship I, you, he, she, takes the place of a noun it, ours, them, who identifies action or state sing, dance, of being believe, be modifies a noun modifies adjective, adverb a or hot, funny verb, softly, other often lazy, lazily,

pronoun verb adjective adverb

shows a relationship up, over, between a noun (or preposition against, by, pronoun) and other for words in a sentence conjunction joins words, phrases, and and, but, or, clauses yet ah, whoops, ouch

interjection expresses emotion article

identifies and specifies a a,an, the noun

2. Subjects, verb, Objects:


As seen in our review of the basic parts of speech, you don't need a thorough knowledge of formal English grammar to become a good writer. However, knowing a few basic grammatical terms should help you understand some of the principles of good writing. Here you will learn how to identify and use subjects, verbs, and objects--which together form the basic sentence unit.

Subjects and Verbs


A sentence is commonly defined as "a complete unit of thought." Normally, a sentence expresses a relationship, conveys a command, voices a question, or describes someone or something. It begins with a capital letter and ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation mark. The basic parts of a sentence are the subject and the verb. The subject is usually a noun--a word that names a person, place, or thing. The predicate (or verb) usually follows the subject and identifies an action or a state of being. See if you can identify the subject and the predicate in each of the following short sentences:

The hawk soars. The widows weep. My daughter is a wrestler. The children are tired.

In each of these sentences, the subject is a noun: hawk, widows, daughter, and children. The verbs in the first two sentences--soars, weep--show action and answer the question, "What does the subject do?" The verbs in the last two sentences--is, are--are called linking verbs because they link the subject with a word that renames it (wrestler) or describes it (tired). For additional practice in recognizing these key elements in a sentence, see Exercises in Identifying Subjects and Verbs.

Pronouns
Pronouns are words that take the place of nouns in a sentence. In the second sentence below, the pronoun she stands for Merdine:

Merdine danced on the roof of the barn during the thunderstorm. She was waving an American flag.

As the second sentence shows, a pronoun (like a noun) may serve as the subject of a sentence. The common subject pronouns are I, you, he, she, it, we, and they.

Objects

In addition to serving as subjects, nouns may also function as objects in sentences. Instead of performing the action, as subjects usually do, objects receive the action and usually follow the verb. See if you can identify the objects in the short sentences below:

The girls hurled stones. The professor swigged coffee. Gus dropped the aquarium.

The objects--stones, coffee, aquarium--all answer the question what: What was hurled? What was swigged? What was dropped? As the following sentences demonstrate, pronouns may also serve as objects:

Before eating the brownie, Nancy sniffed it. When I finally found my brother, I kissed him.

The common object pronouns are me, you, him, her, it, us, and them.

The Basic Sentence Unit


You should now be able to identify the main parts of the basic sentence unit: SUBJECT plus VERB, or SUBJECT plus VERB plus OBJECT. Remember that the subject names what the sentence is about, the verb tells what the subject does or is, and the object receives the action of the verb. Although many other structures can be added to this basic unit, the pattern of SUBJECT plus VERB (or SUBJECT plus VERB plus OBJECT) can be found in even the longest and most complicated structures.

Practice in Identifying Subjects, Verbs, and Objects


For each of the following sentences, identify the word in bold as a subject, a verb, or an object. When you're done, compare your answers with those at the end of the exercise.

1. Mr. Buck donated a wishbone to the Museum of Natural History. 2. After the final song, the drummer hurled his sticks at the crowd. 3. Gus smashed the electric guitar with a sledge hammer. 4. Felix stunned the giraffe with a radar gun. 5. Very slowly, Pandora opened the box. 6. Very slowly, Pandora opened the box. 7. Very slowly, Pandora opened the box. 8. Thomas gave his moonpie to Bengie. 9. After breakfast, Vera drove to the mission with Ted. 10. Even though it rarely rains here, Professor Legree carries his umbrella
wherever he goes.

Answers 1. verb; 2. subject; 3. object; 4. object; 5. subject; 6. verb; 7. object; 8. verb; 9. subject; 10. verb.

