Grammar Make-You-Better Unit Guide:  Understanding and Expanding the Sentence

            Amazingly, there is more to the English sentence than, “I am a teacher; I will give you assignments.”  And yet, even that single sentence demonstrates a plethora of grammatical applications that, when explicated, make conscious the processes of sentence composition—unlocking doors and opening windows into the world of sentence construction and expansion.  For instance, the first statement—called a clause—contains a subject (I), be form verb (am), and a subject complement (teacher).  The second clause is more complex:  it has a subject (I), a future tense helping verb (will), a transitive verb (give), an indirect object, (you), and a direct object (assignments).  Notice how bland the sentence is, though.  With a few rules, lots of practice, and the most useful invention in schooling history—the sentence diagram—you will learn how to expand monotonous sentences worthy of self-inflicted eye gouges into marvels like this:  

Assuming the grim and malcontented countenance of an unpretentious graduate student, I—the teacher—will enable my tender and mild-mannered adolescent teen angels, who have a marked propensity toward mischievous behavior, to compose work of unparalleled quality, composition, and thought every single day of their academic lives; but the first lesson any student should learn is the most basic fundamental process—the core—of what makes a sentence operate nominally, verbally, adjectivally, adverbially, prepositionally, infinitively, participially, appositively, and functionally until their young adult hearts burst with amour for the language they all love in a manner indescribable in their pre-esoteric vocabularies (Don’t test me on this; I’ve diagrammed it!).

It may not be the goal of these grammar lessons to diagram this sentence (though I would be inclined to credit some driven student serious points for a successful diagram—but here’s a hint, get a big piece of paper!), but that does not preclude the importance of learning to expand the basic sentence into something far more extravagant, more aesthetically pleasing, and more stylistically proficient.  And so, we begin….

I.  Sentence Patterns

Sentence patterns are often labeled as the most tedious, pointless pursuit in all of grammar.  Those individuals are doing themselves a disservice because learning the sentence patterns is the foundational aspect of understanding all grammar.  By and large, understanding grammar is intuitive, but there are so many facets to the language that we cannot take knowledge for granted.  So, though the sentence patterns may not be the greatest aspect of grammar, there is good news:  there are only ten patterns!  We will take them in three separate sections:  the be form verbs, the linking verbs, and the action verbs (intransitive and transitive verbs).  

A.  The be Form Verb (Patterns 1, 2, and 3)

The be form verbs comprise the first three sentence patterns, using versions of the be verbs (be, is, am, are, was, were, being, and been) as the predicating verb, or verb that shows a relation between two things.  You can also think of the predicate as the main verb of the sentence.  Notice how the subject is not affected in any of the cases, but only what follows the predicate.

Pattern 1:  Subject     Be Form Verb     Adverb (Time or Place)
Example:  Tim was outside.                   102307_35222_0.pct
Here we have the subject (Tim) with a past tense be form verb (was) and an adverb that provides specific information in relation to the verb—in this instance, place (outside). This example is fairly simple, and as time goes on, we will see how larger units can occupy each slot in this sentence (subject slot, verb slot).  

Pattern 2:  Subject (NP 1)     Be Form Verb     Adjective (Subject Complement)
Tim was scared.                                 102307_35222_1.pct

*Note, I label the subject slot above NP, which stands for “Noun phrase.”  Any noun in a sentence can be a phrase, meaning any words that help define or modify that noun (like “the” man or “Peter from New Jersey.”).  The number 1 simply means it is the first major noun that appears in the sentence.

In this example, the subject remains the same (Tim), as does the predicating verb (was), but what follows is an adjective that provides us with information about the subject of the sentence (scared describes Tim).  Notice the slanted line pointing backward toward the subject; this is to show the relationship between the adjective and the subject.  Also, because the adjective has a direct relation to the subject, we say it complements the subject.  We call adjectives in this position and nouns that refer back to a subject (NP1) a subject complement.  Again, as time goes on, these slots will grow in complexity.  For now, just familiarize yourselves with the basic structure.

Pattern 3:  Subject (NP 1)     Be Form Verb     Noun (NP 1—Subject Complement)
Tim is a teacher.                                   102307_35222_2.pct

The subject has remained the same, as has the verb, but the subject complement in this third pattern is a noun (teacher) that renames the subject, in a sense (notice how the abbreviation “NP 1” is the same for both major nouns—the subject and the subject complement; that means they refer to the same individual).  What is Tim?  Tim is a teacher.  A good test for subject complement as a noun is to place an “=” in place of the predicting verb.  In other words:  Tim = teacher.  Is it true?  If yes (as it is here), then we have a Pattern 3; if not, then it is a different pattern.  

These are the three be form verb patterns (and this sentence is a Pattern 3 sentence).  

Exercise 1:  For the following sentences, label the subject, the verb, and what follows the predicating verb accordingly, and identify the sentence pattern; diagram them.

1.  Students are unique people.

2.  Paul was in his mom’s car.

3.  Perry has been conflicted lately.

4.  A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds (Emerson).

5.  You are out of your mind.

B.  Linking Verb Patterns (4 and 5)

Quite possibly the most obscure of the verb patterns, linking verbs are verbs much like the be forms verbs except that the predicate is not a form of be.  The most common linking verbs are seem, appear, taste, sound, feel, look, grew, become, get, prove, remain, and turn.  What is difficult about these verbs is that most all of them can be either intransitive or transitive (which take on objects).  Linking verbs, however, take on subject complements, just as patterns 2 and 3 do.  For this reason, patterns 4 and 5 are strikingly similar to patterns 2 and 3 overall.

Pattern 4:  Subject (NP 1)     Linking Verb     Adjective (Subject Complement)
Tim seems fine.                                     102307_35222_3.pct

As you can see, the only difference between this pattern 4 and a pattern 2 is the predicate (seems).  Linking verbs are not explicit actions, and that is one way to think about why these are not other patterns.  But the bigger clue is that “fine” refers back to the subject (NP 1) of the sentence, making it a subject complement.  Whenever an adjective subject complement exists, it can only be either pattern 2 or pattern 4.  

Pattern 5:  Subject (NP 1)     Linking Verb     Noun (NP 1—Subject Complement)

Tim became a teacher.                        102307_35223_4.pct

Here, the subject complement (teacher) not only refers back to the subject (Tim), which is represented by the back-slanting line after became, but it also renames it, so this, like the pattern 3 sentence, is how you decipher a pattern 5.  

Exercise 2:  Label the subject, verb, and complement in the following sentences, and identify the verb pattern; diagram the sentence.

1.  Our new neighbors became our best friends.

2.  Cyberspace remains a mysterious place.

3.  The piano sounds out of tune.

4.  I grew sleepy after the football game.

5.  Ryan looks like his older sister.

C.  Intransitive Verb Pattern (6)

Intransitive verbs are simply verbs that take no complement and no object.  These sentences, as skeletal as they are, are grammatically correct.  For example, “George left,” is a grammatical pattern 6 sentence.  That is all there need be for such a sentence to work.  However, you will often find pattern 6 sentences take on optional adverbials to give more specificity to the sentence.  For instance, “George left in a rage after the party.”  Sometimes, however, pattern 6 sentences will take on a particle—a preposition attached to the intransitive (or sometimes the transitive) verb itself—and create an idiom.  For instance, “Matt and Maria made up after their fight.”  While “up” is a preposition, it is a part of the predicate in the sentence, and is diagrammed just as though it was the predicate.  Be careful with idioms, as their meanings differ from that of normally combining a verb with a preposition (i.e. “make up” means “to reconcile one’s differences,” and not making something in an upward fashion).  

Pattern 6:  Subject (NP 1)     Intransitive Verb     (Optional Adverbial(s))
Tim taught.                                             102307_35223_5.pct

Exercise 3:  Label the subject and predicate in the following sentences, and diagram them.  Be sure to watch out for idiomatic expressions and to diagram them accordingly.

