Introduction to Sentence Analysis

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Identifying Subjects, Verbs, and Direct Objects

     The SUBJECT of a sentence is what the sentence is about (in a simple statement it comes at the beginning). What is said or asked (let us say "predicated") about the subject is called the PREDICATE.
     The most important word in the predicate is the VERB, which can be identified easily by changing the time the sentence refers to. Verbs change form to respond to changes in time (I SLEEP, I SLEPT, I HAVE SLEPT, I WILL SLEEP), and every sentence has a verb.
     The direct object of a verb is an optional part of a sentence. It follows the verb and receives the "action," if any, indicated in the verb.

          Subject + Verb + Direct Object
          Harriet cooked the canary.
          Harold underwent surgery.

     Prepositional phrases (phrases in which a relational word is "pre-positioned" in front of a noun or pronoun) add meaning to amplify or modify the central idea. The prepositions are capitalized to call your attention to them, but the bones of the sentence are in bold type because they convey the most important ideas.

    Harriet, IN a blue and white neglige, cooked the canary FOR her startled guests.

    Harold underwent surgery WITHOUT fear OF the consequences.

     It is useful to know that the key words in a sentence's structure are never found in prepositional phrases. The reason we care about recognizing the key structural words is that when writers let important ideas drift away from the words that form the structure, these ideas lose emphasis.