3. Adjectives and Adverbs:


As shown in Basic Sentence Structures, a common way of expanding a simple sentence is with modifiers--words that add to the meanings of other words. The simplest modifiers are adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives modify nouns, while adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. For instance, in the sentence below, the adjective sad modifies the noun smile (the subject of the sentence). The clown's sad smile touched us deeply. In this same sentence, the adverb deeply modifies the verb touched. Used carefully, adjectives and adverbs can make our writing clearer and more precise.

Arranging Adjectives
Adjectives most often appear just in front of the nouns that they modify: The old, cranky caretaker refused to answer our questions. Notice that when two (or more) adjectives precede a noun, they are usually separated by commas. But occasionally adjectives follow the nouns they modify: The caretaker, old and cranky, refused to answer our questions. Here the commas appear outside the pair of adjectives, which are joined by the conjunction and. Placing the adjectives after the noun is a way of giving them added emphasis in a sentence. Adjectives sometimes appear in a third position in a sentence: after a linking verb such as am, are, is, was, or were. As their name implies, these verbs link adjectives with the subjects they modify. See if you can identify the adjectives in the sentences below: His voice was rough. Your children are cruel. This seat is wet. In each of these sentences, the adjective (rough, cruel, wet) modifies the subject but follows the linking verb (was, are, is).

Arranging Adverbs
Adverbs usually follow the verbs they modify: I dance occasionally. However, an adverb may also appear directly in front of the verb or at the very beginning of a sentence: I occasionally dance. Occasionally I dance. Because not all adverbs are this flexible in all sentences, you should try them out in different positions until you find the clearest arrangement.

Practice in Adding Adjectives


Many adjectives are formed from nouns and verbs. The adjective thirsty, for example, comes from thirst, which may be either a noun or a verb. Complete each sentence below with the adjective form of the italicized noun or verb. When you're done, compare your answers with those on page two.

1. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought great destruction to the Gulf coast. It was
one of the most _____ hurricanes in recent decades.

2. All of our pets enjoy good health. Our collie is exceptionally _____, despite its
advanced age.

3. Your suggestion makes a great deal of sense. You have a very _____ idea.

4. Google made record profits last year. It is one of the most _____ companies in
the world.

5. Dr. Kraft's job requires patience and skill. He is a _____ negotiator.

6. All through high school, Giles rebelled against his parents and teachers. Now he
has three _____ children of his own.

7. Telling jokes that will not offend others can be difficult. Some comedians are
deliberately _____.

Practice in Adding Adverbs


Many adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective. The adverb softly, for instance, comes from the adjective soft. Note, however, that not all adverbs end in -ly. Very, quite, always, almost, and often are some of the common adverbs that are not formed from adjectives. Complete each sentence below with the adverb form of the italicized adjective. When you're done, compare your answers with those on page two.

1. The exam was easy. I passed _____.

2. Leroy's careless act set the warehouse on fire. He _____ tossed a cigarette into a
tank of gasoline.

3. Paige is a brave little girl. She fought _____ against the poltergeists.

4. Howard is a graceful dancer. He moves _____.

5. Tom's

apology sounded quite sincere. He said that he was _____ sorry for misusing the tax funds.

6. Paula made a generous contribution to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.


She gives _____ every year.

7. The lecture was brief. Dr. Legree spoke _____ about the importance of flossing
after every meal.

4. Prepositional Phrases:
Like adjectives and adverbs, prepositional phrases add meaning to the nouns and verbs in our sentences. There are two prepositional phrases in the following sentence:

The steamy air in the kitchen reeked of stale beer. The first prepositional phrase--in the kitchen-modifies the noun air; the second--of stale beer-modifies the verb reeked. The two phrases provide information that helps us to understand the sentence.

A prepositional phrase has two basic parts: a preposition plus a noun or a pronoun that serves as the object of the preposition. A preposition is a word that shows how a noun or a pronoun is related to another word in a sentence. The common prepositions are listed in the table at the bottom of this page.

