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Amy Nutt

The structure of a sentence is very important to communication because words in different sequences can mean different things, although the words are the same. That is why it is important to place each part of the sentence in the correct place so that what you are trying to say is not perceived to be something else. If you have ever received instructions from someone and followed them just as they said them and then they come back to you later and tell you that you did not follow their directions, this can be quite confusing. And no matter what you tell that person, they are not going to believe that they were not clear because they knew what it was they were trying to tell you. It is important to look out for this, but it is also important that you know how to send your own messages, whether it is in writing or speaking.

The sentence

There are several parts to a sentence such as the subject, the verb, and what we call modifiers. Let's just say you're given the simple sentence, "People should laugh." The word should is called a modal auxiliary verb. This means that you are going to draw a straight line and write the sentence on the line. You are then going to draw a vertical line between people and should. Since should is a modal auxiliary verb, it is categorized with the verb "laugh." What this diagram does is separate the subject from the verb.

Now let us expand the sentence to "Some people should laugh." This can make it a little trickier because you have an additional word at the beginning that is not the subject, but you still have your subject and t like your verb present. So what you are going to do is keep your vertical line with the sentence written on the line and the line drawn between the words people and should. You are then going to draw a slanted line connecting to the horizontal line the sentence is written on to the left of the word people, but it will slanting downward like a sliding board. This is where you're going to write the word some because it is an adjective. Since it modifies the word people, it is considered a modifier and modifiers go on the slanted line.

Another example

To get a little more complicated, the sentence "The smartest people will be laughing," is a good one to diagram. Of course you know the subject and the noun in the sentence is the word people, the adjective is the word smartest, and the verb is laughing. However, this sentence is in the future tense because the people are not currently laughing, but they will be laughing.

So you're going to draw your horizontal line and write "people will be laughing" just like you did in the first example. You will draw your vertical line between the words people and will. The word the is called a definite article and it will be written on a slanted line to the left of the word people. The word smartest id an adjective and it is also written on a slanted line, but it is done so at the right of the word people.

These two examples are the basics of diagramming a sentence. Of course sentences get more complicated and require more slants and lines. A good example is a predicate nominative, which is a noun that follows a linking verb such as the word is. This means a slant to the left at the top of the horizontal line will be present between the word is and the noun. These are great things to know and will help you to learn English effectively.

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