1.  Jeff carried on about his personal problems forever.

2.  After school, Bill drove up the freeway to Marty’s house.

3.  The visitors from Concord arrived on time.

4.  The boys sneaked past the police officer.

5.  The drug deal went down without a hitch.

D1.  Transitive Verb Patterns with Objects (7 and 8)

The transitive verb patterns are, by far, the most complex of the sentence patterns we will encounter; they are also the most common.  In pattern 7 sentences, the referent (or NP) following the verb is different from that of the subject (NP 1):  “Paul received an A on his exam.”  In this sentence, “Paul” is the subject, but the grade he received, “an A,” does not refer to Paul, but it is itself a different noun, so we call this noun the direct object—the thing that receives the action of the verb.  Specifically, pattern 7 sentences comprise the most common sentence pattern because it has the most possibilities.  

Pattern 7:  Subject (NP 1)     Transitive Verb     Noun (NP 2—Direct Object)
Tim grew a goatee.                     102307_35223_6.pct

Pattern 8 sentences expand this notion of the direct object even farther, including a recipient of the action of the verb, a noun distinct from both the subject (NP 1) and from the direct object (NP 2).  We call this third distinct noun the indirect object:  “My boss gave his secretary a raise.”  An easy way to distinguish if an indirect object exists in the sentence or not is to take that noun that could be an indirect object and move it to the end of the sentence while placing either the word “to” or “for” in front of it.  If the sentence remains grammatically correct, then the noun in question is an indirect object.  Ex.  “My boss gave a raise [to] his secretary.”  Does it work?  Then “his secretary” is an indirect object, and the sentence is a pattern 8.  We would diagram this in almost the same way, only with “to” on the diagonal line (because it is part of a prepositional phrase) and “his” on a diagonal line below “secretary.”  Again, there are three nouns in the sentence, all of which have distinct referents and none of which point back to the original subject of the sentence as was the case in patterns 3 and 5.  

Pattern 8:  NP 1    Tr. V    NP 2—Indirect Object     NP 3—Direct Object
Tim gave his students work.             102307_35223_7.pct

*Note:  “his” should be placed on a diagonal line under “students”; as shown, the diagram is incorrect.

Exercise 4:  Label the subject, verb, and object(s) in the following sentences and identify sentence patterns.  Diagram the sentences.  Beware of adverbs and idiomatic expressions.

1.  The ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan.

2.  My best friend from high school arrived on Friday for the weekend.

3.  For lunch, I ordered you a soda and a cheeseburger with onions.

4.  My teacher wrote a letter of recommendation for me.

5.  Angela made her new boyfriend a woolen scarf for Valentine’s Day.

D2.  Transitive Verbs with both Objects and Object Complements (9 and 10)

The final two sentence patterns do not differ from pattern 7 sentences so much as they add unique information to them.  Pattern 9 contains an additional piece of information—an adjective—that modifies the direct object.  In function, it is just the same as the way the subject complement in pattern 2 and 4 modifies the subject, so we call the adjective in pattern 9 the object complement because it renames or describes the direct object:  “Tiffany finds this class boring.”  Likewise, in pattern 10 sentences, the object complement is a noun (NP 2) that renames the direct object (NP 2), just like the subject complement renames the subject in pattern 3 and 5 sentences:  “The students unanimously named Mr. Finnegan president of the school.”

Pattern 9:  NP 1     Tr. Verb     NP 2 (Direct Object)     Adj. (Object Complement)
Tim made his whole class happy.       102307_35223_8.pct

Pattern 10:  NP 1     Tr. Verb    Direct Object (NP 2)     Object Complement (NP 2)
Tim regarded Bill a pacifist.        102307_35223_9.pct

Take a look at the following pattern 10 sentence:  “I know him as a good friend.”  In this sentence, like in the pattern 10 diagrammed sentence above, the “as” is irrelevant for maintaining meaning, and so it can be dropped (i.e. we could have said in the above sentence, “Tim regarded Bill as a pacifist.”).  When words like “as,” “that,” or “there” appear in sentences in such a way that they can be dropped without affecting the meaning of the sentence, we call them expletives.  I’ll show you how to diagram these sentences.

Exercise 5:  Label the subject, verb, objects, and complements as they appear in the following sentences and diagram them.  Be sure to identify the sentence pattern.
1.  She calls them a menace to the neighborhood.

2.  The Green Party chose Ralph Nader as its candidate in the 2004 election.

3.  Some people consider Minnesota’s winters excessively long.

4.  England’s soccer fans have a reputation for wild behavior.

5.  Today’s music renders meaningful lyrics useless.

Exercise 6:  Diagram the following sentences, label each part, and identify the pattern.  

1.  My uncle recently moved to Arizona for his health.

2.  Both the asparagus and the strawberries in our garden grow fast during June.

3.  The kids on our block and their dogs drive my mother crazy.

4.  Some people find modern art quite depressing.

5.  His smile is utterly contagious!

6.  According to the latest UN statistics, Norway is now the world’s largest exporter of seafood.

7.  On Saturday night we left our waitress a generous tip for her exquisite service.

8.  My students find grammar exercises both refreshing and exhilarating.

9.  Lucy named her mentally incapacitated cocker spaniel Charlie Brown for a joke.

10.  The Patriots’ victory parade on Tuesday was an unforgettable spectacle.

II.  Punctuation / Capitalization

This section is designed to introduce some punctuation marks you may not be used to, but specifically to clarify those punctuation marks you are familiar with.  While a minor section, the following terms will help improve your writing in the pesky area known as “mechanics.”

A.  Commas

Commas are the most common punctuation mark, and they are used in various forms.  Here are some of the most common:

I.  To Separate Two Independent Clauses:  “Mr. Finnegan taught us how to use commas, and now we are more proficient in writing than we ever dreamed.”

Here, the comma follows the first independent clause (defined as “ a subject and predicate pair plus modifiers that can stand on its own”) and immediately precedes the coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS:  for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so); it also precedes a second independent clause.

2.  To Separate A Dependent Clause from an Independent Clause When the Dependent Clause Is First:  “Before I hand out the exam, are there any questions?”

In this sentence, we have a dependent (adverb) clause (defined as “a subject and a predicate pair plus modifiers that can not stand on its own”) with one of the subordinate conjunctions (I SAW U U BABES:  If, Since, Although, When, Until, Unless, Before, After, Because, Even though, So), and the comma follows that dependent clause leading into the independent clause—in this case, a question.

However, when a dependent clause follows an independent clause, we do not use commas unless the first independent clause is so long that a pause is needed:  “Betsy and I talked about The Rolling Stones until we both fell asleep on the couch from exhaustion.”  

3.  To Set Off Items in a Series or List:  In order to succeed in this class you will need to bring the requisite materials every day, be on time, seldom miss class, ask questions, and try your best.

Here we can see that each item required for success in the class is listed with a comma separating each item from one another.

Exception:  Serial commas are sometimes allowed, which is the omission of the last comma in a series or list:  “Please remember to bring shoes, socks, a bag lunch, rain gear and your ticket.”  Notice how the last two items, while separate, are allowed to stand with no comma separating them.  This is grammatically allowed; however, using this strategy automatically places a specific relationship between the two items not separated by a comma, so in this list, the reader may automatically assume a specific relationship between the rain gear and the ticket that the writer may not have intended.  Use serial commas only when you intend to make a specific connection between items:  “I honor you as my colleague, my best friend, my partner and my soul mate.”

5.  Parenthetical Comma Usage:  Parenthetical comma use means when you want to say something, but it is not pertinent to the sentence—more of a side thought:  “I thought it might be prudent, before we get started, to thank you all for being here tonight.”