Building Sentences with Prepositional Phrases


Prepositional phrases may do more than just add minor details to a sentence: they may, in fact, be needed for a sentence to make sense. Consider the vagueness of this sentence without prepositional phrases:

The workers gather a rich variety and distribute it. Now see how the sentence comes into focus when we add prepositional phrases: From many sources, the workers at the Community Food Bank gather a rich variety of surplus and unsalable food and distribute it to soup kitchens, day-care centers, and homes for the elderly. Notice how these added prepositional phrases give us more information about certain nouns and verbs in the sentence:

Which workers? The workers at the Community Food Bank. What did they gather? A rich variety of surplus and unsalable food. Where did they gather the food? From many sources. Who did they distribute it to? To soup kitchens, day-care centers, and homes for the elderly.

Like the other simple modifiers, prepositional phrases are not merely ornaments; they add details that can help us understand a sentence.
PRACTICE: Building with Simple Modifiers Use adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases to expand the sentence below. Add details that answer the questions in parentheses and make the sentence more interesting and informative.

Jenny stood, raised her shotgun, aimed, and fired. (Where did Jenny stand? How did she aim? What did she fire at?) There are, of course, no single correct answers to the questions in parentheses. Sentence-expanding exercises such as this one encourage you to use your imagination to build original sentences.
NEXT:

Exercise in Identifying Prepositional Phrases Expanding Sentences With Prepositional Phrases Arranging Prepositional Phrases exce outsid pt e

Common Prepositions

about behind

abov below for over e acros benea from past s th throug after beside in h again betwe insid to st en e beyon along into under d amon by near until g aroun despit of up d e at down off with befor withou during on e t

5. Coordination:
When we coordinate things, whether we're talking about our schedules or our clothing, we make connections--or, as the dictionary says in a more fanciful way, "bring things together in a common and harmonious action." The same idea applies when we talk about coordination in grammar. A common way to connect related words, phrases, and even entire clauses is to coordinate them--that is, connect them with a coordinating conjunction such as "and" or "but." The following short paragraph from Ernest Hemingway's Another Country contains several coordinated words, phrases, and clauses. We were all at the hospital every afternoon, and there were different ways of walking across the town through the dusk to the hospital. Two of the ways were alongside canals, but they were long. Always, though, you crossed a bridge across a canal to enter the hospital. There was a choice of three bridges. On one of them a woman sold roasted chestnuts. It was warm, standing in front of her charcoal fire, and the chestnuts were warm afterward in your pocket. The hospital was very old and very beautiful, and you entered through a gate and walked across a courtyard and out a gate on the other side. In most of his novels and short stories, Hemingway relies heavily (some readers might say too heavily) on such basic conjunctions as "and" and "but." The other coordinating conjunctions are yet, or, nor, for, and so. Similar to these basic conjunctions are the following paired conjunctions (sometimes called correlative conjunctions): both . . . either . . . neither . . . not . . . not . . . not only . . . but whether . . . or The paired conjunctions serve to emphasize the words being connected. and or nor but nor (also)

Let's see how these correlative conjunctions work. First, consider the following simple sentence, which contains two nouns joined by and: Merdine and Gus have gone to Buffalo. We can rewrite this sentence with paired conjunctions to emphasize the two nouns: Both Merdine and Gus have gone to Buffalo. We often use the basic coordinating conjunctions and paired conjunctions in our writing to connect related ideas.

Punctuation Tips: Using Commas with Conjunctions

When just two words or phrases are joined by a conjunction, no comma is needed: Nurses in uniforms and in peasant costumes walked under the trees with the children. However, when two or more items are listed before a conjunction, those items should be separated by commas: Nurses in uniforms, peasant costumes, and worn frocks walked under the trees with the children. Similarly, when two complete sentences (called main clauses) are joined by a conjunction, we should generally place a comma before the conjunction: The tides advance and retreat in their eternal rhythms, and the level of the sea itself is never at rest. Although no comma is needed before the and that joins the verbs advance and retreat, we do need to place a comma before the second and, which joins two main clauses.

