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How to Diagram Sentences

Diagramming sentences might seem complicated at first, but you'll quickly get the hang of it, once you understand the essentials.

How to diagram sentence step 1

1. Locate the verb of the sentence. Verbs are words that show action (walk, dance, sing, run for example) or present a state of being (am, are, is, was). Look for the action in the sentence and ask yourself what happened. You'll find the verb there.

For example: "Harry searched for his dog." The word "searched" is the verb as it is a word that shows action.

A second example: "Harry was looking for his dog." The words "was looking" is a verb phrase in past progressive tense. Both the helping verb "was" and the main verb "looking" are in the verb spot in the diagram.

Once you've found your verb draw a straight horizontal line, with a vertical line through its center. On the right side of the vertical line place the verb.

2. Find the subject of your sentence. This will be the thing or person that is performing the action. The subject will go to the left of the vertical line (the verb is already on the right). A good question to ask when locating the subject is "who did the verb."

From the example above, "Harry was looking for his dog," Harry is the subject as he is the one looking for the dog.

How to diagram sentence step 2

3. Find your direct object if you have one. This will be the person or thing receiving the action. Not all sentences have a direct object. If you have a direct object, draw a vertical line after the verb, and place the word here.

Using the same example "Harry was looking for his dog," the word "dog" is the direct object. Now, if you had a sentence like "Harry was upset," there is no direct object.

If you have a linking verb with a complement, draw a slanted line after the verb, and write the complement here. A linking verb connects the subject of the sentence to the complement. The complement is the part of the sentence that comes after the verb to complete the sentence. For example: "Harry looked sad when his dog went missing." In this sentence "looked sad" is a linking verb and "when his dog went missing" is the complement.

4. Find the articles (a, as, the) or possessions (my, your, his, hers). You'll draw a slanted line down from whatever is being modified by the articles or possessions. Your sentence might have both, or either, or neither of these kinds of words.

For example: "Harry's dog left the house." In this sentence "Harry's" will be on the slanted line beneath our subject "dog," because it is a possessive. The sentence also has an article "the" which will be on the slanted line beneath "house."

How to diagram sentence step 3

5. Locate the adjectives. These are words that describe a noun or a pronoun. Place adjectives on a slanted line beneath the words they modify.

Example: "Harry looked for his black dog." The word "black" is the adjective, because it describes the dog. Therefore, it would be placed on a vertical line beneath "dog" which is the object in this sentence.

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