How to Analyze a Sentence

Analysis is the process of identifying subjects, predicates, direct and indirect objects and the various types of clauses and phrases.

The student is taught to analyze by beginning with very simple sentences. A common mistake in American pedagogy is to teach too much too soon–especially where grammar is concerned. Grammar needs to be taught in baby steps so that the student can absorb one concept before being introduced to the next one.

Thought for the Day: Most elementary and secondary English textbooks contain TOO MUCH STUFF.

Begin instruction in Sentence Analysis with simple two word sentences. For example, Birds fly.

On a piece of notebook paper have the student write two headings separated by a neatly drawn line:

SUBJECT | PREDICATE

The line is to be drawn all the way down the page to leave space for plenty of examples. A straight line, mind. Use a ruler.

Examples of first sentences to analyze:

Birds fly.
Dogs bark.
Children laugh.
Adults work.
Cats pounce.

You get the idea.

Explain that the Subject is what you’re talking about and that the Predicate is what is said about the Subject. With each example hammer it home with questions:

Teacher: Who flies?
Pupil: Birds.

Teacher: So what is “birds”?
Pupil: Subject!

Teacher: What do the birds do?
Pupil: Fly.

Teacher: Right! That’s the Predicate because it’s what is said about the Subject.

Do the same thing with each sentence, ring all the changes on the questions that you can think of, getting across the concept that Subject is what is being spoken of and Predicate is what is being said about the Subject.

Once the learner has grasped the basic concept of Subject as topic and Predicate as what is said about the Subject, you can start adding words, but you continue to offer simple Subject/Predicate examples.

Examples of second-stage sentences to analyze:

The little birds sing.
A strange dog barked.
Two children sang.

It is at this point that you teach the other part of the process: Parsing.

That’s in the next post: How to Parse a Sentence

13 comments to How to Analyze a Sentence

  • ashley,
    The first sentence is a compound sentence. One clause is “I vaccinate my children” and the other is “I recommend it for all my patients.” The joining word (coordinating conjunction) is “and.”

    Your second example is actually two sentences run together.

    1. “It showed that the nasal vaccine had an efficacy of about 3 percent.” This is a complex sentence. The main subject and verb are “It showed.” The word “that” introduces a noun clause that functions as the direct object of the verb “showed.” In the noun clause, the subject is “the nasal vaccine”; the verb is “had” and the direct object of “had” is “an efficacy of about e percent.”

    2. “in other words, it offered virtually no protection at all.” This is a simple sentence. The introductory phrase “in other words” functions as an adverb phrase governing the whole sentence. The subject is “it.” the verb is “offered.” The direct object is “virtually no protection.” The phrase “at all” governs the verb.

    “We hope that the problem with the vaccine will be identified so that the manufacturer can come back with a fixed vaccine.” This is another complex sentence. It contains three clauses:
    1. We hope
    2. (that) the problem with the vaccine will be identified
    3. (so that) the manufacturer can come back with a fixed vaccine.
    The second clause functions as the direct object of “hope.”
    The third clause functions as an adverb clause governing the verb “will be identified.”

    “That” and “so that” are conjunctions that join the clauses and introduce the subordinate clauses.

    Hope this helps.

  • ashley

    i am having a very hard time analyzing the following sentences…
    “I vaccinate my children, and I recommend it for all my patients.”
    “It showed that the nasal vaccine had an efficacy of about 3 percent — in other words, it offered virtually no protection at all.”
    “We hope that the problem with the vaccine will be identified so that the manufacturer can come back with a fixed vaccine.”
    can you please help?

  • Greg Stein,
    I’m pleased that you are finding the information on this site helpful in planning your English program. I’m in the process of gathering some of the material into booklets that I will make available either from this site or from Amazon.

    As principal of a K-5 school, you are in charge of what I believe to be the most important phase of education: grades K-3. Best wishes for the success of you and your teachers.

  • Greg Stein

    Hello,

    I am a principal of a K-5 public school in California. I am working on developing an E.L.D. (English Language Development) program for my school. Your writings are helpful.

    Thank you,

    Greg Stein

  • Nassir,
    The simplest form of sentence analysis is to identify the subject and the predicate.

    “To analyze” means “to take to pieces, to separate.” A more complex form of sentence analysis would be to go further and identify the parts of the subject and the parts of the predicate.

  • Nassir Hamadou

    Hi!to analyse a sentence,we look at the subjet in this sentence.Then,the information about the subjet is known as predicate.

  • Rana,
    Several articles on this site discuss sentence analysis, and I may write more. Judging by your present command of English, however, I don’t think they would be much use to you at this time.

  • I am an early student to learn about sentence analyses.Actually I want to know that how can I teach the students about that.And how can I understand about this analyses.Is that complete topic or further next?

  • Haider Waqar

    I do not know about teaching methodology of Americans but here in Pakistan they taught you whole grammar in couple of days and then they gave you most difficult sentences for analysis i donot know what to do

  • Kay,
    Harry bent down and picked them up one by one, dropping them back in the boxes.

    This is a simple sentence. It has one subject, “Harry,” and a compound verb. The compound verb is “bent and picked.” The phrase “dropping them back in the boxes” tells more about Harry.

  • Kay

    I don’t have an opinion at this moment, but need help! My son is analyzing sentences and the is the sentence.
    Harry bent down and picked them up one by one, dropping them back in the boxes.
    Is this a simple sentence? I don’t see a conjunction. I think “dropping them back in the boxes.” is a dependent clause, but it doesn’t come first so I don’t think it is complex. Can anyone help me with this? I teach kdg and haven’t diagramed a sentence in almost 20 yrs!

  • After the fact, I came to understand diagramming, but for many chlldren, it is incomprehensible until they’ve learned the concepts by some other means.

  • Tom Babington

    After the fact, I concluded that diagramming sentences proved to be the best technique of all. At the time, I detested this practice. Now, I praise the wisdom of it.