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Grammar: A Simple English Sentence

Sentences are the foundation to strong writing. Start here to discover the basics. 
You can follow the lesson by scrolling below or click here to play the interactive story version.

First, a simple English sentence

She kissed him yesterday.
  1. What is the action? 
  2. Who performed the action? 

  • The action is called the verb.
  • Who performed the action is called the subject
All the rest complements the subject or the verb, which means it gives additional information about the subject or verb. In this case, the complements tell us whom she kissed (object) and when (adverb).

Check your answers. 

So, a simple English sentence goes

Subject Verb Complements.
This is the basic formation from which English sentences and punctuation are derived. I will abbreviate the structure as SVC in the future. 

When we change the ordering, the writer typically needs to indicate the change by using punctuation. 

Yesterday, she kissed him.

  1. What is the action?
  2. Who performed the action?
  3. Does the sentence begin with the subject?
  4. Does the comma go before or after the subject?

Here's another sentence:
After the game, his wife had some drinks.

  1. What is the action?
  2. Who performed the action?
  3. Does the sentence begin with the subject?
  4. Does the comma go before or after the subject?

Do I need commas in the following sentences?
  • She kissed him yesterday. 
  • His wife had some drinks after the game. 

Check your answers. 

The comma (,) lets the reader know the usual sentence structure has been changed. Remember, punctuation is helpful for the reader to understand the writing. The writer doesn't need the punctuation, the reader does. 

Which of the following sentences need a comma? Where? 

  1. For twenty years she has worked in the Netherlands.
  2. She has worked in the Netherlands for twenty years.
  3. At the start of the movie the children ran away from home
  4. The children ran away from home at the start of the movie. 
  5. Previously we learned about rats.
  6. We learned about rats previously.

From this activity, we can derive two rules for comma usage in simple English sentences. Complete the rules below by circling the correct choices. 

We use a comma when a sentence __does / does not_____ start with the subject.

We add the comma ___before / after____________ the subject of the sentence. 

Sentence jumbles!

Unjumble the sentences to form their original order. Pay attention to the commas! The first one has been done for you. 


/ ate / the man / Last night, / a really big sandwich / 
 Last night, the man ate a really big sandwich.

Your turn. 

  1. / ran / Thomas / yesterday. 
  2. / in her red sports car. / the really beautiful woman / drove away / Two weeks ago, /
  3. / Hawkeye / Before the latest Avengers movie, / did not like / most people. /
  4. / in the next twenty years. / we / self-driving cars / will have /

Once you have a grasp on the simple English sentence, subject, and verb, move on to the more advanced formations with compound and complex sentences.

Comments? Questions? Feel free to leave them in the comment box!


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