6. Adjective Clauses:
Coordination is a useful way of connecting ideas that are roughly equal in importance. But often we need to show that one idea in a sentence is more important than another. On these occasions we use subordination to indicate that one part of a sentence is secondary (or subordinate) to another part. One common form of subordination is the adjective clause--a word group that modifies a noun. Consider how the following sentences might be combined: My father is a superstitious man. He always sets his unicorn traps at night. One option is to coordinate the two sentences: My father is a superstitious man, and he always sets his unicorn traps at night. When sentences are coordinated in this way, each main clause is given equal emphasis. What if we want to place greater emphasis on one statement than on another? We then have the option of reducing the less important statement to an adjective clause. For example, to emphasize that father sets his unicorn traps at night, we can turn the first main clause into an adjective clause: My father, who is a superstitious man, always sets his unicorn traps at night. As shown here, the adjective clause does the job of an adjective and follows the noun that it modifies--father. Like a main clause, an adjective clause contains a subject (in this case, who) and a verb (is). But unlike a main clause an adjective clause can't stand alone: it has to follow a noun in a main clause. For this reason, an adjective clause is considered to be subordinate to the main clause.

Identifying Adjective Clauses


The most common adjective clauses begin with one of these relative pronouns: who, which, and that. All three pronouns refer to a noun, but who refers only to people and which refers only to things. That may refer to either people or things.

The following sentences show how these pronouns are used to begin adjective clauses: Mr. Clean, who hates rock music, smashed my electric guitar. Mr. Clean smashed my electric guitar, which had been a gift from Vera. Mr. Clean smashed the electric guitar that Vera had given me. In the first sentence, the relative pronoun who refers to Mr. Clean, the subject of the main clause. In the second and third sentences, the relative pronouns which and that refer to guitar, the object of the main clause. PRACTICE: Identifying Adjective Clauses Only some of the sentences below contain adjective clauses. See if you can pick out the adjective clauses, and then compare your responses with the answers at the end of the exercise. 1. 2. 3. 4. I bought a car from Merdine, and it turned out to be a lemon. The car that I bought from Merdine turned out to be a lemon. Pandora, who had recently celebrated a birthday, opened the box of gifts. Lila, who has been the fire warden for 30 years, lives in a trailer with some scrappy dogs and cats. 5. Lila, who lives in a trailer with some scrappy dogs and cats, has been the fire warden for 30 years. 6. People who smoke cigarettes should be considerate of nonsmokers. 7. Jacob, who smokes cigarettes, is considerate of nonsmokers. 8. Mr. Mann has small, dark eyes, which peer inquisitively from behind metalrimmed glasses. 9. My wedding ring is worth at least ten dollars, and now I have lost it. 10. I have lost my wedding ring, which is worth at least ten dollars. Answers 1. (no adjective clause) 2. that I bought from Merdine 3. who had recently celebrated a birthday 4. who has been the town fire warden for nearly 30 years 5. who lives in a trailer with some scrappy dogs and cats 6. who smoke cigarettes 7. who smokes cigarettes 8. which peer inquisitively from behind metal-rimmed glasses 9. (no adjective clause) 10.which is worth at least ten dollars

Punctuating Adjective Clauses


These three guidelines will help you decide when to set off an adjective clause with commas:

1. Adjective clauses beginning with that are never set off from the main clause
with commas. Food that has turned green in the refrigerator should be thrown away.

2. Adjective

clauses beginning with who or which should not be set off with commas if omitting the clause would change the basic meaning of the sentence. Students who turn green should be sent to the infirmary. Because we don't mean that all students should be sent to the infirmary, the adjective clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence. For this reason, we don't set off the adjective clause with commas.