Notice that if we tried to analyze this strictly in terms of the dependent clause rule (comma only when dependent clause comes first), then this comma usage would be wrong; however, because the clause offset with commas represents more of a side thought, then we may sufficiently use commas to show that it is more of a parenthetical use of a clause than pertinent information to the sentence itself.  A good way to apply this rule would be to imagine placing parentheses (blah) around the word to show its lack of specific importance.  

*Parenthetical comma use also applies to the times when we feel a pause might help the sentence flow along more comfortably, especially in long sentences that a reader might have a hard time reading in one breath aloud (like this sentence).

Finally, be careful not to overuse parenthetical comma usage, as papers with too many commas per sentence read as choppy and can distract a reader just as much as too few commas.  For this reason, we will be learning about the next several punctuation marks!

**NEVER PLACE A COMMA BETWEEN THE MAIN SUBJECT AND MAIN VERB OF A SENTENCE.  This constitutes one of the grammatical mortal faux pas, so be careful.
    Ex.  Salamano and his dog, constantly annoy me with their incessant bickering.

Exercise 24:  For each of the following sentences, place commas where applicable to correct them as run-on sentences; when you place a comma, be sure to state how that comma is being used (parenthetical, subordination, coordination, list / series).  If no comma need be placed in the sentence, state “No Comma Needed.”  *Note, in some of these sentences, there may be more than one way to correct it.

I.  James Gandolfini star of the hit series The Sopranos walked by me in the supermarket today but when I waved to him he didn’t acknowledge me.

2.  The summer always feels long until schools starts and each day lasts forever.

3. If you don’t stop bothering me this instant I am going to call the cops.

4. After the police busted me for bothering that annoying woman at the dance club they cuffed me brought me downtown fingerprinted me and locked me up for the night.

5. When people see me wearing my pink shirt to work I hear people whisper that I must be insane and I know why because I saw that episode of The Simpsons too.

Exercise 25:  Correct the punctuation in the following sentences so that they can stand as grammatically correct.  If no punctuation change is needed, write “No Change Needed.”

I.  The person, that I admire most in this world, is my father, because he never told   
    me to be the best only to do my best.

2.  Loyalty, courage, perseverance and short hair:  These are the characteristics of the  
    members of our United States Naval Corps.

3. After thirty years of serving the men and women of America I have finally given up on
    hope for a better society yet I will continue to serve them, because I have nothing
    better to do with my time.

4. Design a project incorporating the rules of grammar but you, must be sure to include
    commas, colons, semi-colons, hyphens and dashes.

5. His royal Highness who also goes by the name Skeeter told me that I had to bow down before him but instead I kneed him in the groin.

B.  Semi-Colons

Semi-colons are fairly easy to use…if you know when they are necessary and when they are not.  Semi-colons are most often extensions of commas, and to think of them as such may save you a lot of worry.  Here are the most common ways to use semi-colons:

I.  To Separate Two Independent Clauses NOT Connected with a Coordinating Conjunction:  “For all my life I have been a devout lover of dogs; in the same week I was bit by a cocker spaniel and a poodle.

In this sentence, which coordinating conjunction would best fit just after the semi-colon?  If you said “but,” then you are right.  You could also have said “yet,” but “but” is the most logical choice.  Remember that a semi-colon only separates independent clauses.  You do not place a semi-colon to separate a dependent clause from an independent clause.

2.  To Add Specific Emphasis Between Independent Clauses with Coordinating Conjunctions:  “Every once in a great while you really want to drill a point into students’ heads; so you place a semi-colon along with a coordinating conjunction to show that, as a writer, you are drawing serious attention to that split.”

Because emphasizing the coordination this way is so explicit and obvious, you should only do this either when you really want to get the point across for effect, or if you are trying to coordinate two extremely long independent clauses (take notice of the long sentence on the first page of this packet).

     Ex.  “The people left the party early; I have always wanted to be in the military.”
If a coordinating conjunction would adequately fit between the two thoughts expressed, then a semi-colon may be used, but do not try and coordinate two completely different ideas with a semi-colon.

3.  To Sub-Categorize Details in a List or Series:  “In this course we will study several grammatical components including the following:  phonology, the physical sound of the letters and words; morphology, the way prefixes, roots, and suffixes combine to create words; and syntax, the formal combining of words in a logical, correct sequence that creates meaningful sentences.”

Notice in the following example how many commas are already in the sentence.  To leave out the semi-colons would litter the sentence with commas and make it read in a choppy manner.  You will not use semi-colons in this way often, but in case you ever do, now you know.

4.  To Signify Conjunctive Relationships Between Compound or Complex Sentences:  “Although AIDS is still a disease affecting millions in the world today, there is a relatively low risk of contracting the disease in America; however, that does not mean we should not take the necessary precautions to prevent contracting the disease.”

Here, we have a complex sentence with one dependent clause linked to an independent clause via comma, but the sentence goes on to relate the next long sentence to it by means of what we call a conjunctive adverb.  Some common conjunctive adverbs include however, therefore, moreover, in fact, instead, consequently, etc.  Because the two sentences are closely related, a semi-colon can help to show that relationship better.

Exercise 26:  For each of the following sentences, add semi-colons if needed; if no semi-colon is needed and one exists, change that, too.  If no corrections need be made, write “No corrections needed.”

1.  Pam smelled like she had been dumpster diving; Bill walked to the grocery store to
     purchase eggs.

2. Fenway was packed to the gills for the Sunday Stones show; even though I had a
    ticket, I was not allowed inside

3. Talking to authority figures with contempt is a sure-fire way to get yourself into deep
    trouble, regardless of how little you’ve done that is against the law, moreover, the last
    thing you need is to get hauled down to the station over something like being two miles
   over the speed limit.

4. There are three major parts of the chicken egg:  nucleus, the undeveloped sex cell,
    yolk, the area on which the developed sex cell forms, cytoplasm, the filling space that
    the embryo feeds upon in order to grow.

5. I don’t know anyone at this party; and I want to leave as soon as possible.

C.  Colons

I.  To Set Up a Series of Information.  When you have a specific list you want to draw attention to, you use a colon to let the reader know that the information you promised is on the way:  “Painting your room will require you to do the following:  clean and sand the walls, tape the edges so as not to get unwanted paint on other portions of the wall, mix the paint, dip in brushes and rollers, paint the wall, remove the tape, and finally, air out the room.”

The following is not how you use a colon to set up a list:  I really like to:  ski, snowboard, skydive, sled, and snowshoe.  Why is this wrong?  The introduction “I really like to” is not a complete sentence, and a colon only comes after a complete sentence.  How do you fix this error?  The easiest way is to add “the following” to such a sentence:  “I really like to do the following:  ski, snowboard….”  Now the sentence reads as it should.  Without using “the following,” you would have to omit the colon and simply say, “I really like to ski, snowboard….”  

2.  To Highlight a Single Piece of Information in the Sentence that Is Not Specifically a List.  For instance, “Our babies are born under birth weight, we support terrorism, and gas and oil prices are on the rise for one simple reason:  illegal drugs.  

Because the entire sentence is setting up one major idea as the punch line, you can use a colon to say, “Here is the answer,” or, “Here is what I promised to tell you.”

3. To Introduce Long Quotes or Major Quotes.  “In a formal speech back in the 1962 election, President John F. Kennedy issued the following maxim of our country:  ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’”  Longer quotes include block quotes of text that would normally occupy more than four lines of computer-typed text.

Exercise 27:  Compose five sentences in which you demonstrate the various use of colons.  At least one of your sentences should be the introduction of a block quote of text.

D.  Dashes

Dashes are some of the most versatile, and typically underused, punctuation marks in writing.  Basically, dashes can do whatever commas and colons can do.  Because dashes truly draw attention to whatever you use it with, use them sparingly and all will be well.  Here are a few ways to use dashes.

