What’s in a sentence?

We mostly talk about the world in terms of people, places, things, actions, time, and qualities.

Sentences let us link all these different elements together to create meaning.

Study the sentences below. What’s one thing they all have in common?

Mr Cartright sighed.

A heavy snow was falling.

Sajid scowled horribly.

Griphook jumped down from his shoulders.

In cold winters the Queen does revert to knitted woollen hose for warmth.

You might have noticed that every one of these sentences has an action.

You’ll find this is almost always true: every sentence contains at least one action/event/process.

A 'simple sentence' is a sentence that only contains one action.

Looking across all the sentences, we can see that each type of element is generally represented by the same type of word group:

  • 'People' and 'things' are represented by 'noun groups'.
  • 'Actions' are represented by 'verb groups'.
  • 'Places' and 'times' are often 'prepositional phrases'. (But some adverb groups can also show place or time).
  • 'Qualities' are often 'adverb groups' or 'adjective groups'. (But sometimes prepositional phrases can show qualities).

So being able to recognise discrete word groups can help you to break up sentences and identify the elements being described.

Now let's get up close to some simple sentences and rewrite them to learn how they work.