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.
- Questioning the nature of my motivations, she looked at me skeptically.
- 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.
- She chuckled softly, walking away towards the rest of the of crowd.
- 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.
- Johnny’s hand went to his back pocket and I remembered his switchblade.
- We backed against the fountain and the Socs surrounded us.
- 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.
- I finally pushed myself up and leaned back against the fountain, the water running down my face.
- While it lasted, the work during a river drive was from dawn till dark.
- And if the Pontook Dam and Dead Woman were open, the body of the young Canadian would be headed pell-mell down the Androscoggin.
- A few of the tired searchers found their way to the dining lodge after dark; the cook didn’t have the heart to turn them away.
- Losing Angel Pope might be hardest on Ketchum because the veteran logger had taken the young Canadian under his wing.
- “He’s impressively tough for a drinking man,” Dominic agreed, but he was thinking that maybe Ketchum wasn’t tough enough for this. *
* review notes on noun clauses as you diagram this one
- A short, bespectacled boy named Johnny Dixon was sitting in a big comfy easy chair in the parlor of his grandparents’ house.
- On his lap was a plate of Ritz crackers spread with pink pimiento-flavored cream cheese–Johnny always munched while he listened to the radio.
- In this episode, Sir Philip Stapleton, the renowned archaeologist, had entered the forbidden temple of Kali in the jungles of India.
- Each footstep that the two men took raised endless sinister echoes.
- Now, as the two men stood frozen in their tracks, the statue began to move its arms slowly back and forth.