3. Adjective clauses beginning with who or which should be set off with commas
if omitting the clause would not change the basic meaning of the sentence. Last week's pudding, which has turned green in the refrigerator, should be thrown away. Here the which clause provides added, but not essential, information, and so we set it off from the rest of the sentence with commas. PRACTICE: Punctuating Adjective Clauses In the following sentences, add commas to set off adjective clauses that provide additional, but not essential, information. Don't add commas if the adjective clause affects the basic meaning of the sentence. 1. Caramel de Lites which are cookies sold by the Girl Scouts contain 70 calories each. 2. These are the times that try men's souls. 3. I refuse to live in any house that Jack built. 4. I left my son at the campus day-care center which is available to all full-time students with young children. 5. Students who have young children are invited to use the free day-care center. 6. A physician who smokes and overeats has no right to criticize the personal habits of her patients. 7. Gus who gave Merdine a bouquet of ragweed has been exiled to the storm cellar for a week. 8. Professor Legree lost his only umbrella which he has owned for 20 years. 9. Healthy people who refuse to work should not be given government assistance. 10. Felix who was once a hunter in the Yukon stunned the roach with one blow from a newspaper. Answers 1. Caramel de Lites, which are cookies sold by the Girl Scouts, contain . . .. 2. (no commas) 3. (no commas) 4. . . . day-care center, which is available to all full-time students with young children. 5. (no commas) 6. (no commas) 7. Gus, who gave Merdine a bouquet of ragweed, has . . ..

8. . . . umbrella, which he has owned 9. (no 10. Felix, who was once a hunter in the Yukon, stunned . . ..

for

20

years. commas)

7. Appositive:
An appositive is a word or group of words that identifies or renames another word in a sentence. As we've seen (in the article What Is an Appositive?), appositive constructions offer concise ways of describing or defining a person, place, or thing. In this article you will learn how to construct sentences with appositives.

A. From Adjective Clauses to Appositives


Like an adjective clause, an appositive provides more information about a noun. In fact, we may think of an appositive as a simplified adjective clause. Consider, for example, how the following two sentences can be combined:

Jimbo Gold is a professional magician.

Jimbo Gold performed at my sister's birthday party.

One way to combine these sentences is to turn the first sentence into an adjective clause: Jimbo Gold, who is a professional magician, performed at my sister's birthday party. We also have the option of reducing the adjective clause in this sentence to an appositive. All that we need to do is omit the pronoun who and the verb is: Jimbo Gold, a professional magician, performed at my sister's birthday party. The appositive a professional magician serves to identify the subject, Jimbo Gold. Reducing an adjective clause to an appositive is one way to cut the clutter in our writing. However, not all adjective clauses can be shortened to appositives in this fashion--only those that contain a form of the verb to be (is, are, was, were).

B. Arranging Appositives
An appositive most often appears directly after the noun it identifies or renames: Arizona Bill, "The Great Benefactor of Mankind," toured Oklahoma with herbal cures and a powerful liniment. Note that this appositive, like most, could be omitted without changing the basic meaning of the sentence. In other words, it's nonrestrictive and needs to be set off with a pair of commas. Occasionally, an appositive may appear in front of a word that it identifies: A dark wedge, the eagle hurtled earthward at nearly 200 miles per hour.

An appositive at the beginning of a sentence is usually followed by a comma. In each of the examples seen so far, the appositive has referred to the subject of the sentence. However, an appositive may appear before or after any noun in a sentence. In the following example, the appositive refers to roles, the object of a preposition: People are summed up largely by the roles they fill in society--wife or husband, soldier or salesperson, student or scientist--and by the qualities that others ascribe to them. This sentence demonstrates a different way of punctuating appositives--with dashes. When the appositive itself contains commas, setting off the construction with dashes helps to prevent confusion. Using dashes instead of commas also serves to emphasize the appositive. Placing an appositive at the very end of a sentence is another way to give it special emphasis. Compare these two sentences: At the far end of the pasture, the most magnificent animal I had ever seen--a whitetailed deer--was cautiously edging toward a salt-lick block. At the far end of the pasture, the most magnificent animal I had ever seen was cautiously edging toward a salt-lick block--a white-tailed deer. Whereas the appositive merely interrupts the first sentence, it marks the climax of sentence two.

