THE ANALYSIS OF SENTENCES.
1. Words are gregarious, and go in groups. When a group of words makes
complete sense, it is called a sentence. A sentence is not a chance
collection of words; it is a true organism, with a heart and limbs. When we take
the limbs apart from the central core or heart of the sentence, and try to show
their relation to that core, and to each other, we are said to analyse the
sentence. The process of thus taking a sentence to pieces, and naming and
accounting for each piece, is called analysis.
(i) Analysis is a Greek word which means breaking
up or taking apart: its opposite is Synthesis, which means
making up or putting together.
(ii) When we examine a sentence, and look at its
parts, we are said to analyse the sentence, or to perform an act of
analysis. But when we make sentences themselves, we perform an act of
composition or of synthesis.
2. A sentence is a statement made about something, as, The horse gallops.
(i) The something (horse) is called the Subject.
(ii) The statement (gallops) is called the
3. Every sentence consists, and must consist, of at least two parts. These
two parts are the thing we speak about and what we say about that thing.
(i) The Subject is what we speak about.
(ii) The Predicate is what we say about the subject.
(i) There is a proverb of Solomon which says: “All
things are double one against another.” So there are the two necessarily
complementary ideas of even and odd;
of right and left; of north and south; and many
more. In language, the two ideas of Subject and Predicate are necessarily
coexistent; neither can exist without the other; we cannot even think
the one without the other. They are the two poles of thought.
(ii) Sometimes the Subject is not expressed in
imperative sentences, as in “Go!” = “Go you!”
(iii) The Predicate can never be suppressed; it must
always be expressed: otherwise nothing at all would be said.
4. There are three kinds of sentences: Simple, Compound, and
(i) A simple sentence contains only one subject and
(ii) A compound sentence contains two or more simple
sentences of equal rank.
(iii) A complex sentence contains a chief sentence,
and one or more sentences that are of subordinate rank to the chief
I.—THE SIMPLE SENTENCE.
5. A Simple Sentence is a sentence which consists of one subject and
(i) A Simple Sentence contains, and can contain, only one finite verb. If we
say, “Baby likes to dance,” there are two verbs in this simple sentence. But to dance
is not a finite verb; it is an infinitive; it is a pure noun, and cannot
therefore be a predicate.
(ii) If we say, “John and James ran off,” the sentence is = “John ran off” +
“James ran off.” It is therefore a compound sentence consisting of two simple
sentences, with the predicate of one of them suppressed. Hence it is called a
contracted compound sentence—contracted in the predicate.
(iii) If we say, “John jumped up and ran off,” the sentence is = “John jumped
up” + “John ran off.” It is therefore a compound sentence consisting of two
simple sentences, but, for convenience’ sake, contracted in the subject.
6. The Subject of a sentence is what we speak about. What we speak about we must
If we name a thing, we must use a name or noun.
Therefore the subject must always be either—
(i) A noun; or
(ii) Some word or words equivalent to a noun.
7. There are seven kinds of Subjects—
(i) A Noun, as, England is our home.
(ii) A Pronoun, as, It is our fatherland.
(iii) A Verbal Noun, as, Walking is healthy.
(iv) A Gerund, as, Catching fish is a pleasant pastime.
(v) An Infinitive, as, To swim is quite easy.
(vi) An Adjective, with a noun understood, as, The prosperous are sometimes
(vii) A Quotation, as, “Ay, ay, sir!” burst from a thousand throats.
(a) The verbal noun, as we have seen, originally ended in ung.
(b) Catching is a gerund, because it is both a noun (nominative to
is) and a verb, governing fish
in the objective.
8. The Predicate in a sentence is what we say about the subject. If we
anything, we must use a saying or telling word. But a telling word is a
Predicate must always be a verb, or some word or words equivalent to a
9. There are five kinds of Predicates—
(i) A Verb, as, God is. The stream runs.
(ii) “To be” + a noun, as, He is a carpenter.
(iii) “To be” + an adjective, as, They are idle.
(iv) “To be” + an adverb, as, The books are there.
(v) “To be” + a phrase, as, She is in good health.
10. When the predicate consists of an active-transitive verb, it requires an
object after it to make complete sense. This object is called either the
or the completion. As we must name the object, it is plain that it must always,
like the subject, be a noun, or some word or words equivalent to a
11. As there are seven kinds of Subjects, so there are seven kinds of
or Completions. These are:—
(i) A Noun, as, All of us love England.
(ii) A Pronoun, as, We saw him in the garden.