I.  Parenthetically, like a Comma:  “Though I should probably not be saying this to you all—and I will no doubt suffer for having said it—here it is:  I am a New York Yankees fan.”  

While this admission is obviously false, the effect of the dashes show that what is enclosed inside them are not necessary for the sentence to make sense, but they do add effect.  

2.  To Present a Highlighted Piece of Information like Colons Do:  “Some say that Fate makes many things in this world inevitable, but as far as I’m concerned, there are still only two—death and taxes.”

In order to mix up your usage of these terms, dashes are invaluable in how they can minimize your overuse of commas and colons.  But as I said before, do not overuse dashes.  They are meant to add effect to your writing.  Like anything overused, it loses dramatic effect with each subsequent use.

Exercise 28:  Correct each of the five sentences so that they are grammatically correct.  You may use dashes, colons, semi-colons, or commas to correct the sentences.  

I.  People always ask me “What’s your secret to living well?”  With a smile on my face a smile that people are always kind enough to compliment I reply “Music movies extraordinary underwear and ties.”

2.  Despite serious casualties to our marine forces in Iraq the U.S. Marine Corps still manages to recruit but what is their secret, after all who would willingly choose to be sent so close to their certain deaths?

3.  We need to make a list of items to pick up from the grocery store sandwich meat particularly bologna pasta vermicelli not spaghetti plastic baggies the ones with the zip top and milk whichever kind suits your fancy.

4.  I being of sound body and mind do hereby bequeath to my only progenitor my son Edward this stack of baseball cards which I acquired from a sleeping hobo on the streets when he was not looking.

5.  In recent years the public attitude toward smoking except perhaps in the tobacco-growing states has changed so fast with smoke-free zones everywhere including restaurants office buildings and shopping malls it could almost be called a revolution and even outdoor stadiums such as Fenway Park in Boston and Jacobs Field in Cleveland have established a no-smoking policy.

E.  Hyphens

As the last example in the previous exercise will testify, many words contain hyphens, but what does a hyphen do, exactly?  For starters, it shows a close relationship between the two words conjoined by the hyphen:  “well-developed,” “fast-moving,” “Spanish-speaking,” “half-baked.”  What would you expect to follow each of these hyphenated words?  If you said a noun, you are correct.  Thus, we have the most important function of hyphens:  pre-noun modifiers.

I.  Pre-Noun Modifiers:  “The fast-moving expansion of well-developed countries, especially Spanish-speaking nations, has caused us to adopt Spanish in many more areas of our country.”

Notice a noun follows each of the hyphenated words in the sentence above.  “Fast” is what we call a qualifier in that it adds more information to the main adjective describing the noun in the sentence, just as “Spanish” modifies the kind of speaking done in that nation and “well” modifies how developed the country is.  We can also hyphenate multiple word adjective phrases such as an “off-the-wall idea” or “back-to-back-to-back championships.”

One further stipulation in using hyphens—if the adjectives come at the end of the sentence, we do not usually hyphenate them:  “His ideas were always off the wall,” or “I have heard that Latin America is predominantly Spanish speaking.”

    Ex.  We do not say “highly-organized”; instead, we say “highly organized.”

Exercise 29:  Compose ten phrases that require hyphenation, and try to have at least two or three of your examples have more than two pre-noun modifiers.

F.  Titles

Finally, we come to titles.  We should all know that the title of a book or a major work is always capitalized:  Frankenstein, The House of the Seven Gables.  In such titles, all nouns and the first word—no matter what it is—should be capitalized, along with all verbs and interrogatives (when, where, why, who, what).  Words that are not capitalized include determiners (a, the), prepositions (over, under, in, on, by, of, etc), expletives (that, there, as), and qualifiers (very, really).  Also, notice that titles of major works are italicized.  Only short works like short stories or single poems should have “quotation marks.”

Another application of Titles can be in one’s name (Jr., Sr., Ms., Mr., Dr., etc), including longer or full titles:  Professor Carroll, Principal Price, Attorney General Coke, Superintendent Chalmers, President Bush.  Titles of languages are also capitalized:  English, French, Italian, Russian, Cantonese, Japanese; as well the official titles for school subjects:  Psychology, Honors Chemistry, Geology, Geometry.  Abbreviations also fit this category of Titles:  FFA, EPA, PSEO, SAT, MCAS, etc.

Finally, when a quote is not intermixed in a sentence fluidly, we begin all quotes (regardless of whether or not they begin mid-quote) with capitalization, “And that never changes!”  Also, if you use a colon to introduce a full sentence, you capitalize the first word:  We do this because it shows that this clause is a major addition to the previous portion of the sentence.

III.  Expanding the Sentence:  Adverbials

The basic definition of an adverb is this:  “a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb” (Kolln and Funk, 2002).  While this may be true in many cases, adverbs can be more than just a word; they can be phrases or even whole clauses.  Consider the following example:

The audience gasped nervously throughout the theater when the magician thrust his sword into the box.

What is the skeleton of the sentence?  Subject = audience, verb = gasped.  That’s it!  Throw in “The” for show and you have a pretty lame sentence, “The audience gasped.”  However, everything else in this sentence is adverbial in function.  How do you know that? *Here’s a hint:  When deciphering whether or not a word, phrase, or clause functions adverbially in a sentence, ask yourself this basic question:  What does this word/these words help to modify?  In this sentence, each part of the sentence following “gasped” offers some kind of information.  To what does each component refer?  Gasped…how (nervously).  Gasped…where (throughout the theater).  Gasped…when (when the magician thrust his sword into the box).  Each component answers some question in relation to the verb of the sentence.  Because of this, we can infer that these function adverbially (adding information to the verb).  All such phrases or words that add adverb information to a sentence are said to function adverbially—hence the name adverbial.  Prepositional phrases, subordinate clauses, infinitive phrases, and participial phrases can all function adverbially, as you just saw, or as you will soon see.

Adverbs are also the most mobile units in grammar.  We can place them most anywhere in a sentence and they will still function the same way.  Sometimes, however, moving adverbials around can confuse the meaning of the sentence.  Look at this example:  “Ashley and Natasha voiced their problems with the teacher.”  How might this sentence be rendered confusing?  Diagramming the sentence may show the multiple readings.

Exercise 7:  For each sentence below, locate the adverbs in the sentence and answer the question:  What information does this adverb provide in relation to the main verb of the sentence?

1.      My feminist girlfriend shrieked loudly because a mouse had crawled into her shoe.

2.      We walked across the street in the pouring rain without any shoes on our feet in celebration of our team’s victory after the Super Bowl.  

3.      Tabatha noisily crunched her breakfast cereal on the living room sofa.

4.      When Grammar class is finished, I am going directly to the library for extra help on my sentences!

5.      Silently, the cat burglar crept home down the alleyway.

Exercise 8:  Rewrite each of the following sentences to show its two possible meanings.

1.  I am going to eat the pizza in the living room.

2.  We watched the game on the porch.

3.  I hid from the burglars in the basement.

4.  Fred tripped his roommate with the broom.

5.  Fonzie smoked the cigarette he found under a tree.  

A.  Subordinate (Dependent) Clause

Some of the portions of the adverbial sentences in the last section contained such words as “because,” or “when.”  These are what we call subordinating conjunctions because they introduce clauses that, while unable to stand alone, connect to independent clauses and add adverbial information to the main (independent) clause of the sentence.  Remember from before I SAW U U BABES; remember also that subordinate clauses can both introduce independent clauses or follow them:

While our current national deficit is irreparable, I think that tacking on another two billion dollars is not a problem.

Evolution is ruining our notion of spirituality today because the empirical evidence it promotes undermines and challenges notions of blind faith.

