Grammar Basics: The Simple Sentence

Today, and for the next few weeks, I am going back to basics and giving you short tutorials on some important grammar basics. These basics are important because they lay the foundation for writing well. And, because it is the most fundamental to writing, we are starting with simple sentences.

Grammar Basics: Simple Sentences

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First of all, what is a sentence?

A sentence is a set of words that have been brought together into a complete thought. A sentence is also called an independent clause because it can stand on its own.

At it’s very minimum, a sentence must have a noun (a person, place, thing or idea that does an action) and a predicate (a verb that expresses an action or being).

For example: “Janet writes.” or “Pat types.” (These sentences are only two words but they both contain complete thoughts – along with one noun – Janet and Pat – and one predicate – writes and types.)

Of course, most sentences are longer and have several words in them such as prepositional phrases or complements, even simple sentences.

The Simple Sentence

There are several types of sentences: simple sentences, compound sentences, complex sentences, and compound-complex sentences. In this post we will focus on simple sentences.

The simple sentence contains only ONE independent clause.

For example: “Frank reads.” (As the above, this is as simple as it gets.)

For example:  “Frank reads a book.” (This sentence is a simple sentence because it contains one complete thought even though it includes a direct object (book).

For example: “Frank returned the book to the book shelf.” (This sentence is a bit longer but it is still a simple sentence because it only contains one complete thought. Frank – noun, returned – predicate, the – article adjective, book – direct object, to the book shelf – prepositional phrase.)

The simple sentence is just that – simple. Things get a little more complicated when we get involved with the other types of sentences and next week we are going to talk about compound sentences.

Next Steps

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Misused Words: Coarse and Course

Coarse and course are confusing words. It is not so much with coarse which only has one definition; however, course has many definitions. Let’s see if I can break it down for you:

Misused Words: Coarse and Course

Coarse is an adjective meaning rough, unrefined, or crude.

For Example: The material has a coarse texture.

For Example: Some people use coarse language when they are angry.


Course can be used as a noun or a verb. It has several meanings which is one of the reasons it gets mixed up with coarse. Some of the more common definitions include definitely, to move or run, a place, for a meal, or a class (such as school).

For Example: Of course, I will review the book for you. (definitely)

For Example: The love of music courses through my veins! (move or run)

For Example: We will play 18 holes at the golf course tomorrow. (a place)

For Example: The French are famous for their seven course meals. (for a meal)

For Example: Janet is taking a poetry course in the spring. (a class).

There are other definitions for course but you get the idea. HINT: Basically, when in doubt, if it isn’t an adjective, use course. 🙂

Or another way to remember it is this: If it is rough and tough, use coarse, for everything else, use course!

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Misused Words: Past vs Passed

The English language can be so confusing. Past and passed are words that are easily mixed, especially in writing.

Misused words: Past and passed

However, the quickest way to remember how to use the two words is this: Past is used as a noun, adjective, adverb, or preposition. Passed is used as a verb.

For example: I don’t like to think about my past. (Noun)

For example: Joan read two books this past week. (Adjective)

For example: The editor ran past and almost knocked me over. (Adverb)

For example: We will leave when it is half past the hour. (Preposition)

For example: My son passed the history test. (Verb)

If you are not sure which word to use, simply ask yourself, “is the word passed (past) being used as a verb? If so, you know to use passed. If it isn’t, you know to use past.

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