Writing: Understanding the Basic Sentence Structure

Gather around, dear readers, as I spin you a tale of the most fundamental, yet awe-inspiring entity in the realm of writing—the sentence. Like the bricks of a grand castle or the pieces of a complex puzzle, sentences are the building blocks of our stories, our arguments, and even our idle chats. Our tale begins in the verdant valleys of Grammarland, where we seek to master the art of crafting these bricks, and understanding the basic sentence structure.

Imagine a stage. At its center stands a character named Subject, the shining knight of our sentence, the one about whom the story unfolds. He’s the Harry of “Harry Potter,” the Frodo of “The Lord of the Rings,” the Alice of “Alice in Wonderland.” In our world, he could be anything from ‘the cat’ to ‘Aunt Mabel’s peculiarly shaped potato salad.’

Now, our dear knight, the Subject, is rarely alone. He often goes on adventures and does something. Enter the Verb, the action of our tale. The Verb tells us what the Subject is up to. If our Subject is ‘the cat,’ then our verb could be ‘slept.’ Thus, “The cat slept.” A complete thought, a mini-story. A sentence, if you will.

However, life isn’t always so straightforward. Sometimes, our knight (Subject) needs a companion, or perhaps an adversary, someone or something he interacts with. This is where the Object strolls onto the stage, receiving the action of the Verb. “The cat (Subject) chased (Verb) the mouse (Object).”

Let’s apply this knowledge to real life, shall we? Suppose you’re recounting the tale of when Uncle Bob, in his ever-enthusiastic spirit, decided to dance on the Thanksgiving table. The Subject? “Uncle Bob.” The Verb? “Danced.” And the Object? “The Thanksgiving table.” Hence: “Uncle Bob danced on the Thanksgiving table.” Classic Uncle Bob.

But like every good story, there’s always more beneath the surface. We have characters like the Adjective, a colorful fellow who gives more detail about the Subject. If our cat is particularly lazy, the sentence becomes “The lazy cat slept.” There’s also the Adverb, the spice to our Verb. “The cat slept soundly.”

I remember a student of mine, little Timmy, who once wrote about his grandma’s infamous cookies. Instead of saying, “Grandma made cookies,” he penned, “My sprightly Grandma hastily baked scrumptious cookies.” Do you feel the rush? The urgency? And, undoubtedly, the aroma of those cookies?

In our journey, we’ve learned the cast of characters in the basic sentence structure theater. We’ve met the Subject, the star of the show. We’ve witnessed the Verb, the unfolding action. We’ve greeted the Object, the recipient of the action. And we’ve added color with our friends Adjective and Adverb.

Now, when you’re out there in the wild or simply jotting down notes from a particularly tedious meeting, and you chance upon a sentence, picture that stage. Who’s standing in the spotlight? What are they doing? And to whom? Identify these, and you’ve cracked the code of basic sentence structure.

In closing, let’s never forget the words of the legendary grammarian, Sir Archibald Punctuation (a fictional knight I just made up): “To master one’s sentence is to master one’s tale.” So, the next time you pen a note, draft an email, or compose an epic saga about the travails of Aunt Mabel’s peculiarly shaped potato salad, remember the rules of the stage, and let your sentences shine.

Until our next grammar adventure, keep those Subjects clear, Verbs active, and Objects direct. And maybe, just maybe, stay away from Uncle Bob’s dance moves.

Practice What You Learned

Exercise 1: Identify the Characters

Given the following sentences, identify the Subject, Verb, and (if present) the Object.

  1. The dog barked loudly.
  2. Mary wrote a novel.
  3. Children play.
  4. Birds chirped in the morning.
  5. Mr. Thompson teaches mathematics.

Reveal Answer Key

Exercise 2: Enhance the Story

Using adjectives and adverbs, enhance the following sentences to paint a more vivid picture.

  1. The car drove.
  2. The teacher explained the lesson.
  3. Tomatoes grow in the garden.
  4. She sings.
  5. The computer works.

Reveal Answer Key

Exercise 3: Construct a Tale

Construct sentences using the provided Subjects, Verbs, and Objects. Feel free to sprinkle in adjectives and adverbs to make the sentences more lively.

Subjects: a) The robot b) Sarah and Paul c) A thunderstorm

Verbs: i) danced ii) argued iii) rumbled


  1. at the town square
  2. over the last cookie
  3. in the distance

Reveal Answer Key

Further Exploration and Practice:

  1. Real-life Application: Over the course of a day, jot down interesting sentences you hear or read. At the end of the day, dissect them into their components: Subject, Verb, Object, Adjective, and Adverb.
  2. Sentence Expansion: Take simple sentences from books, news articles, or magazines and try to enhance them using adjectives and adverbs.
  3. Creative Writing: Craft a short story or a scene using a set number of sentences. Focus on diversifying the structure of your sentences and ensuring they each have a clear Subject and Verb.
  4. Group Activity: With a group of friends or classmates, play a game where one person provides a Subject, another offers a Verb, and a third gives an Object. The group then collaboratively forms a sentence, aiming for the most creative or humorous outcome.
  5. Grammar Platforms: There are many online platforms and apps that offer grammar exercises. Platforms like Khan Academy, Grammarly, and the British Council’s website have exercises and lessons specifically geared towards understanding sentence structure.
  6. Book Recommendations: Dive deeper into the world of grammar with books like “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” by Lynne Truss or “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
<a href="https://englishpluspodcast.com/author/dannyballanowner/" target="_self">Danny Ballan</a>

Danny Ballan


Danny is a podcaster, teacher, and writer. He worked in educational technology for over a decade. He creates daily podcasts, online courses, educational videos, educational games, and he also writes poetry, novels and music.

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