What Are the Different Parts of a Sentence?

The five main parts of a sentence are:

  • Subject
  • Predicate
  • Clause
  • Phrase
  • Modifier

Learn then to write accurate sentences.


In general, the subject refers to the part of the sentence which tells whom or what the sentence is about.
The subject is going to be either a noun or a noun phrase.

A noun is a part of speech that names a person, place, thing, action or quality.

  1. An example of noun is a woman.
  2. An example of noun is the city Paris.
  3. An example of noun is a table.
  4. An example of noun is the act of walking.
  5. An example of noun is the word perfection

Noun Phrases
Noun phrases are simply a noun with modifiers. Noun phrases can act as adjectives, or as participle, infinitive, prepositional, or absolute phrases.

  • Has anyone seen an old, big, brown dog
  • Let’s go on the long, winding road.
  • The football coach was ecstatic.
  • He gave the crying child a toy.
  • She wants to be a beautiful ballerina.
  • Natives were surprised by the early spring thaw.
  • I consider her my favorite teacher.

For example, "Kelly walked down the street." Kelly is the subject, because she is the actor, or subject, in the sentence.

There are a few different types of subjects. The underlined word is the subject.

  • Simple subject: Kate is a thin girl. 
  • Full subject: Jeffrey's poem about his mother made the class cry. 
  • Compound subject: Paul and Tommy joined the soccer team at the same time.


Let us return to our example "Kelly walked down the street." In this sentence, "walked" is the predicate because it is the verb that tells us what Kelly is doing. A sentence can have just a subject and a predicate. For example, you could just say "Kelly walked" and you have a complete sentence.

Here are the types of predicates.

  • Simple predicate: Harry ate his apple. 
  • Full predicate: The mouse slowly ran towards the food. 
  • Compound predicate: She both laughed and cried at the film.

Defining a Predicate

Simply put, the predicate of a sentence is the part that modifies the subject in some way. Because the subject is the person, place, or thing that a sentence is about, the predicate must contain a verb explaining what the subject does.

Look at some of the shorter sentences in the English language:

  • “She danced.” The subject of the sentence is “she,” the person about whom the speaker is speaking, but what is being conveyed or expressed about this person? She performed an action, of course; she moved her body; she danced. The word that modifies the subject “she” is the past-tense verb “danced.”
  • “It talked!” It might be a baby saying a word for the first time, a parrot squawking “hello,” or even an inanimate object somehow bestowed with the power of speech. What you know about “it” is that, according to the speaker, it spoke. “Talked” modifies the subject “it.”

These sentences are very simple examples of what predicates are, since the predicate is expressed entirely by one word. Predicates may also be whole phrases.

Predicate Phrases

“I am” is often described as the shortest sentence in the English language, but this is not exactly true. “I am” may contain a subject and a verb, but it doesn’t explain what “I am;” an additional piece of the phrase is necessary to complement the verb. 

Whatever you add to “I am” technically forms the predicate of the sentence.  Take, for example, the phrase “I am playing guitar all day.” The subject of this sentence does not change—“I” remains the focus of the sentence; the person about whom the sentence is written; the noun around whom the action centers. What has changed is that the weak to-be verb “am” is enhanced by the presence of additional words explaining what and how.

“I am playing.” Playing what? “I am playing guitar.”
How are you playing guitar? “I am playing guitar all day.”

Now you see? The verb phrase “am,” the verb phrase “am playing guitar,” and the adverbial “all day” fully express what the subject “I” is trying to say.  The sentence now has both a subject and a predicate.

Understanding Other Examples of Predicates

Now that you know “I am” is not technically a full sentence, you’ll probably be quick to notice other examples that seem like full sentences but lack a predicate, such as “I can” and “I will.” What might confuse you is the sentence that seems to lack a subject.

There are two things you’ll need to understand before this example will make sense. 

  • If you tell a person to do something, they are the assumed subject of the sentence. What the imperative (meaning, “do this!”) form of the “to go” verb is addressing is the person to whom you are speaking. What you really mean when you shout “go!” is, “(You) go!” 
  • Unlike the “to be” verb used above in the “I am” example, “go” is an action verb, not just a state of being. “Go” is therefore a complete predicate in and of itself—it needs no further explanation or qualification to make sense. (You) can go anywhere, as long as (you) heeds the imperative.

