Diagramming: Subject and Verb

A diagram shows the structure of a sentence by making a “picture” of it. Every diagram starts with a base line which contains the subject and the verb.

REMINDER: An action verb is a word that expresses physical or mental action. A verb has a subject.
The subject is the noun or pronoun that is doing the action of the verb.

To find the subject and verb, first mark any word that looks like a verb/action word. Then ask “Who or what (verb)?” The answer (a noun or pronoun) will be the subject of that verb.

For example, “Cats meow.” Meow is the action word (verb). Who or what is meowing? Cats. Cats is the subject.

Now, remember we said that every diagram starts with a base line which contains the subject and the verb.

This is how is looks: __subject_|_verb__

Notice that the base line is a horizontal line and the subject and the verb are separated by a vertical line which goes all the way through the horizontal line.

So let’s diagram the simple sentence “Cats meow.”

Cats (subject) meow (verb). __Cats_|_meow__
Note: In a diagram, you capitalize the first word of a sentence so “Cats” is capitalized.

Let’s try a harder one. “My brother runs ten miles each day.”

To figure out the subject and verb for the basic diagram with a more complex sentence, you first need to parse the sentence. That means you have to label each word by the job that the word is doing.

Here’s a quick step-by-step PROCESS to follow:
1. Find and mark all the common nouns in the sentence with “n” and proper nouns with “pn.”
2. Find all the articles and adjectives. Use “art” for articles and “adj” for adjectives.
3. Find all the pronouns.
4. Find all the prepositions and put parentheses ( ) around the prepositional phrases.
5. Find all the words that look like verbs and mark them “v.”
6. Ask “Who or what (say the verb)?”
7. Once you have the answer to #6, draw a baseline and fill in the subject and verb.

Let’s parse the sentence “”My brother runs ten miles each day.”
My (adj) brother (n) runs (v) ten (adj) miles (n) each (adj) day (n).

In this sentence, the verb is “runs.” Now ask, “Who or what runs?” The answer is “brother.”
Now you have your subject and verb and can make a starting diagram!


Note: In the prior diagram, “Cats” was capitalized because it was the starting word of the sentence. Because “brother” is not the starting word in this sentence, it is not capitalized.

This is the basic way to start the diagramming process. It may look easy right now, but when you get complex sentences — such as commands or inverted sentences — you have to stop and think about it. Follow the process, parse the sentences, and then go from there. We’ll cover diagramming articles, adjectives, prepositional phrases, and more in another article.

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