Also, subordinate clause sentences are considered complex sentences because it includes both a subordinate (dependent) clause and an independent clause.  This differs from a compound sentence, one that uses two independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (and, or, but, for, nor, yet, so).  A “super” sentence can be made by combining these two forms called a compound-complex sentence:  

People tend to loathe me for my incomparable beauty, but I never worry about those kinds of jealous individuals because envy is a loathed sin that will kill them all in the end.

Diagramming complex, compound, and compound-complex sentences may sound horrible, but it is only as tough as diagramming two or more sentences individually, and then connecting them via their conjunction.

Exercise 9:  Identify each of the following sentences as compound, complex, or compound-complex.  Diagram each sentence.

1.  Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.  –Emily Dickinson

2.  He was the most hideous creature on this planet, but we still made out in his car.

3.  We are losing precious time here, but I will answer your question because it is pertinent to our discussion.

4.  If you should refuse me, I will glut the maw of death until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.  –The Monster: Frankenstein

5.  Pay close attention to your email because a virus could be lurking anywhere, and no one likes getting sick.

B.  Infinitive Phrases

Infinitive phrases represent another common way to expand sentences beyond single words.  We may not even realize how often we use them, but their form is commonplace both in speech and in writing.  For instance, “To build your understanding of grammar, constant exposure is a necessity.”  The phrase “To build” starts an infinitive phrase because it begins with “to” and then uses the base form of the verb, in this case—“build.”  Here’s another example:

Peter Parker walked home after he saved the girl from harm to grab some dinner before work.

Here, the infinitive phrase, which is defined as the infinitive along with all its modifiers, objects, and complements, answers the adverbial question “why” in relation to the main verb of the sentence.  Peter Parker walked home…why?  To grab some dinner.  

Exercise 10:  Compose ten different sentences using infinitive phrases in various forms.  Exchange papers with someone else and identify the infinitive phrase along with any other adverbials appearing in the sentences (i.e. simple adverbs of manner like “noisily” or subordinate clauses).  

C.  Participles (and participial phrases)

Participles can be used either adjectivally (“The boy swimming in the lake lost his bathing suit.”) or adverbially (“My uncle made a fortune selling real estate.”).  As you can see from these two examples, participles incorporate the –ing form of the verb.  The verb can be as simple as the verb + ing, or it can include a prepositional phrase (moving out of the house), a complement, or an object (selling real estate).  These additions to the participle are its modifiers.  Participles can also be in the past tense (i.e. verb + ed or verb + en as in “Pam’s broken leg needed mending.”); in the case of past participles, there are no complements and seldom modifiers unless it appears in the passive voice.

Exercise 11:  Identify the following participles/participial phrases in the following sentences, identify the sentence pattern, and diagram the sentences.  Be sure to identify what question they answer in relation to the main verb.  If no infinitive exists in the sentence, write “No infinitive.”

1.  The kids came running out of the house.

2.  Mike’s degrading comment made for a lackluster evening of conversation.

3.  Last night my computer blinked ominously during an electrical storm.

4.  Standing too close to the commuter rail tracks, Paul’s foot was run over.

5.  By the end of the fifth inning, the playoff game had already become boring.

Exercise 12:  Underline ALL the adverbials in the following sentences, identifying their function in the sentence.  If there is more than one clause, identify adverbs in BOTH clauses.

1. When both Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were chasing Roger Maris’s home run record in 1998, the baseball season became really exciting.

2.  I always enjoy a good movie to dull the sense of meaningless in my life.

3.  Afterwards we stayed home all night to watch the Super Bowl with Uncle Charlie because nobody had arranged to have a party.

4.  Because of the recent West Nile virus outbreak, fewer people are visiting forested regions to keep themselves safe.

5.  To no one’s surprise, Peter passionately confessed, after being tortured for hours, to murder, to rape, to tax evasion, and to poor flossing skills.

IV.  Expanding the sentence:  Adjectivals

Like adverbs, adjectives are not necessarily only one word; they can also be a phrase or an entire (dependent) clause in themselves.  We are all familiar with adjectives as words that modify nouns (“The big orange tabby cat…”), but these are just the most fundamentally basic of adjectives.  There are myriad more ways in which to use adjectives in sentences to make them more effective.  The following are some of the most common expanders in adjectival form.

A.      Prepositional Phrase

Prepositional phrases are often adverbial in form (“He walked out of the building.”), but they are also adjectival (“The lions of the Serengeti look ferocious.”).  With prepositional phrases’ versatility and ability to be stacked mercilessly on top of each other, we can use them to beef up sentences considerably:  

My sister manages the flower shop in the new brick building near the park on Commonwealth Avenue.  

Don’t be fooled, it sounds as though “in the new brick building” is adverbial (i.e. saying “where” the shop is), but we stipulate them thusly:  “in the new brick building” modifies which “shop”; “near the park” modifies which “building”; “on Commonwealth Avenue” tells us which “park.”

Exercise 13:  Compose five sentences following this pattern:  In the first sentence, use two prepositional phrases to modify whichever noun you choose.  In the next sentence, use three; in the next, four; in the next, five; and in the final, six.

B.      Relative (Adjective) Clause

Relative clauses are most often used in writing to add distinct information to whichever noun in the sentence is desired.  A rudimentary example would be:  “The black-haired girl who wore the lime-green haltertop and black vinyl pants came looking for you a few minutes ago.”  While “the black-haired” helps to specify the girl, the information about her clothing definitely narrows the selection more than a few basic adjectives.  This strategy of can greatly improve your writing!  Common relative pronouns include:  that, who, whose, whom, and sometimes where, why, and when.  Like subordinate clauses, relative clauses are also dependent in nature (i.e. they have a subject and a predicate, but they cannot stand alone).

Exercise 14:  Identify the relative clauses and other adjectives in the sentence and identify the noun to which that adjective or clause points.  Diagram each sentence.

1.      I understand the reason why Perry got the lead role in the school play.

2.      This is the cat that killed the rat that ate the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.  (:-o)

3.      A rattlesnake that doesn’t bite teaches you nothing.  –Jessamyn West

4.      The clerk at the post office, to whom I complained about our mail service, was very patient with me.

5.   Huckleberry Finn, which we just finished reading, is a classic that often causes controversy.

C.      Participles and Infinitives

Just as they did in adverbial form, participial phrases and infinitive phrases can modify adjectives.  

Participial:  All my students preparing to take the SAT look stressed out.

Infinitive:  The ceremony to honor the author was cancelled due to lack of interest.

Exercise 15:  Locate the adjectivals in the following sentences, identifying the noun (headword) to which each adjectival refers and the sentence pattern; diagram.

1.      The clown, acting silly to entertain the children, was not very funny.

2.      The initials engraved on my class ring are TBF, which stand for Timothy Brian Finnegan.

3.      My neighbor’s husband, who is an avid union worker, would not cross the picket line that the clerical workers’ union organized at the mill where he is a foreman.

4.      At midnight Cinderella’s beautiful coach, in which she had been driven to the ball, suddenly became a pumpkin again.

5.      Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.  –Shakespeare

V.  Expanding the Noun

In the previous two sections we have seen ways to modify both nouns and verbs, but what about the noun or the verb separately?  Is there a way to expand the noun beside just adding adjectives and adjectivals to it?  Naturally, as is the case with most grammar, the answer is yes.  When we expand the noun into something more diverse, and more complex, we call that substitute (or complement) a nominal.  A nominal is just anything that functions as a noun / noun phrase normally functions in a sentence.  The following section will explore how we complement or expand the noun/noun phrase.

A.  Appositives

Appositives do not take the place of a noun / noun phrase; instead, they add additional information to the noun phrase—much like relative clauses do.  Observe the following example and see if you can identify the appositive:

The prosecutor cross-examined the next witness, the victim’s ex-husband.  

