8th Grade English

Diagramming Sentences

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Why Diagram Sentences?

Diagramming sentences has been a little out of style, so to speak, among language arts teachers in the last decade or two. It is now, however, becoming popular once more as another tool that can help many students understand sentence structure. For students who are visual or even kinesthetic learners, it may be the best way to analyze how a sentence works, and to understand various types of verbs, phrases, and structures.

I have found that more of my students understand concepts like "direct object" and "linking verb" using diagrams than other methods of sentence analysis. It won't work for everyone, but no one method ever does. I do think it can be a very useful tool in the teaching of sentence-level grammar.

There will be a series of lessons as follows:


Diagramming Lesson 1: Getting started

As always, the first step in understanding any sentence, at least in the English language (and in every other language I've studied), is to identify the verb or verbs. "What is happening?" "What's going on?" "What is the action in this sentence?" The main verb, along with any auxiliaries (helping verbs) is the simple predicate, and is placed on the right side of a horizontal line:

The second step is to find the subject. Ask yourself "who or what is performing that verb?" The simple subject (without any adjectives or other modifiers) is placed on the left side of that horizontal line. A vertical line crosses the horizontal line and separates the simple subject from the simple predicate.

So a simple sentence like "Mary has eaten." would diagram as:

A more complicated sentence like "The girl in the corner in the blue shirt has eaten fried eggs for breakfast every day of her life." would still start the diagram with the simple subject and predicate:

Another interesting case is the command form in English, where no subject is present. In that case, the subject of the sentence is "the understood you" and is shown as such, in parentheses. So a command like "Listen!" would be diagrammed:

So what? So, you have figured out the core of the sentence, the simple subject and simple predicate. Everything else branches off those two basic pieces.

Continue --> Diagramming Lesson 2: Modifiers

Questions? Comments?  Email me at jrauschenberg@loganhocking.k12.oh.us

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