C. Punctuating Nonrestrictive and Restrictive Appositives


As we've seen, most appositives are nonrestrictive--that is, the information that they add to a sentence is not essential for the sentence to make sense. Nonrestrictive appositives are set off by commas or dashes. A restrictive appositive (like a restrictive adjective clause) is one that cannot be omitted from a sentence without affecting the basic meaning of the sentence. A restrictive appositive should not be set off by commas: John-Boy's sister Mary Ellen became a nurse after their brother Ben took a job at a lumber mill. Because John-Boy has multiple sisters and brothers, the two restrictive appositives make clear which sister and which brother the writer is talking about. In other words, the two appositives are restrictive, and so they are not set off by commas.

D. Four Variations
1. Appositives that Repeat a Noun Although an appositive usually renames a noun in a sentence, it may instead repeat a noun for the sake of clarity and emphasis: In America, as in anywhere else in the world, we must find a focus in our lives at an early age, a focus that is beyond the mechanics of earning a living or coping with a

household. (Santha Rama Rau, "An invitation to Serenity") Notice that the appositive in this sentence is modified by an adjective clause. Adjectives, prepositional phrases, and adjective clauses (in other words, all of the structures that can modify a noun) are often used to add details to an appositive. 2. Negative Appositives Most appositives identify what someone or something is, but there are also negative appositives that identify what someone or something is not: Line managers and production employees, rather than staff specialists, are primarily responsible for quality assurance. Negative appositives begin with a word such as not, never, or rather than. 3. Multiple Appositives Two, three, or even more appositives may appear alongside the same noun: Saint Petersburg, a city of almost five-million people, Russia's second-largest and northernmost metropolis, was designed three centuries ago by Peter the Great. As long as we don't overwhelm the reader with too much information at one time, a double or triple appositive can be an effective way of adding supplementary details to a sentence. 4. List Appositives with Pronouns A final variation is the list appositive that precedes a pronoun such as all or these or everyone: Streets of yellow row houses, the ochre plaster walls of old churches, the crumbling sea-green mansions now occupied by government offices--all seem in sharper focus, with their defects hidden by the snow. (Leona P. Schecter, "Moscow") The word all is not essential to the meaning of the sentence: the opening list could serve by itself as the subject. However, the pronoun helps to clarify the subject by drawing the items together before the sentence goes on to make a point about them.

8. Adverb Clauses:
Here we'll practice building sentences with adverb clauses. Like an adjective clause, an adverb clause is always dependent on (or subordinate to) an independent clause. Like an ordinary adverb, an adverb clause usually modifies a verb, though it can also modify an adjective, an adverb, or even the rest of the sentence in which it appears. Adverb clauses show the relationship and relative importance of ideas in our sentences.

From Coordination to Subordination


Consider how we might combine these two sentences:

The national speed limit was repealed. Road accidents have increased sharply. One option is to coordinate the two sentences: The national speed limit was repealed, and road accidents have increased sharply. Coordination with and allows us to connect the two main clauses, but it doesn't clearly identify the relationship between the ideas in those clauses. To clarify that relationship, we may choose to change the first main clause into an adverb clause: Since the national speed limit was repealed, road accidents have increased sharply. In this version the time relationship is emphasized. By changing the first word in the adverb clause (a word called a subordinating conjunction), we can establish a different relationship--one of cause: Because the national speed limit was repealed, road accidents have increased sharply. Notice that an adverb clause, like an adjective clause, contains its own subject and predicate, but it must be subordinated to a main clause to make sense.

Common Subordinating Conjunctions


An adverb clause begins with a subordinating conjunction--an adverb that connects the subordinate clause to the main clause. The subordinating conjunction may indicate a relationship of cause, concession, comparison, condition, place, or time. Here's a list of the common subordinating conjunctions: Cause as because in since so

order

that that

Example: "I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals. I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants." (A. Whitney Brown) Concession although as as even just though whereas while and Comparison though though as

Examples: "You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too." (John Kenneth Galbraith) "It is a waste of energy to be angry with a man who behaves badly, just as it is to be angry with a car that won't go."