Notice how I never said that the appositive could only complement a subject, but it can complement any noun in the sentence.  So, in the sample sentence, we are looking for a phrase (because appositives are not clauses, but only phrases—this is what separates it from a relative clause) that adds additional information to a noun in that sentence.  In that sentence, “the victim’s ex-husband” is renaming the noun “witness,” and thus, it is the appositive.  The sentence would read perfectly well without the appositive, so that is one major reason why appositives are so good for expanding sentence length.  Here’s another example:

Peter, my best friend from adolescence, has been busy lately working with Paula, a girl I met at the bar last night.

Appositives often rename proper nouns (“Peter,” “Paula”).  There are two notes of importance that I will touch on about appositives now.  The first is that appositives can “stand in” for the noun it specifies.  In other words, if we removed the subject of the sentence (or whichever noun the appositives renames) and leave the appositive, it should be able to stand in without losing any grammatical clarity.  In the example sentence above, if we remove Peter and leave only the appositive, is the sentence still grammatically correct?  The answer should be yes.  If it does not, then we do not have an appositive, but rather, an adjective of some sort (often a clause).  Another note to make about appositives lies in the punctuation.  In the previous three samples, commas offset each appositive phrase, but this is not always the case.  Look at the following two examples:

The second Amendment, the right to bear arms, has been under considerable duress lately.

People say that the Amendment the right to bear arms needs to be changed if we are to live safely as a nation.

What is different about these two sentences?  Both are talking about the second Amendment, but only the first one has the appositive offset by commas.  Why?  When the appositive is not necessary to specify the noun it complements, then we offset it with commas.  The commas make this a nonrestrictive appositive because it is not necessary to the overall understanding of the noun (i.e. there can only be one object / individual to which that appositive applies).  But when there are multiple possibilities to which the appositive could refer (like several Amendments in the Constitution), we do not use commas because that information is essential to fully understand the noun in question; we call these appositives restrictive.

*Note, the colon or the dash can also offset an appositive.  Usually when this happens, we do so in the nonrestrictive case, but it can be done both ways.

Exercise 16:  Identify the appositive in each of the following sentences, identify the sentence pattern, and diagram.  Correct any improperly punctuated appositives.

1.      One of the best-known folk singers of the 1960s was Arlo Guthrie, son of the legendary songwriter Woody Guthrie.

2.      My friend, Tom Jones, came to the birthday party and performed a stunning rendition of a real Tom Jones’s classic:  “It’s Not Unusual.”

3.      The theme of many Arlo Guthrie songs the search for personal freedom, is still appealing today.

4.      I went to the concert with my best friend Jake, who is the biggest Nine Inch Nails far I know.

5.      “Today’s music just doesn’t compare to the music of the past,” said Aaron J. Samson, music producer with Columbia Records.

Exercise 17:  Compose five sentences of your own that incorporate appositives into them; try to come up with at least two sentences where the appositive is restrictive— necessary for completely identifying the noun.

B.  Gerunds

Gerunds are verb + –ing nouns or noun phrases—along with their modifiers, complements, and objects—that function as a specific noun in a sentence.  By and large, we will examine gerunds as the subject of sentences, but we will also observe gerunds as direct objects, as appositives, and as the objects of prepositions.  You may then be wondering, “What’s the difference between gerunds and participles?”  The question is a good one, and the best explanation is that gerunds take on the role of nouns while participles modify verbs or nouns.  An example will help clarify this point:

Participle:  Our snoring neighbor keeps us awake at night.

Gerund:  Playing video games constantly has been cited as a reason for the demise of America’s adolescents.  

In the first example, “snoring” is a participle that acts as an adjective modifying “neighbor,” but in the second example, “playing video games” not only substitutes itself as the subject of the sentence, but it also has an object in itself:  “games.”  Participles and gerunds look very similar, so don’t be fooled.  Though you may not like it, diagramming gerunds is the easiest way to see how this distinction is apparent.  The other trick to help identify gerunds or gerund phrases is to substitute the pronoun “it” or “something” in its place.  Since gerunds are nouns, it will work.  And remember, the substituted pronoun should stand in for the whole phrase, not just the gerund itself.

Gerunds can occupy the spot of any noun in a sentence:

Subject:  Eating fatty foods increases the risk for health problems.

Subject Complement:  A major health problem in America is eating fatty foods.

Direct Object:  Chronically bored people love eating fatty foods.

Indirect Object:  Give eating fatty foods a chance.

Object of Preposition:  The problem of eating fatty foods remains a major issue in America.

Appositive:  The issue, eating fatty foods, will not disappear until fast food restaurants take responsibility for their actions.

As you can see, gerunds are a fairly common, and versatile, structure in our language.  The more familiar you become with them, the better (and by better I mean both in proficiency and in consciousness of what you write) you will function in writing and in editing.  

Exercise 18:  Identify the gerunds in the following sentences; also, identify which noun location in the sentence the gerund occupies; diagram.

1.      Smuggling drugs into the United States has become an eye-opening problem.

2.      My biggest accomplishment last semester was staying awake during my 8am class.

3.      Vincent Van Gogh, tip-toeing the line between genius and insanity, sliced off his own ear.

4.      Speaking on television last week, President Bush mentioned eliminating aid to Iraq.

5.      Jimmy Hoffa enjoys swimming with the fishes.

Exercise 19:  Select a gerund phrase of your own—one that has more than just one word—and construct five sentences in which your gerund can fit into a different noun slot (subject, direct object, subject complement, object of preposition, appositive).

D.      Nominal Infinitives

When participles function as a noun, they are called gerunds.  When infinitives function as nouns, they are called nominal infinitives.  Nominal infinitives are simply infinitives, along with their modifiers, complements, and objects, that occupy a noun slot in the sentence.  For instance:

To buy alcohol for minors elicits a severe legal penalty.

Again, here the infinitive occupies the subject slot, but it can also function in other roles:

Direct Object:  Against my stern warning and brow beating, Patrick wants to buy alcohol for minors.

Subject Complement:  The most unconscionable decision an adult can make is to buy alcohol for minors.

Appositive:  Patrick’s poor decision, to buy alcohol for minors, warranted him a $50,000 fine and a two-year sentence in the state jail.

Be wary of whether a phrase in a sentence is a noun or a verb or modifies a noun or a verb.

Exercise 20:  Identify the nominal infinitive in each of the following sentences.  If the sentence contains no nominal infinitive, write “No nominal infinitive.”

1.      John Quincy Adams helped to free slaves aboard the Amistad in a monumental Supreme Court case during the 19th century.

2.      To succeed in grammar is to surpass all your parents’ hopes and dreams!

3.      For budging in line, Philip was moved to the end of the lunch line.  

4.      It was a wise decision to vote for Becky in the election.

5.      My choice to eat pancakes for breakfast proved a detrimental decision.

Exercise 21:  Construct a sentence using nominal infinitives for each nominal function they can occupy in a sentence (subject, direct object, subject complement, appositive).

E.   Nominal Clause (Noun Clause)

In this section thus far, both gerunds and infinitives are verbs functioning as nouns.  Now, you will learn about a full-length clause that can take the place of any noun slot in a sentence, and it is aptly called a nominal clause.  Here’s an example:

I understand that several students are protesting English grammar.

What incited this reaction is a mystery to me.

All nominal clauses start either with an expletive (that) or with an interrogative (what, who, where, which, how, why, etc).  The difference between the two is that, as we discussed back with sentence patterns, expletives are not necessary in the sentence—the sentence could drop the expletive and lose no meaning—whereas interrogatives are always pertinent to the clause in which they appear. These interrogatives and expletives also flag the clause that follows them—like subordinate and relative clauses—as dependent, meaning they can not stand on its own.  Diagramming sentences will show just how different the two are, and why the distinction is important.  Watch out for nominal clauses as appositives!

One further kind of sentence worth mentioning is imperative sentences, or sentences where the implied subject of the sentence is “You.”