As surprising as it may sound, the shortest complete sentence in the English language is the imperative, “Go!” How can this be?  After all, “go” is a verb seemingly without a subject or a predicate.


There are two different types of clauses:

  • Dependent clauses (DC) - subject + verb = no complete thought.
                                        example: Because Bob went to the game
  • Independent (main) clause (MC)  - subject + verb = complete thought
                                        example: Bob went to the game
     The subject of a sentence will always be in an Independent (MC) Clause.

        As used in a sentence

  • Simple sentence:  one MC
    example: Bob went to the game.
  • Complex sentence:  DC, MC or MCDC
    Because Bob went to the game, Mary went too.
                                                     DC, MC
    Mary went to the game because bob went to the game.
                                     MC  DC
  • Compound sentence: Bob went to the game, and Mary went too.
                                                                           MC, cc MC
                                            Bob went to the game; Mary went too.
    * cc = coordinating conjunction   
              (and, so, yet, etc) 


A phrase is sort of like a dependent clause. It is a group of words that cannot stand alone as a sentence, but it can be used to add something to a sentence. There are a few different types of phrases:

  • A noun phrase acts as a noun. For example, "the hungry cat" is a noun phrase.
  • An adjective phrase modifies a noun. The child playing hopscotch was happy.
  • An adverb phrase\clause begins with a preposition and acts as an adverb. "On a hot day" from earlier is an example.

    What Is an Adverb Phrase\Clause?
    Adverb clauses are clauses that function as adverbs. Since they are dependent clauses, they must have a subordinating conjunction to connect them to the other clause. Subordinating conjunctions can be arranged according to the purpose of the clause they begin. Here are some examples of subordinating conjunctions:

    • Time: after, when, until, soon, before, once, while, as soon as, whenever, by the time
    • Condition: if, whether or not, provided, in case, unless, even if, in the event
    • Cause and effect: because, as, since, so, in order that, now that, inasmuch as
    • Contrast: though, although, while, whereas, even though 

    Most of the time, an adverb clause will be separated from the other clause with a comma. Here are a few examples of sentences with and without commas: 

    • Whether you like it or not, you have to go. (The adverb clause “Whether you like it or not” puts a condition on the action.) 
    • She enjoyed the party more than he did. (The adverb clause 'than he did' modifies the adverb “more”.)  

    Functions of Adverbs

    Since adverb clauses function as adverbs, let’s look at the functions of adverbs.

    • Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
    • They tell why, when, where, how, how much, and how often an action occurs.
    • They can begin a sentence that is a question, and give more information.

    Here are some examples according to what the adverb is modifying:

    • Verbs: We eat pizza weekly. She watched the wild animal carefully.
    • Adjectives: That is a very nice person. The dog is extremely hyperactive.
    • Adverbs: She sings quite beautifully. My dog is almost always starving.

    Examples of Adverb Clauses

    Adverb clauses can modify by telling the place, time, cause, and purpose of an action. They can also show concession and condition. Basically they answer the questions: where? when? why? and under what conditions? Here are some examples with the adverb clause underlined:

    • Place: Wherever there is music, people will often dance.  If you know where they live, you can drop in for a visit.     
    • Time: After the chores are done, we will eat ice cream. When the clock strikes midnight, she has to leave.
    • Cause: She passed the course because she worked hardSince he has long hair, he wears a ponytail.
    • Purpose: So that he would not ruin the carpet, he took off his shoes.  He ate vegetables in order to stay healthy.
    • Concession: Even though you are 13, you can’t go to that movie. Although you gave it your best, you did not win the match.
    • Condition: If you save some money, you can buy a new game. Unless you hurry, you will be late for school
  • A prepositional phrase is made up of a preposition, its objects, and its modifiers. The house on the corner was old.
    (prepositions usually indicate: where, when, how subjects and\or predicates occur)


As you can see from above, there are many different types of ways to add additional information to a sentence. All of these examples are known under the general category of modifiers. These are words or phrases that help readers understand the subject and\or predicate better.
Sitting at a red light, the driver was getting anxious to get moving.
 modifies the driver (subject)