Understanding Sentences

Sentence is grammatical unit consisting of one or more words that are grammatically linked that express a complete thought or idea. A sentence can be a statement, question, exclamation, request, command, or suggestion. It always begins with capital letter and ended with full stop. In writing we use symbols to emphasize the meaning.


The difference between complete and incomplete thoughts :

  • A complete thought is one that supplies enough information to give you the full meaning being expressed by the writer.
  • Incomplete thought give you only partial information.


The two core parts of the sentence – the subject and the verb, or the subject and the action – , must be present for a group of words to convey a complete thought. To be considered as a sentence in written English, a group of words must fulfill 3 conditions :

  1. Contain a subject;
  2. Contain a verb;
  3. Express a complete thought.

More complicated sentences the verb has an object or thing it refers to which further completes the meaning of the sentence. In reading core parts, it is useful to include the complete predicate rather than just the verb itself.

1. Sentence Modifiers

Once you have identified the core parts of the sentence, the next step is to determine how the meaning of those core parts is changed or modified by the remainder of the sentence. These remaining parts, called modifiers, provide you with further information about one of the core parts.

2. Multiple Core Parts

Some sentences may have more than one subject and/or more than one verb. To read a sentence accurately, you must notice and understand the relationship of the modifiers and the core parts. In some cases, modifiers provide relatively unimportant additional information to which you should pay little attention. At other times, modifiers quality, limit, or restrict the meaning of the core parts and significantly alter their meaning.


There are two basics sentence patterns commonly used to combine ideas :

* Sentences that combine ideas

When two or more equally important ideas are very closely related, a writer may combine them into single sentences. This is done for three reasons :

a. to emphasize their relationship;

b. to indicate their equal importance, and/or

c. to make the material more concise and easier to read.

You can recognize a sentence that combines two or more ideas by its structure and punctuation. Basically, equal ideas are combined by using either a semicolon or a comma along with the one of the following words : and, but, or, either or neither, -nor.

* Sentences that relate ideas

Often a writer expands a sentence by adding related, but less important, ideas to the base sentence. While these less important ideas have their own core parts, they depend on the base sentence to complete their meaning. The idea of lesser importance may describe or explain a condition, cause, reason,purpose, time or place.


You must sort out each important thought in these long and complicated sentences, because firstly, the writer eliminate the need to write many short, simple sentences. Secondly, the information is expressed in a shorter more compact way, and repetition is difficult.


Punctuation is an important aid to understanding sentences. Punctuation can be a guide, or marker, for the location of sentence core parts. It may also separate the core parts of the sentence form other words and phrases in the sentence. Punctuation tells you specific things about the arrangement and relative importance and various parts of a sentence.

The uses of punctuation marks :

1. The Comma ( , )

The different uses of the comma :

a. The introductory use ==> the comma can be used to separate introductory,beginning, or opening parts of a sentence from the main part of the sentence.

b. The parenthetical use ==> the comma can be used to separate additional information from the main part of the sentence.

c. The serial use ==> the comma can be used to separate several items are presented in a list or series in a sentence.

d. Related ideas ==> the comma can be used to join two closely related, and complete ideas within a single sentence. The comma must be used with a conjunction, or connecting word.  Some of the most commonly used conjunctions are and, or, nor, but and for. This use of comma also indicates that there are two sets of core parts within the sentence.

2. The Semicolon ( ; )

The primary use of the semicolon is to separate two very closely related ideas which have been combined into a single sentence. When a semicolon is used, you know that the two ideas have equal weight or importance. Occasionally, a semicolon is used to separate sentence parts which, if divided by commas would be confusing or difficult to read.

3. The Colon ( : )

The colon is most often used to introduce a list, statement, or quotation. The colon tells you, that some type of additional information which further explain the main idea of a sentence is to follow. The colon slab serves as a marker indicating that the sentence’s core parts precede the colon.

4. The Dash ( )

The dash is most commonly used in a sentence to separate unessential or parenthetical elements from the core sentence, when using a comma would be confusing. This usage also assists the reader in separating core parts from supporting information.


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