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Prose Parade
Grammar and writing basics

The Parts of a Sentence

The parts of speech take on jobs when they’re in a sentence. (They’re just busy as bees.) These jobs have names.


Subject                      Verb

Direct Object             Indirect Object

Phrases                     Clauses



The subject is the main noun in the sentence. It tells you who or what the sentence is about.


Example:        The boy ran down the street.

                         Mary bought a new dress.



The verb is the main word verb in the sentence. It shows the most important action or helps to make a statement. Formally, when combined with everything that comes after it, it’s called a predicate.


Example:        The boy ran down the street.

                         Mary bought a new dress.


Direct Object

A subject and a verb are all it takes to make a complete sentence. However, sometimes more information is needed. For example, who or what receives the action of the verb or shows the result of the action? This word is called the direct object.


Example:        Maria wrote an essay.

                        Frank gave the letter to his mother.


Indirect Object

Sometimes even the direct object is not enough information, and we must know to whom or for whom (I know I’m using it, but I still think it should go away. Feh on whom) the verb’s action is done. This is called an indirect object.


Example:        Frank gave me a letter.

                        She allowed Frank to leave early.



A phrase is a group of words without a subject or verb that act together as a part of speech or function as another part of the sentence. This means a phrase can act as an adjective, an adverb, a subject or an object. (I told you: treacherous.)


There are two main kinds of phrases: prepositional phrases and verb phrases.


Prepositional Phrases

A prepositional phrase usually starts with a prepositional and ends with either a noun or pronoun.


Example:        in the classroom

                        to bed

                        after the game


Prepositional phrases usually act as adjectives or adverbs.


Example:        I sent the gift from Mary and me.     (adjective)

                        I studied at the library. (adverb)


Verb Phrases

Verb phrases contain some form of a verb. That is, the verb ends in -ing, -ed or is coupled with the word to. Besides acting as adjectives and adverbs these phrases can sometimes be nouns.


Example:        Playing the game is not always enjoyable. (noun)


                        Destroyed by fire, the church was never rebuilt. (adjective)


                        We want to leave early. (adverb)



A clause is a group of words with its own subject and a verb that act together as a part of speech or function as another part of the sentence. They are not complete sentences because they have some word at their beginning that indicates the whole clause is a part of speech. That is, clauses can be nouns, adjectives or adverbs.


Noun Clauses

Noun clauses act as nouns and are usually started by words like who, whoever, that, what, whatever, which and whichever.


Example:        Whoever wins the game will win the prize. (This clause is the subject of the sentence.)


Adjective Clauses

Adjective clauses act as adjectives and are usually started by words like who, where, which and that.


Example:        The money that I earn goes to rent. (This clause describes money.)


Adverb Clauses

Adverb clauses act as adverbs and usually start with words like when, where, whether, if, because and although.


Example:        When the going gets tough, the tough get going. (This clause describes get going.)


Too much information??? We’ll deal with a lot of this stuff separately on the other pages.