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Parts of a Sentence: Subject, Predicate, Object & Clauses

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  • 0:01 Breaking Down Sentences
  • 0:37 Subjects and Predicates
  • 1:26 Three Types of Objects
  • 2:52 Clauses
  • 3:33 Application on the Exam
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

Some of the most basic sentence parts are subjects, predicates, objects, and clauses. In this lesson, you'll define these parts, learn how they function in sentences and discover why that knowledge is important for the AP test.

Breaking Down Sentences

Have you ever diagrammed a sentence? You take what looks like a normal string of words and reduce it to a bizarre maze of lines. Sentence diagramming is a tool that's supposed to help you see how words fit together to form phrases, clauses, and, ultimately, sentences, but you don't need all those convoluted lines to understand how sentences work. All you need to know is how to break a sentence down into the most basic parts: the subject and predicate, objects, and clauses. I will show you how, and then I'll tell you why that's important to you on the AP Literature test.

Subjects and Predicates

Every complete sentence must have a subject and a predicate. The subject is who or what is doing or being something in the sentence. Take a simple sentence like 'Mark ran.' The subject, the who of the sentence, is Mark. He's the one doing something. If the sentence read, 'Mark was happy,' the subject is still Mark. Only this time, Mark is being something rather than doing something.

Now, the thing he's doing or being - that's the predicate. The predicate is the verb of the sentence. Take a look at the two sample sentences we just used: 'Mark ran' and 'Mark was happy.' In the first one the predicate is 'ran,' and in the second one, the predicate is 'was.' In either case, the predicate is just the action or state of being for the subject.

Three Types of Objects

There are several types of objects in English sentences. An object receives or is affected by the verb in the sentence. There are three types of objects. A direct object receives the action of the verb. In the sentence 'Winnie hammered some nails,' the subject is 'Winnie' and the verb is 'hammered,' and what gets hammered? Some nails. The nails directly receive the action of the verb; they're the direct object.

On the other hand the indirect object is who or what receives the direct object. So you have to have a direct object to have an indirect one. In the sentence 'Winnie loaned her hammer', the subject is Winnie and the predicate is loaned, and the thing being loaned is the hammer, the direct object. Let's add an indirect object. 'Winnie loaned Rose her hammer'. Now there's a person who receives the direct object, in this case Rose, who receives the hammer.

The third type of object is an object of a preposition, which refers to the noun being controlled by the preposition. Usually it comes right after the preposition. 'He walked down the stairs, across the street, and into the building.' In this sentence, you have three objects, one for each preposition. Down what? Stairs. Across what? Street. Into what? Building.

Clauses

Every sentence in English has to have a subject and a predicate, and many have at least one type of object. If you have a set of words with a subject and a predicate, then you have a clause. The independent clause is a clause that can function on its own, but a dependent clause has a subject and predicate but just provides extra information and can't stand on its own. 'When I ran out of paper towels' is a dependent clause. It has a subject (I) and a predicate (ran out) but it doesn't form a complete thought. It's extra information. You're left asking yourself: what happened when you ran out of paper towels? You'd need an independent clause in the sentence to find out.

Application on the Exam

Now, let's get down to how you're going to use this essential grammar knowledge on the AP Literature test. First, when you're tackling the fiction essay, there's a good chance you'll have to write about style. The prompt may ask you to read the passage, probably an excerpt from a novel, and break down how the writer's style affects the reader and the overall meaning of the work. One major part of style is how writers string together the clauses to make their sentences.

In Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms, he has a passage about a baby being born.

'They were washing him and wrapping him in something. I saw the little dark face and dark hand, but I did not see him move or hear him cry. The doctor was doing something to him again. He looked upset.'

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