The Printable KISS Grammar Workbooks March 2010
Education is
Everything
(Detail) 
1780
Jean-Honore
Fragonard
(1732-1806)
What Is a Sentence?

     A simple sentence is a group of words that names something and then says something about what it has named. Because the thing that is named is what the sentence is about, grammarians call it the “subject.” The most important words that say something about the subject are called “verbs.” In the following sentence, the subject and verb are each underlined once. The subject is in green and the verb is in blue.

Birds fly.
Note that some sentences say something by asking a question about the subject.
Do birds fly?
In longer sentences, we speak of subject and verb phrases. In
The little words are the most difficult.
“words” is the subject, but because the words “The” and “little” go with “words,” we can call “The little words” the subject phrase. Similarly, “the most difficult” go with “are,” so we can call “are the most difficult” a verb phrase. A phrase, in other words, is a group of words that does not contain both a subject and a verb that says something about the subject.

     The following are examples of sentences:
April is the cruelest month.
Is April the cruelest month?
Bert likes baseball.
Does Bert like baseball?
Sarah was going to the museum.
Swimming can be good exercise.
Jane will have to work on Friday
The book was written by a child.

The following are examples of phrases:
around the house
the bright, beautiful sun
going to the store
swimming in the pond.
were lonely and sad
on the table

     There are thousands of verbs in English, and learning to recognize them is probably the hardest part of understanding grammar. The next few exercises will help you. You will be expected to make some mistakes, but the next lessons will introduce you to some verbs that you will be expected to always recognize correctly.

     Note that many sentences will have more than one subject/verb pattern:

At supper, the food was passed around, and the glasses clashed together till they rang again; while before the town-gate the mail-coach stopped with twelve strange passengers.
Simply find a verb or verb phrase, find its subject, and then check for another verb and its subject until there are no more verbs in the sentence. Then go to the next sentence.