“Take out the papers and the trash.” –The Coasters:  “Yakedy Yak”

In this sentence, we have an idiomatic verb phrase “Take out” and a compound direct object, “the papers and the trash,” but the subject of the sentence is not stated explicitly; however, the subject of the sentence is simply, “You” (imagine a finger being pointed at the person who is to perform the action of the sentence), so when we diagram a sentence like this, we write “You” in brackets in the subject slot.

Exercise 22:  Identify the nominal clauses in the following sentences and cite what nominal slot the clause occupies.  Label the sentence pattern and diagram.

1.      My hope is that interest in grammar will improve significantly by the end of the term.

2.      The decision that they should replay the point upset both contestants.

3.      Who will be at the party is a mystery to me.

4.      Evan possesses a keen understanding of how computers function.

5.      The main criticism that students give me is that grammar is useless in the real world.

Exercise 23:  Identify the nominal clauses, gerund phrases, and nominal infinitives in the following sentences.  Identify the function that each performs in the sentence, label all sentence patterns, and diagram each sentence.

1.      To search for the cause of lower SAT scores would be an exercise in futility.

2.      Several airlines announced recently that they are planning to raise ticket prices.

3.      You can’t pass grammar by cramming before the exam.  

4.      The neighbors never suspected that we had a pet boa constrictor in the house.

5.      A major cause of highway accidents is falling asleep at the wheel.

6.      When I saw the questions on the exam, I realized I had studied the wrong chapters.

7.      Emily said that she would call me today when she finished her homework.

8.      My roommate, who will graduate college happy, wonders why finding a job in her field is so difficult.

9.      I remember hearing from my grandmother about how the Great Depression affected her family.

10.     The rule that we follow in this organization is that debate should be mandatory.

11.     Setting the chickens on fire gave the principal a reason to expel the students.

12.     Why ‘N Sync is so popular is a mystery to many people.

13.     The man screaming at the police officer caused us grief.

14.     To get even with my sister, I shaved her head while she was sleeping.

15.     Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

Review of Terms and Concepts

Be Form Verb
Complex Sentence
Compound-Complex Sentence
Compound Sentence
Conjunctive Adverb
Coordinating Conjunction
Dependent Clause
Direct Object
Gerund (phrase)
Independent Clause
Indirect Object
Infinitive (phrase)
Intransitive Verb
Linking Verb
Nominal Clause
Nominal Infinitive
Nonrestrictive use
Object Complement
Object of Preposition (Prepositional Phrase)
Participle (Participial Phrase)
Predicating Verb (Predicate)
Relative Clause
Restrictive use
Subject Complement
Subordinate Clause
Subordinating Conjunction
Transitive Verb


Mr. Finnegan
English 10 (1)

Additional Practice Sentences on the 10 Patterns

Diagram each of the following sentences; include sentence pattern.

1.  Until now beavers were my favorite furry rodent.

2.  Her vivid and colorful dreams sound horrible!

3.  Chuck Norris and Tarzan became mortal enemies after the solemn Rosh Hashanah feast.

4.  The students in Mr. Finnegan’s English class suddenly grew very excitable.

5.  Mr. Finnegan is never in his cubicle on Thursdays!

6.  The dissident’s legs suddenly broke during the interrogation session.

7.  My friends ate sushi rolls every night for a month.

8.  Mr. Finnegan gave his girlfriend a blow-up doll for Valentine’s Day last year.

9.  Mean people suck!

10.  With a grin on my face I taught the grammar lesson to my students.

11.  My homework this term has made my life a living hell!

12.  Supporters of Bush chastised Clinton’s outburst on “Fox Sunday News” last weekend.

13.  Nothing broke the silence of the evening.

14.  You must not find the homework dull!

15.  “I see in you all good things.”  —Delbert Grady “A Light on the Water”

Sentences with Simple, Compound, Complex, and Compound-Complex Sentence Types:  label parts and diagram; include sentence patterns for all sentences.

1.  When the weather outside is frightful, I usually stay inside.

2.  Recent studies have shown an increase in alcoholism, but the survey is unfounded because they only surveyed drunken hoboes.  

3.  Several students went to Newtonville and bought coffee.

4.  The woodland critters proclaimed the birth of the Antichrist; Santa Claus became very angry with Stan.

5.  I drink Fresca because I am in Existentialist, and we will die regardless.

Sentences with Adverbials:  Label parts and diagram; be sure to include all sentence patterns.

1.  The students from New Orleans went to a blues bar to order Cajun food.

2.  Whipping children with his cat o’ nine tails, Mr. Finnegan gained the class’s attention.

3.  If President Bush could be re-elected, the United States would probably commit suicide.

4.  The entrepreneurial young girls made a fortune selling rolls of toilet paper at the chili cook-off.

5.  To make everyone happy, the teacher conducted the lesson outside.

Sentences with Adjectivals:  Label parts and diagram:  include sentence patterns for all sentences.

1.  Mr. Finnegan’s rule, which tells us not to harm anyone, seemed simple.

2.  The students toilet-papering the teacher’s house were arrested to teach them a lesson.

3.  The final game to decide the division championship drew record crowds!

4.  The foolish tourists from Ottawa, who call bagels “bread pucks,” were arrested to teach them a lesson!

5.  P.E.T.A. used pictures of mutilated baby calves to gain sympathy from the audience.

Sentences with Nominals:  Label the parts and diagram; be sure to include all sentence patterns.

1.  Mr. Finnegan’s dog Mitzi angered him by eating an entire pan of lasagna.

2.  Whoever locates the hatchet-wielding rabbit can claim the $10,000 reward.

3.  Camping deep in the woods of Minnesota is a dangerous location because wicked rabbits lurk among the brush.

4.  My ex-girlfriend, now a happy asylum inmate, makes napkin rabbit monsters with leftover food scraps.

5.  Make fasting an important part of your daily diet!

Final Sentence Practice:  Label the parts and diagram; include all sentence patterns.

1.  Our most certain unalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—have been marginalized for the past two centuries because of war, slavery, and a corrupt government.

2.  Choose a loving soul mate and make her your wife.

3.  Longfellow’s poem “The Arrow and the Song” and Roethke’s poem “My Papa’s Waltz” both show how contradictory interpretations can prove plausible.

4.  They say, “The best offense is a good defense,” but offensive players still make more money than their defensive counterparts.

5.  Several murdered World War I soldiers, most not living until their twentieth birthdays, wrote the best poetry of their generation for their war-torn countries.


Mr. Finnegan
English 10 (1)

Simple, Compound, Complex Sentence and Punctuation Worksheet

Part 1:  For each sentence below, label it as simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex.  Once you’ve labeled the sentence, explain why you label each sentence as you do.  In addition, add punctuation to the sentences, if necessary, to make them correct (*hint:  there may be more than one way to correct the punctuation in these sentences).

1.  In gaining knowledge Oedipus understands the problem with discovering truth.

2.  After Perry vomited all over the kitchen table Spurious the family dog ate it.

3.  When I asked Sarah for her digits at the bar, she gave me her Social Security number!

4.  “The meek shall inherit the earth”; they are so damned nice, too!

5.  Patrick believes that his breath smells like feces because he talks a lot of sh*t but I know that it reeks because he secretly consumes his own “product.”

6.  Peter Piper paid a peasant to pick a peck of pickled peppers to prove a point to Pablo Patsy.

7.  We will buy your frozen fruitcakes if you purchase our raffle tickets.

8.  Not only did our sedulous efforts pay off in the championship competition but we also crushed the competition in every major category.

9.  I win, and you lose because you suck!

10.      Whenever I need a good laugh I read the “Marmaduke” comic strip and it pacifies my insidious wrath.


Mr. Finnegan
English 10 (1)

Punctuation / Proofreading Exercise

Directions:  Proofread the following paragraph, adding in punctuation wherever needed.  Remember that there may be more than one correct way to edit this.

