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GEN 100

Writing Workshop

Structure Analysis

When you write, you must be able to break down your sentence into its structural parts. Everything must fit; everything must be a recognizable part of the sentence. You should be able to easily locate the clauses, phrases, and word types.

I have prepared three sentences of varying complexity, and broken them down by clauses, subject/predicate, and phrases.

Plain Sentence Analysis

Here is an example sentence. It is a "Complex" sentence, but fairly plain.

He bought a new phone because his old phone was broken.

Let's break the sentence down into parts in different ways.

Sentence Form; Clauses

He bought a new phone
because his old phone was broken.

Independent clause
Dependent clause (adverbial)

Subject, Predicate

He
bought
a new phone
because
his old phone
was
broken.

Subject
Predicate (direct object)
Conjunction
Subject
Predicate (subject complement)

Phrases

He
bought
a new phone
because
his old phone
was
broken.

Noun phrase
Verb phrase
Noun phrase
Conjunction
Subject
Verb phrase
Adjective / Participial

Medium Sentence Analysis

Here is an example sentence. It is a "Complex" sentence, but fairly plain.

My brother Samuel wanted to eat dessert even though dieting was important to him.

Sentence Form; Clauses

My brother Samuel wanted to eat dessert
even though dieting was important to him.

Independent clause
Dependent clause (adverbial)

Subject, Predicate

My brother Samuel
wanted
to eat dessert

Subject
Predicate (direct object)

even though
dieting
was
important to him.

Conjunction
Subject
Predicate (subject complement)

Phrases

My brother Samuel
wanted
to eat
dessert

Subject
Verb phrase
Infinitive phrase
(object of infinitive)

even though
dieting
was
important
to him

Conjunction
Noun phrase
Verb phrase
Adjective / Complement
Prepositional phrase

Difficult Sentence Analysis

Here is a more complicated example sentence. It is not a great sentence in terms of clarity and style because it is too long (32 words), but it is an interesting example because it includes all types of clauses and phrases in one sentence.

His eyes closed, leaning back in his chair, the student who worked hard found that studying late on Sunday, a weekend day, was a bad idea because he always wanted to sleep.

Let's break the sentence down into parts in different ways.

Sentence Form; Clauses

The sentence is complex, because it has one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses:

His eyes closed, leaning back in his chair, the student
who worked hard

Independent clause (subject only)
Adjective clause

found
that studying late on Sunday, a weekend day, was a bad idea

Ind. clause verb
Nominal clause (acts as the direct object of independent clause)

because he always wanted to sleep.

Adverbial clause

Phrases

This time, let's skip subjects and predicates, and just break this down into phrases:

His eyes closed,
leaning back
in his chair
,
the student
who
worked hard

Absolute phrase
Participial phrase
(with prepositional phrase)
Noun phrase
(main subject)
Relative pronoun
Verb phrase
(relative clause)

found
that
studying late
on
Sunday, a weekend day,
was
a bad idea

Verb ph.
(main verb)
Clause marker
Gerund phrase
(noun clause subj.)
Prepositional phrase (with appositive)
Verb phrase
Noun phrase

because
he
always wanted
to sleep.

Subordinating conj.
Noun phrase
Verb phrase
Infinitive phrase

As you can see, every word in the sentence can be found to have a structural part.

This can be confusing because there are various "layers" of parts (clauses, subject/predicate/complement, phrases, words), so there is a lot of overlap when you are trying to define parts.