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10.02: The simple sentence

  • Page ID
    25428
    • Alexandra Glynn, Kelli Hallsten-Erickson & Amy Jo Swing
    • North Hennepin Community College & Lake Superior College

    The simple sentence

    You’ve been writing sentences for years, perhaps even decades. Children learn how to make sentences early on, things like, "I want cookie," and "No!" (Yes, that's a complete sentence!) Do you know what makes a complete sentence, though? There are three things:

    Subject: This is very often a noun (a person, place, thing or idea) that’s doing the action, which is the…

    Verb: the action or state of being (like “is”) that the subject is doing or being.

    A complete thought (A complete thought with a subject and verb is “I run.”)

    A complete sentence might also be referred to as an “independent clause.” A “clause” (not Claus, as in Santa) is a group of words that may make up a complete sentence. This means that there are “dependent” clauses, too, that have a subject or verb but do not have a complete thought and therefore cannot be complete sentences, but that’s a discussion for later.

    Check out the following sentence that has three independent clauses (in bold), or complete sentences, in it:

    We went to the store, we bought M&Ms and a People magazine, and then we went home.

    All complete sentences have at least one independent clause. You can identify an independent clause by reading it on its own and looking for the subject and the verb and making sure it has a complete thought. You could write three sentences: We went to the store. We bought M&Ms and a People magazine. And then we went home. Each of these has a subject (bold), and a verb (underlined).

    Let’s look at an example of an independent clause, which is a clause that can stand alone by itself without the reader thinking “something else is needed for this to be completed and make sense.” Again, an independent clause is also called a complete sentence:

    The mustard is too spicy.

    That’s a complete thought. No reader will think “there is something missing here.”

    Now, these are examples of clauses that are not independent:

    Spicy mustard. (There's no verb, and it's an incomplete thought.)

    Dislikes the spicy mustard. (There's no subject, and it's an incomplete thought.)

    Since the mustard is too spicy. (It's an incomplete thought. There is a verb “is” and there is a noun “mustard.” But neither is the governing verb or main subject. The word “since” subjugates all that follows it into a dependent idea, so that we are waiting for the main thought. The “since” ask like a logical lever that flips on in the mind, telling us: this part of the sentence is all about the since, the why of the main subject and governing verb. But those, the main subject and the governing verb, we don’t have, so we wait for them, as our reason tells us to.)

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