        Henry Wadsworth Longfellows acclaimed poem A Psalm of Life holds particular meaning for its author because the poems theme to Be a hero in the strife! must have been difficult to do quite literally in the face of such incredible tragedy.  For instance, Longfellows final stanza says “Let us then be up and doing, / With a heart for any fate; / Still achieving, still pursuing, / Learn to labor and to wait.”  But how does one learn to wait and continue working when the love of ones life is horribly destroyed right before his eyes?  When Longfellows second wife a woman he loved more than life itself suffered a most cruel death Henry held her in his arms while she brutally burned to death.  She sat in the living room of their opulent mansion sealing up boxes of one of their daughters hair to be sent to a cancer institute for wigs when a candle fellow off the table and into the box consuming the hair and everything around it in searing flames.  Fanny burned and bubbled in the blaze as her husband wondering as to the reason for all the commotion came running into the room only to see her in agony.  Longfellow desperately seeking some way to put out the flames killing his wife found a rug in the kitchen and he threw it over her attempting to smother the fire however the blanket was too small and Fanny Longfellow burned to death in her husbands arms while he wept and consoled his wife saying they would meet in the afterlife.  Miraculously Longfellow was still able to endure the tragedy and live by his poems mantra.
        After her death he successfully managed to raise his two daughters send them to prestigious universities and further establish himself as one of the premiere poets in American literature.  Longfellows list of accomplishments and accreditations is impressive  professor of literary arts at Bowdoin College professor of linguistics at Harvard University for twenty one years master linguist who fluently wrote and spoke seven world languages and understood almost a dozen more honorary professor recognition at universities in spain russia Eastern Europe and other parts of Asia and a nationally celebrated birthday instilled after his death.  Longfellow recognized that “In the world’s broad field of battle, / In the bivouac of Life” life was still worth living to the fullest he admirably practiced what he preached throughout his career and until the day of his death.  As editor Nina Baym wrote of his incredible literary and linguistic talents “If his worst fault is that he made poetry seem so easy to write that anyone could do it, his greatest virtue is that he made poetry seem worth reading and worth writing.”


Mr. Finnegan
English 10 (1)

Last Minute Punctuation, Sentence Type, and Diagram Practice.  For each sentence below, provide the proper punctuation, identify the sentence type and diagram.

1.  Before World War I death was just a natural part of life after it however life was merely a lame prelude to death.

2.  Mittens my sister's cat made "moo-shoo" on the carpet after I walloped him soundly.

3.  Boris and the "Bike Capade" made their getaway when the cops looked away but no one cared.

4.  My parents are out of their minds and over the rainbow.

5.  Please make yourself a martini and eat all my sandwiches!

6.  There's a monkey paw in my soup!

7.  Although bikinis are "out of fashion" in January that did not retard my efforts in the least.

8.  Andrew called his English teacher "slightly overweight" and now he must look over his shoulder for the rest of his life.

9.  Mr. Finnegan purchased a new machete at the artillery store and placed it in his book bag for no reason.

10.  Maple syrup smattered the pages of his homework it put him in a "sticky situation."


Mr. Finnegan
English 10 (1)

Coordination in Writing Worksheet

Look at the following two passages.  What do you notice about the first?  How does the second improve on the first?

I know very little about laboratory science.  I have the impression that conclusions are supposed to be logical.  From a given set of circumstances a predictable result should follow.  The trouble is that in human behavior it is impossible to isolate a given set of circumstances.  It is also impossible to repeat these circumstances.  That is true of history, too.  Complex human acts cannot be reproduced.  They cannot be deliberately initiated.  They cannot be counted upon like the phenomena of nature.

I know very little about laboratory science, but I have the impression that conclusions are supposed to be logical; that is, from a given set of circumstances a predictable result should follow.  The trouble is that in human behavior and history it is impossible to isolate or repeat a given set of circumstances.  Complex human acts cannot be either reproduced or deliberately—or counted upon like the phenomena of nature.


The Iks have become celebrities.  The Iks are a nomadic tribe in northern Uganda.  They have also become literary symbols for the ultimate fate of disheartened mankind.  They are also symbols of heartless mankind at large.  Two disastrous things happened to them.  They were compelled to give up hunting.  They had to become farmers on poor hillside soil.  Also, an anthropologist detested them.  The anthropologist wrote a book about them.

Mr. Finnegan
English 10 (1)

PRACTICE (!) Test for Verbals

To prepare you for the “real” exam, I have provided you some examples that will look an awful lot like possible choices that will appear on the test.  *Note, I am not placing any definitions on this practice test; you should have written down sufficient definitions for the terms as we have been progressing.

PART 1:  For each sentence below, locate any and all verbals in the sentence (if the verbal is part of a verbal phrase, underline the WHOLE phrase) and state how that verbal functions in the sentence (adj, adv, sub, dir. obj, appositive, sub comp, etc)

1.  To survive Finnegan’s test, you must prepare to pass through hell and back!

2.  This festering test reeks like vomited entrails!

3.  Though pouring his heart out, Mitch still circled the incorrect infinitive phrase.

4.  I eat mold-encrusted bread to fortify my intestinal track.

5.  To drown in a rain puddle is to die a pathetic death.

PART 2:  For each sentence below, diagram the sentence appropriately (be sure to diagram any and all verbals correctly); include sentence patterns.

1.  Harboring ill feelings, Victor sought to kill his creation.

2.  To learn human language, the monster watched the De Lacey’s through a pea-sized hole in the wall.

3.  Caroline’s wish for her children, to unite Victor and Elizabeth in marriage, ended in tragedy

4.  Murdering William Frankenstein was the monster’s way of reimbursing Victor for his negligence as a creator.

5.  De Lacey’s impairment, blinding him from the monster’s ugliness, poses a potential solution for the monster’s plight.


Mr. Finnegan
English 10 (1)

Practice Clauses Test

I.      Define each of the following terms and provide an illustrative example.  Be sure to identify the part of your sample sentence that represents what you defined (5 Pts Each)

Dependent Clause:

Nominal Clause:

Adjective Clause:

Adverb Clause:

II.     For each sentence below, underline the dependent clause(s) in each sentence and label what type of clause it is (5 Pts. Each).  If no dependent clause exists in the sentence, write “No Dependent Clauses.”

1. The suspect who robbed the liquor store confessed to reduce his sentence.

2. Twelve angry men sat quietly during the trial until a witness’s comment caused a juror’s nervous breakdown.

3. People debate the reason why Social Security will not exist for younger generations.

4. As a surprise for yours truly, my mom and dad worked meticulously to perch the two giant stuffed creatures in the corner of the living room in a natural, relaxing position.

5. The time was about 5:10am, so I knew I had to hurry if I was going to get back to my room before my dad got up with the dog.

6. As soon as she found herself once again unconfined, she—now showing patches of blood on her white fur where my bleeding hand and fingers touched her—took off running with such abandon that Flash Gordon would have been foolish to try and keep up with her.

7. My sister and I had no idea what a recreational counselor was, and it showed in our expressions, so my mom thought about it for a second, and reformulated her response.

8. As Silver led me through the wooded trails, flies kept buzzing around his, causing his neck muscles to twitch and his hair to stand on end; so, like a good friend would, I swatted the flies from off his neck.

9. Since I was five years old (which is the earliest memory I have of being overtly out in the wilderness), I have loved the outdoors.

10. His image was distorted through the elements, and his sinister downcast face made him look sad.

III.    Diagram each of the following sentences (remember how to diagram the various clauses) and label all sentence patterns.

1.  The greatest game I have ever played is “Pin the Tail on the nosey!”

2.  Why so many men grunt like pigs may be the biggest conundrum to women.

3.      The purples and the pinks employ
        The divine artist Hephaestus
        (Though he with metal only worked)
        To capture the enchanting morn.