(iii) A Verbal Noun, as, We like walking.
(iv) A Gerund, as, The angler prefers taking large fish.
(v) An Infinitive, as, We hate to be idle.
(vi) An Adjective with a noun understood, as, Good men love
(vii) A Quotation, as, We heard his last “Goodbye, Tom!”
12. Verbs of giving, promising, offering, handing, and many such, take also an
indirect object, which is sometimes called the dative object.
13. There are two kinds of Indirect Objects:—
(i) A Noun, We gave the man a shilling.
(ii) A Pronoun, We offered him sixpence.
The indirect or dative object may be construed with to. Thus we can say, “We
offered it to him.” But, in such instances, to him is still the indirect object
and it the direct object.
14. The Subject or the Object is always a Noun.
A Noun may have going with it any number of adjectives or
phrases. An adjective or adjectival phrase that goes with a subject or with an
object is called, in Analysis, an Enlargement.
It is so called because it enlarges our knowledge of the
subject. Thus, if we say, “The man is tired,” we have no knowledge of what kind
is spoken of; but, if we say, “The poor old man is tired,” our notion of the man
is enlarged by the addition of the facts that he is both poor
15. There are seven kinds of Enlargements:—
(i) An Adjective—one, two, or more—That big old red book is sold.
(ii) A Noun (or nouns) in apposition, William the Conqueror defeated Harold.
(iii) A Noun (or pronoun) in the Possessive Case, His hat flew off.
(iv) A Prepositional Phrase, The walk in the fields was pleasant.
(v) An Adjectival Phrase, The boy, ignorant of his duty, was soon dismissed
(vi) A Participle (a), or Participial Phrase (b) —
weeping, she was led from the room (a). The merchant, having failed, gave
up business (b).
(vii) A Gerundial Infinitive—Anxiety to succeed (= of succeeding) wore him out.
Bread to eat (= for eating) could not be had anywhere.
16. It is plain that all these seven kinds of Enlargements may go with the
Object as well as with the Subject.
17. An Enlargement, being a word or phrase that goes with a noun, must always be
an adjective or equivalent to an adjective.
18. The Predicate is always a verb.
The word that goes with a verb is called an adverb.
Therefore the word or words that go with the predicate are either
words equivalent to adverbs.
19. The adverbs or adverbial phrases that go with the predicate are called, in
Analysis, the Extensions of the Predicate.
20. There are six kinds of Extensions:—
(i) An Adverb, as, The time went slowly.
(ii) An Adverbial Phrase, as, Mr Smith spoke very well indeed.
(iii) A Prepositional Phrase, as, Mr Smith spoke with great effect.
(iv) A Noun Phrase, as, We walked side by side.
(v) A Participial Phrase, as, The mighty rocks came bounding down.
(vi) A Gerundial Phrase, as, He did it to insult us (= for insulting us).
Under (v) may come also the Absolute Participial Phrase, such as, “The clock
having struck, we had to go.”
21. Extensions of the predicate are classified in the above section from the
point of view of grammar; but they are also frequently classified from the point
of view of distinction in thought.
In this latter way Extensions are classified as extensions of—
(i) Time, as, We lived there three years.
(ii) Place, as, Go home! We came from York.
(iii) Manner, as, We scatter seeds with careless hand.
(iv) Magnitude, as, The field measured ten acres.
(v) Cause, as, The clerk was dismissed for idleness.
Under (iv) may also come the idea of weight and price, as, The parcel weighed
four pounds. It cost sixpence.
II.— CAUTIONS IN THE ANALYSIS OF SIMPLE SENTENCES.
22. The following cautions are of importance:—
(i) The Noun in an absolute clause cannot be the Subject of a simple sentence.
We can say, “The train having started, we returned to the hotel.” Here we is the
The phrase “the train having started” is an adverbial phrase modifying returned, and giving the
for the returning.
(ii) The direct object may be compound. Thus we can say, “I saw the ship sink;”
and “the ship sink” is a compound direct object.
If it is necessary to analyse the phrase “the ship sink,” then we must say that
sink is the direct object of saw;
and that ship is the subject of the infinitive verb sink. (In English, as well
as in Latin, the subject of an infinitive is in the objective or accusative
(iii) A subject may be compound, and may contain and object, as, “To save money
is always useful.” Here
the subject is to save money, and contains the object money—the object of the
verb to save.
An object may also contain another object, which is not the object of the
sentence. Thus we can say, “I like to save money,” when the direct object of
like is to save, and money is a part only of that direct object.