(Bertrand Condition even if in provided unless

Russell) if case that

Example: "If you have ever lain awake at night and repeated one word over and over, thousands and millions and hundreds of thousands of millions of times, you know the disturbing mental state you can get into." (James Thurber) Place where wherever Example: "Read over your compositions, and wherever you meet with a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out." (Samuel Johnson) Time after as as before once still till until when whenever while Example: "As soon as you trust (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

soon long

as as

yourself,

you

will

know

how

to

live."

Practice in Building Sentences with Adverb Clauses


These five short exercises in sentence combining will give you practice in developing sentences with adverb clauses. Follow the instructions that precede each set of sentences. After you have completed the exercise, compare your new sentences with the sample combinations on page two.

1. Combine these

two sentences by turning the second sentence into an adverb clause beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of time:

o o

In a Junction City diner, a sunburned farmer comforts his squirming son. His wife sips coffee and recalls the high school prom.

2. Combine these

two sentences by turning the second sentence into an adverb clause beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of place: o Diane wants to live somewhere. o The sun shines every day there.

3. Combine these two sentences by turning the first sentence into an adverb clause
beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of concession or comparison: o Work stops. o Expenses run on.

4. Combine these two sentences by turning the first sentence into an adverb clause
beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of condition: o You're on the right track. o You'll get run over if you just sit there.

5. Combine these two sentences by turning the first sentence into an adverb clause
beginning with an appropriate subordinating conjunction of cause: o Satchel Paige was black. o He was not allowed to pitch in the major leagues until he was in his forties. After you have completed the exercise, compare your new sentences with the sample combinations on page two.

9. Participle Phrases:
As seen in Identifying Verbals, a participle is a verb form used as an adjective to modify nouns and pronouns. Participles can add vigor to our writing as they add information to our sentences. Here we'll practice creating and arranging participial phrases.

Participles as Modifiers
Consider the different verb forms in this sentence:

My father's hair, streaked with gray and receding on both sides, is combed straight back to his collar. The main verb (or predicate) of the sentence is the phrase is combed. The other two verbs forms are participles:

streaked is a past participle, formed by adding -ed to the present form of the verb ("streak"); receding is a present participle, formed by adding -ing to the verb ("recede").

Both participles work as adjectives and follow the noun they modify: "hair." Like regular adjectives, participles may also appear in front of the nouns they modify: The whispering breeze scattered seeds across the abandoned fields. Here, both the present participle whispering and the past participle abandoned stand in front of the nouns they describe ("breeze" and "fields").

Present and Past Participles


When thinking about participles, don't be misled by the words present and past. These terms refer to different forms of verbs, not to different times or tenses. All present participles end in -ing: the the the stinging remark laughing falling lady temperature

The past participles of all regular verbs end in -ed: the tired dancer the injured player the cracked vase However, irregular verbs have various past participle endings (such as thrown, ridden, built, and gone). If you're unsure of a past participle ending, visit The Principal Parts of Irregular Verbs.

Participial Phrases
Both present and past participles can be used in phrases--called participial phrases--that modify nouns and pronouns. A participial phrase is made up of a participle and its modifiers. A participle may be followed by an object, an adverb, a prepositional phrase, an adverb clause, or any combination of these. Here, for example, the participial phrase consists of a present participle (holding), an object (the torch), and an adverb (steadily): Holding the torch steadily, Merdine approached the monster. In the next sentence, the participial phrase includes a present participle (making), an object (a great ring), and a prepositional phrase (of white light): Merdine waved the torch over her head, making a great ring of white light.

Let's practice by combining these three sentences, turning the first and third into participial phrases:

I guided the pinball through the upper chutes, down a runover lane, off the slingshot bumpers to the flippers. I cradled it there. I bounced it back and forth until I had a perfect shot through the spinner.

