Practice identifying sentence elements

Now that you've seen a bunch of different sentence patterns, see how you go breaking up these simple sentences. For each one, ask yourself:

  1. What elements are included in the sentence?
  2. Does the sentence fit one of the patterns we already looked at?
  3. What question is the sentence answering? (e.g. who did what, what happened when, how did they do it...)
  4. And, most importantly, keep asking yourself the most basic question: does the sentence only have one action or process?

They were all contributing generously.

On Christmas Eve, many years ago, I lay quietly in my bed.

Neither my mother nor my father could come see the play on opening night.


Before the war, I found summer storms exciting.

For three days and three nights this waiting-game went on.

Like conger eel it is usually poached in a strong ale.

Snookle was delivered one morning with the milk.

You might disagree with our highlighting “with the milk” as a 'quality' in the last snippet. That’s fine—it’s ambiguous.

Let’s focus on what question “with the milk” is answering.

  • Q: Where was Snookle delivered?
    A: With the milk
  • Q: When was Snookle delivered?
    A: With the milk
  • Q: How was Snookle delivered?
    A: With the milk

Which of those sound okay to you will depend on how you think about the milk delivery. Do you focus on:

  • Snookle being in the same place as the pack of milk bottles?
  • the routine of the milkman bringing the milk at the same time every week?
  • the process of milk delivery?

Maybe you hold more than one of these aspects in your head at once, or maybe you don’t have a vivid concept of milk delivery. The point is, they can all work as interpretations.

But we can only choose one for highlighting in Writelike, so we went with 'quality', because it seemed less reliant on personal experiences or cultural understandings of milk delivery.

How did you go? There are so many possible combinations of elements! But hopefully you feel a bit more confident identifying what's in a sentence.

Write your own simple sentence, using whatever combination of elements you like (but remember to only use one action!)