(iv) The Nominative of address cannot be the subject of a sentence. Thus, in the
sentence, “John, go into the garden,” the subject of go is not John, but
III.—THE MAPPING-OUT OF SIMPLE SENTENCES.
23. It is of the greatest importance to get the eye to help the mind, and to
present to the sight if possible—either on paper or on the black-board—the
sentence we have to consider. This is called mapping-out.
Let us take two simple sentences:—
(i) “From the mountain-path came a joyous sound of some person whistling.”
(ii) “In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of Minas,
Distant, secluded, still, the little village of
Lay in the fruitful valley.”
24. These may be mapped out, before analysing them, in the following way:—
25. Such a mapping-out enables us easily to see, with the bodily as well as with
the mind’s eye, what is the main purpose of all analysis—to find out which words
go with which, and what is the real build of the sentence. Hence, unless we see
at a glance the build of the sentence we are going to analyse, we ought, before
doing so, to set to work and map it out.
IV.—THE COMPOUND SENTENCE.
26. A Compound Sentence is one which consists of two or more Simple Sentences
packed, for convenience’ sake, into one.
Thus, in the “Lay of the Last Minstrel,” Sir W. Scott writes:—
“The way was long, the wind was cold,
The minstrel was infirm and old.”
He might have put a full stop at long and at cold, for the sense ends in these
places, and, grammatically, the two lines form three separate and distinct
sentences. But because in thought the three are connected, the poet made
compound sentence out of the three simple sentences.
27. A Compound Sentence may be contracted.
(i) Thus, the famous sentence, “Caesar came, saw, and conquered” is = three
sentences—“Caesar came,” “Caesar saw,” etc., and is therefore contracted in the
(ii) In the sentence, “Either a knave or a fool has done this,” the sentence is
contracted in the predicate for the purpose of avoiding the repetition of the
verb has done.
28. Caution! The relative pronouns who and which sometimes combine
co-ordinate sentences into one compound sentence. Thus—
(i) We met a man at the gate, who told us the way.
(ii) He was not at home, which was a great pity.
Here who is = and he; which is = and this; and the two sentences in both instances
are of equal rank. Hence both (i) and (ii) are compound sentences.
V.—THE COMPLEX SENTENCE.
29. A Complex Sentence is a statement which contains one Principal Sentence,
and one or more sentences dependant upon it, which are called Subordinate
Sentences. There are three kinds—and there can only be three kinds—of
subordinate sentences—Adjectival, Noun, and Adverbial.
A subordinate sentence is sometimes called a clause.
30. A Subordinate Sentence that goes with a Noun fulfils the function of an
Adjective, is equal to an Adjective, and is therefore called an Adjectival Sentence.
“Darkness, which might be felt, fell upon the city.” Here the sub-sentence,
“which-might-be-felt,” goes with the noun darkness, belongs to it, and cannot be
separated from it; and this sentence is therefore an adjectival sentence.
31. A Subordinate Sentence that goes with a Verb fulfils the function of an
Adverb, is equal to an Adverb, and is therefore called an Adverbial Sentence.
“I will go whenever you are ready.” Here the sub-sentence, “whenever you are
ready,” is attached to the verb go, belongs to it, and cannot be separated from
it; and hence this sentence is an adverbial sentence.
32. A Subordinate Sentence that forms the Subject of a Predicate, or the
or that is in apposition with a noun, fulfils the function of a Noun, and is
therefore called a Noun Sentence.
“He told me that his cousin had gone to sea.” Here the sub-sentence, “his cousin
had gone to sea,” is the object of the transitive verb told. It fulfils the
function of a noun, and is therefore a noun sentence.
33. An Adjectival Sentence may be attached to—
(i) The Subject of the Principal Sentence; or to
(ii) The Object of the Principal Sentence; or to
(iii) Any Noun whatsoever.
(i) The book that-I-bought is on the table: to the subject.
(ii) I laid the book I-bought on the table; to the object.
(iii) The child fell into the stream that-runs-past-the-mill: to the noun
stream—a noun in an adverbial phrase.
34. An Adverbial Sentence may be attached to—
(i) A Verb;
(ii) An Adjective; or to
(iii) An Adverb.
(i) To a Verb. It does not matter in what position the verb is. It may be (a)
the Predicate, as in the sentence, “I walk when I can.” It may be (b) an Infinitive forming a
subject, as, “To
get up when one is tired
is not pleasant.” It may be (c) a participle as in the sentence, “Having
dined before he came,
I started at once.”
