Sentence diagramming is a critical part of your participation grade for this course, as much of what we learn this semester about syntax and the underlying structure of our language will come from completing and discussing these diagrams in class. We use a modified (read: loosey-goosey) form of the linguistic tree diagram for our diagramming; the goal of these diagrams is primarily to identify phrases and clauses in each sentence and their relationship to each other. I don’t have strict requirements about the form these diagrams take, but here are a couple of suggestions of how I might diagram the sentence “I received three packages and two letters in the mail today.” (click the image for a magnified version):
Remember these additional details about the sentence diagramming assignment:
- You must keep all of your diagrams together (I don’t recommend putting them in your writer’s notebook but somewhere else). You will turn in your completed set of exercises (eight in total) once we’ve finished discussing all the diagrams in class.
- Bring your completed diagrams to class (don’t worry if you think they might be incorrect) and feel free to mark them up, take notes on them, etc. I’m less interested in your initial diagram being correct; the point is to make an effort and then come prepared to discuss your thinking (and correct it or learn as we go).
- Especially early on, many students find it useful to begin by identifying individual words’ parts of speech (use an online dictionary like dictionary.com for some help). Then, they zoom out and look at how words work together in phrases and clauses. As time goes on, you may feel like it’s less helpful to worry about individual words–remember that our ultimate purpose in diagramming is to identify and name phrases and clauses.
- A key to succeeding at sentence diagramming is to first identify the verb in the sentence or clause, after which you can identify the noun that is connected with that verb (i.e., the subject of the verb). Other phrases in the sentence can then be connected back to that noun/subject or the verb (as objects or modifiers).
- The cars and trucks cruised the recently opened highway.
- For thirty years she stole small amounts of money from her employer.
- My mother and I had a fierce argument about my curfew.
- His voice, trembling with emotion, betrayed his deep joy.
- I looked at the little girl sympathetically, standing in the corner, waiting for her turn at the board.
- The sun peeked over the mountains, spreading pink rays across the sky.
- Her lawyer, a famous defense attorney, argued vigorously for her in court.
- Blushing furiously, I stood in front of the class, a humiliated and wrecked impostor.
- She did not like the book, a non-fiction account of the filming of Star Wars.
- Nearing the darkened hallway, I stopped and gathered my wits.
- She looked at me skeptically, her eyebrows furrowed.
- Under her unnerving glare, I began to deliver my defense, a stuttering and ill-formed string of nonsense.
- Bemused, she leaned back and listened.
- I stopped, chagrined, and gave her a weak smile, nervously pulling at my shirt sleeve.
- My heart racing and sweat dripping from my armpits, I fled the room and her critical glare.
- Chest heaving and legs pumping furiously, he crossed the finish line with a record time.
- I looked admiringly at the ring on her finger, sparkling with promises of future possibilities.
- My old books, reminders of my university days long ago, were stuffed into several boxes.
- She felt exhausted after a night with little sleep, but she still amazed the audience with her presentation.
- My mother was a proud woman, and she passed that trait on to her children.
- The pool was empty now in the fall, but the fountain was going merrily.
- I ducked and tried to run for it, but the Soc caught my arm and twisted it behind my back, and shoved my face into the fountain.
- Bob, the handsome Soc, was lying there in the moonlight, doubled up and still.
- Then I leaned back and closed my eyes so I wouldn’t see Bob lying there.
- If Johnny got [was] caught, they’d give him the electric chair, and if they caught me, I’d be sent to a reformatory.
- Nick struggled and kicked against the hands holding him, but it was no use.
- Soon her shoulders disappeared and she was up to her neck and still she was screaming, hysterically now, and Johnnie-O just laughed.
- She forced her other hand up through the asphalt until her fingertips brushed the cool air, and someone grasped on to that hand as well.
- She collapsed in a heap, breathing heavily, and Lief looked at her strangely.
- It only gave them a brief moment’s pause, and when the beast did not materialize out of thin air, they kept on pushing.
- Conor stood there until the second hand glided around and reached the twelve.
- He grabbed the pendulum, holding it at the high point of its swing.
- He could hear the mechanism of the clock complaining as the first b of the interrupted bong hovered in the air.
- With his free hand, Conor reached up and pushed the minute and second hands forward from the twelve.
- They resisted but he pushed harder, hearing a loud click as he did so.