To emphasize the quick, successive actions described in these three sentences, we can combine them by turning the verbs guided and bounced into present participles: Guiding the ball through the upper chutes, down a runover lane, off the slingshot bumpers to the flippers, I cradled it there, bouncing it back and forth until I had a perfect shot through the spinner. (J. Anthony Lucas, "The Inner Game of Pinball") Here, the first phrase includes a present participle (Guiding) and its object (the pinball), followed by a series of prepositional phrases. The second participial phrase again contains a present participle (bouncing) and its object (it), followed by a pair of adverbs (back and forth) and an adverb clause. Both participial phrases modify "I," the subject of the sentence. Note that participial phrases can't stand alone as complete sentences: they must modify a noun or pronoun in the sentence.

Arranging Participial Phrases


A participial phrase is flexible, a structure that can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence. Participial phrases may be arranged to show a sequence of actions, as in the "pinball" sentence just seen. They may also be set up to show that two or more actions are occurring at the same time: The eagles swooped and hovered, leaning on the air, and swung close together, feinting and screaming with delight. (N. Scott Momaday, House Made of Dawn) In this sentence, the eagles were "leaning on the air" as they "hovered"; they were "feinting and screaming with delight" as they swung close together. Though you can shift a participial phrase to different positions, don't risk awkwardness or confusion by placing it too far from the word it modifies. For example, a participial phrase that indicates a cause usually precedes the main clause, sometimes follows the subject, but only rarely appears at the end of the sentence. In each sentence below, the participial phrase clearly modifies the subject ("my younger sister") and suggests a cause:

Discouraged by the long hours and low pay, my sister finally quit her job. My sister, discouraged by the long hours and low pay, finally quit her job.

But consider what happens when the participial phrase moves to the end of the sentence:

My sister finally quit her job, discouraged by the long hours and low pay.

Here the logical order of cause-effect is reversed, and as a result the sentence may be less effective than the first two versions.

Dangling Phrases
A participial phrase should refer clearly to a noun or pronoun in the sentence. We have to be careful when combining sentences such as these: I curled my toes and squinted. The doctor prepared to puncture my arm with a needle. Notice what happens if we drop "I" and change the first sentence to a participial phrase: Curling my toes and squinting, the doctor prepared to puncture my arm with a needle. Here the participial phrases refer to "the doctor" when they should refer to "I"--a pronoun that's not in the sentence. This kind of problem--called a dangling modifier-should be avoided. We can correct this dangling modifier either by adding "I" to the sentence or by replacing the participial phrase with an adverb clause:

Curling my toes and squinting, I waited for the doctor to puncture my arm with a needle. As I curled my toes and squinted, the doctor prepared to puncture my arm with a needle.

10: Absolute Phrases:


Among the modifiers that are used to add information to sentences, the absolute phrase may be the least common but one of the most useful.

Identifying Absolute Phrases


An absolute phrase is a word group that modifies an entire sentence. It consists of a noun plus at least one other word, as shown here: The hunters rested for a moment in front of the shack, their breaths white in the frosty air. The noun (breaths) that begins this absolute phrase is followed by an adjective (white) and a prepositional phrase (in the frosty air). In addition to adjectives and prepositional phrases, adverbs and participles can also follow the noun in an absolute phrase. As the sentence above shows, an absolute phrase lets us move from a description of a whole person, place, or thing to just one or more parts: from hunters, for instance, to their breaths.

Building and Arranging Absolute Phrases


Consider how the sentence just seen might be brokn down into two sentences: The hunters rested for a moment in front of the shack. Their breaths were white in the frosty air. The second sentence, we see, can be turned into an absolute phrase simply by omitting the linking verb were. As we have seen, the absolute phrase may appear at the end of a sentence: The hunters rested for a moment in front of the shack, their breaths white in the frosty air. The absolute phrase may also appear at the beginning of the sentence: Their breaths white in the frosty air, the hunters rested for a moment in front of the shack. And occasionally an absolute phrase is positioned between the subject and verb: The hunters, their breaths white in the frosty air, rested for a moment in front of the shack. Notice that an absolute phrase, like a participle phrase, is usually set off from the rest of the sentence by a pair of commas.