(ii) To an Adjective. “His grief was such that all pitied him.” Here the
sub-sentence “that all pitied him” modifies the adjective such.
(iii) To an Adverb. “He was so weak that he could not stand.” Here the
sub-sentence “that he could not stand” modifies the adverb so, which itself
35. A Noun Sentence may be—
(i) The Subject of the Principle Sentence; or
(ii) The Object of the main verb; or
(iii) The Nominative after is; or
(iv) In Apposition with another Noun.
(i) “That-he-is-better cannot be denied:” the subject. Here the true nominative
is that. “That cannot be denied.” What? “That = he is better.” (From usage,
in such sentences acquires the function and force of a conjugation.)
(ii) “I heard that-he-was-better:” the object.
(iii) “My motive in going was that-I-might-be-of-use:” nominative after
(iv) “The fact that-he-voted-against-his-party is well known:” in apposition
36. Any number of Subordinate Sentences may be attached to the Principle
Sentence. The only limit is that dictated by a regard to clearness, to the
balance of clauses, or to good taste.
The best example of a very long sentence, which consists entirely of one
principle sentence and a very large number of adjectives sentences, is “The
House that Jack built.” “This is the house that-Jack-built.” “This is the malt
that-lay-in-the-house-that-Jack-built,” and so on.
VI. —CAUTIONS IN THE ANALYSIS OF COMPLEX SENTENCES.
37. (i) Find out, first of all, the
(ii) Secondly, look for the sentences, if any, that attach themselves to the
Subject of the Principle Sentence.
(iii) Thirdly, find those sentences, if any, that belong to the object of the
Principle Sentence, or to any other Noun in it.
(iv) Fourthly, look for the subordinate sentences that are attached to the
Predicate of the Principle Sentence.
When a subordinate sentence is long, quote only the first and last words, and
place dots . . . . between them.
38. The following Cautions are necessary:—
(i) A connective may be omitted.
In Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” Isabel says—
“I have a brother is condemned to die.”
Here who is omitted, and “who . . . die” is an adjectival sentence qualifying
the object brother.
(ii) Do not be guided by the part of speech that introduces a subordinate
(a) A relative pronoun may introduce a noun sentence, as, “I do not know
who-he-is;” or an adjectival sentence, as, “John, who-was-a-soldier, is now a
(b) An adverb may introduce a noun sentence, as, “I don’t know
it has gone to;” or an adjectival sentence, as, “The spot where he lies
is unknown.” In the sentence, “The reason why so few marriages are happy is
because young ladies spend their time in making nets, not in making cages”—the
subordinate sentence “why . . . happy” is,—though introduced by an adverb,—in
apposition to the noun reason, and is therefore a noun sentence.
VII.—THE MAPPING-OUT OF COMPLEX SENTENCES.
39. Complex Sentences should be mapped out on the same
principles as Simple Sentences. Let us take a sentence from Mr Morris’s
“And in his hand he bare a mighty bow,
No man could bend of those that battle now.”
This sentence may be drawn up after the following plan:—
(The single line indicates a preposition; the double line a conjunction or
40. The larger the number of subordinate sentences there are, and the farther
away they stand from the principle sentence, the larger will be the space that
the mapping-out will cover.
Let us take this sentence from an old Greek writer:—
“Thou art about, O king! to make war against men who wear leathern trousers, and
have all their other garments of leather; who feed not on what they like, but on
what they can get from a soil that is sterile and unkindly; who do not indulge
in wine, but drink water; who possess no figs, nor anything else that is good to
This would be set out in the following way:—
41. Sentences may also be pigeon-holed, or placed in marked-off spaces or
columns, like the following:—
“Thro’ the black Tartar tents he passed, which stood
Clustering like bee-hives on the low black strand
Of Oxus, where the summer floods o’erflow
When the sun melts the snow in high Pamir.”
A. He passed through the black Tartar tents
A. Prin. sentence.
thro’ the tents
(a) which clustering like bee-hives
stood on the strand of Oxus,
Adj. sentence to A.
on the low black strand
(b) [in the place] which the floods o’erflow
(b) Adj. sent. to place under-stood
(c) when . . . melts
(c) Adv. sent. to
when in high Pamir
42. There is a kind of Continuous Analysis, which may often—not without
benefit—be applied to longer passages, and especially to passages taken from the
poets. For example:—
“Alas! the meanest herb that scents the gale,
The lowliest flower that blossoms in the vale
Even where it dies, at spring’s sweet call renews
To second life its odours and its hues.”