Words are the most basic element of writing and speech. The rules that govern the structuring of word groups is called Syntax. In this section we will discuss the basics of syntax in the English grammar. The first thing to know is how to assemble a word group. When putting words together there are two sets of words required, predicates and subjects.
A predicate is a verb grouped with words stating something about the subject. The subject is the who or what of a sentence. So the predicate describes the action of the word group and the subject describes the actor.
A word group that forms a meaningful unit but does not have a predicate and a subject is called a phrase. An example of a phrase would be “went to”, or “falling from the”, or “after the meal”. A phrase is not complete. It either lacks a predicate which means nothing happens in the word group or it lacks a subject which means if something was happening you don’t know who or what it is happening to.
A word group that has a predicate and a subject is called a clause. Clauses can sometimes be considered a complete word group others are not. A clause that is not a complete word group is called a subordinate clause. An example of a subordinate clause is “If Kim went to the shop,” or “Until John smashed,” or “After Greg’s tantrum”. Unlike a phrase, the subordinate clause has a predicate and a subject. However, like a phrase, the subordinate clause requires another predicate to describe what is happening or another subject to be acted upon. Without that extra information, the word group does not make sense to the reader.
A complete word group is called an independent clause. Some examples of independent clauses are “He went to work.” or “He drew his sword.” or “The monster ran.” The word group clearly explains what is taking place and the subject it is happening to. This makes this word group complete and is sometimes called the main clause.
A subordinate clause can be paired with an independent clause to form a complete word group. A complete word group is called a sentence. A sentence is any string of words with a subject and a predicate that can be fully understood without the addition of any other predicates or subjects. A sentence can be as short as two words. “He died.” this is a complete sentence. A sentence begins with a capital letter and ends with a terminal punctuation mark; which is a period, question mark or exclamation point.
These are the basic elements of word groups. In the advanced grammar section, we will go over each one in more detail explaining the different kinds of Phrases, Clauses, and Sentences and their structures.