How to Diagram a Sentence

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Subject and Verb

The most basic sentence contains a subject and a verb. We begin to diagram a sentence by drawing a base line beneath the subject and the verb. We separate the two by a vertical line that extends through the base line.

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Direct Object and Predicate Adjective

The predicate of a sentence is the part of a sentence that states something about the subject. The verb is the main part of the predicate, but it may be followed by modifiers. Modifiers can be in the form of singe words or groups of words called clauses.

Students read books.

In this first sentence, the predicate contains a direct object. Books is the direct object of the verb read. The verb read is a transitive verb, or a verb that requires a receiver of the action. To diagram a direct object, draw a vertical line that stands on the base.

Teachers are happy.

The second sentence contains a predicate adjective (happy). A predicate adjective  always follows a linking verb.

A linking verb can also precede a predicate nominative. A predicate nominative describes or renames the subject, as in the following sentence:

My teacher is Ms. Thompson.

Notice that Ms. Thompson re-names the subject teacher.

To diagram a predicate adjective or nominative, draw a diagonal line that rests on the base.

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Clause as Direct Object

I heard you were leaving.

A noun clause can serve as a direct object. It is diagrammed like a word, with a vertical line preceding it, but it stands on a second, raised baseline.

Treat the clause as a sentence by separating the noun from the verb.

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Two Direct Objects

Don't be thrown off by two or more direct objects. If a predicate contains a compound object, simply treat it the same as a sentence with a one-word direct object. Give each a separate base line.
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Adjectives and Adverbs that Modify

Individual words can have modifiers.

Students read books quietly.

In this sentence, the adverb quietly modifies read.

Teachers are effective leaders.

In this sentence, the adjective effective modifies leaders.

When diagramming a sentence, you will place adjectives and adverbs on a diagonal line below the word they modify.

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More Modifiers

Effective teachers are often good listeners.

A sentence can have many modifiers. The subject, direct object, and verb may all have modifiers. When diagramming a sentence, place the modifiers on a diagonal line below the word they modify.

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Clause as Predicate Nominative

A noun clause can serve as a predicate nominative, as in this sentence:

The fact is you are not ready.

Note that the phrase you are not ready renames the fact.

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Indirect Object and Understood You

Give the man your money.

This sentence contains a direct object (money) and an indirect object (man). When diagramming a sentence with an indirect object, place the word on a line parallel to the base.

Notice that the subject of this imperative sentence is an understood You.

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Complex Sentence

A complex sentence has at least one principal clause with a main idea and at least one dependent clause.

I jumped when he popped the balloon.

I jumped is the main clause. It could stand alone as a sentence. When he popped the balloon cannot stand alone. It is the dependent clause.

Notice that the clauses are connected with a dotted line.

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Eve, my cat, ate her food. The term apposition means "next to." In a sentence, an appositive is a word or phrase that follows and renames another word. In the sentence above, my cat is the appositive for Eve.

In a sentence diagram, the appositive sits next to the word it re-names in parentheses.

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Your Citation
Fleming, Grace. "How to Diagram a Sentence." ThoughtCo, Feb. 1, 2016, Fleming, Grace. (2016, February 1). How to Diagram a Sentence. Retrieved from Fleming, Grace. "How to Diagram a Sentence." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 25, 2018).