How to Diagram Sentences
Subjects, Verbs, & Sentences
A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. Every sentence has two parts: a subject and a verb.
A verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence. It tells what the subject is or does.
A noun is a word used to describe a person, place, thing or idea.
A subject is a noun that tells whom or what the sentence is about.
Tip: When diagramming a sentence, capitalized words will remain capitalized.
The two basic parts of a sentence are diagrammed as followed:
Verb Phrases & Helping Verbs
A verb phrase is when two or more verbs act together as one verb. They can be made using one verb and one or more helping verbs.
A helping verb is a verb that helps the main verb and cannot stand alone. They express certain tenses or conditions of main verbs.
Helping verbs include:
be, am, is, are, was were, been,
being, have, has, had could, should,
would, may, might must, shall, can,
will, do, did does, having
Verb Phrases are diagrammed as followed:
Questions (Interrogative Sentences)
Declaritive Sentences make statements and end with periods.
Interrogative Sentences ask questions and end with question marks.
Declaritive and Interrogative sentences are diagrammed the same way; the subject on the left and the verb/verb phrase are on the right. The way to diagram an interrogative question is to turn it into a statement, then you will be able to find the subject and the verb phrase!
Pronouns & Commands (Imperative Sentences)
Pronouns are words that can take the place of nouns. They can also be subjects.
Imperative Sentences are sentences that give commands. Commands like Go. or Sit. are imperative sentences. You may be wondering where the subject is for these sentences. The subject of a command is who or what you are talking to. So if you are telling someone to "Sit.", they are automatically the subject even if it is not stated outright. In cases like this, the person you are referring to is diagrammed as you and is out in parenthesis, becoming (you).
Adjectives are words that describe/modify nouns and pronouns.
They are diagrammed on slanted lines under the nouns/pronouns that they modify.
Adjectives answer the questions Which One, What Kind, How Many, & Whose.
Adverbs are words that describe or modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs answer the questions How, When, Where, Why, & To What Extent.
Adverbs are diagrammed under the verb, adjective, or adverb they modify.
Prepositional Phrases (adjectives)
Phrases are groups of words, without both a subject and a verb, that act together as a single unit.
Prepositions are words that show the relationship between a noun and pronoun and another word/element in the rest of the sentence. They are always in prepositional phrases.
Prepositional Phrases are phrases that begin with a preposition end with a noun/pronoun. It will sometimes include adjectives that modify the noun/pronoun.
When diagramming prepositional phrases, the preposition goes on a slanted line under the noun/pronoun it modifies. The object of the preposition goes on a horizontal line after it. If there are any adjectives that modify the object of the preposition, they go on slanted lines under the object, like other adjectives.
Prepositional Phrases (Adverb)
When diagramming a prepositional phrase that modify a verb are diagrammed the same way as those that modify an adjective, only they go under the verb they are modifying.
Transitive Active Verbs & Direct Objects (Noun Jobs)
Transitive active verbs transfer their action to a receiver.
The receiver of the action is called the direct object. Direct objects are nouns/pronouns that receive the action from transitive active verbs. They are never in prepositional phrases.
Direct objects are diagrammed on the same line as the subject & verb. They are placed after the verb, separated by a vertical line.
Coordinating Conjunctions (Compound Subject & Verb)
Conjunctions are words that join two or more words, phrases, or clauses.
There are three different kinds of conjunctions: coordinating, subordinating, and correlative.
Coordinating conjunctions join single words or groups of words, but they are always elements of the same kind. There are seven coordinating conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So (FANBOYS).
The elements that coordinating conjunctions connect are called compound.
Two or more subjects = compound subject
Two or more verbs = compound verb
Two or more sentences = compound sentence
Coordinating conjunctions that join subjects, verbs, and direct objects, put the conjunction on a dotted, vertical line between the two elements that the conjunction is joining.
Coordinating Conjunctions (Compound Adjectives & Adverbs)
To diagram compound adjectives, draw a dotted, horizontal line between the adjectives that the conjunction is joining and write the coordinating conjunction on that line.
To diagram compound adverbs, draw the horizontal, dotted line between the adverbs that the conjunction is joining.
Coordinating Conjunctions (Compound Verb & Prepositional Phrases)
Diagramming compound prepositional phrases is the same as diagramming compound adjectives and adverbs. To diagram compound prepositional phrases, connect the phrases with a dotted line and place the conjunction on the line.
Verb phrases consist of one main verb and one or more helping verbs.
There are two scenarios when you’re dealing with verb phrases and coordinating conjunctions.
When the two phrases don’t share any helping verbs.they are diagrammed the same way you diagram regular compound verbs.
When the two phrases share one or more helping verbs, the helping verb(s) stay on the verb line while the main verbs are separated into conjunctions.
Coordinating Conjunctions (Compound Sentences)
A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb. There are two main types of clauses: independent and dependent.
Independent clauses are complete thoughts and can stand alone as complete sentences.
Dependent Clauses are clauses that cannot stand alone as complete sentences and must be connected to an independent clause.
To diagram compound sentences, diagram one independent clause on top of the other and place the conjunction on a dotted vertical line connecting the two diagrams on the left side. Independent clauses are always diagrammed first.
Transitive Active Verbs & Indirect Objects (Noun Job)
Indirect objects are nouns/pronouns that receive the direct object. You have to have a direct object in order to have an indirect object. To diagram an indirect object without a preposition, put an (x) where the missing preposition is. It is simply the object of an implied preposition.
Interjections & Nouns of Direct Address
Interjections are words that show emotion, they have no grammatical relationship to and are diagrammed separately from the rest of the sentence. Interjections are usually at the beginning of a sentence and are typically punctuated with a comma or an exclamation mark.
Nouns of direct address are nouns that name the person/people being spoken to. They aren't the subjects of sentences. Like interjections, they are diagrammed separately and have no grammatical relationship with the rest of the sentence. They are diagrammed the same way interjections are. *This is a noun job
Transitive Passive Verbs
Transitive passive verbs are action verbs that transfer their action to the subject. Sentences written with these verbs are written in the passive voice. Transitive passive verbs always have a helping verb.
Though they are different from transitive active verbs, they are diagrammed the same way!
Intransitive Linking Verbs (Predicate Adjecitves & Predicate Nouns)
Linking verbs link the subject with a noun or an adjective in the rest of the sentence. They help to further identify or describe a subject. Linking verbs are state of being verbs. They act like an equals sign between the subject and the special noun or adjective in the rest of the sentence.
List of Linking Verbs
be, am, is, are, was, were, been,
being, become, appear feel, grow,
look, seem, smell, sound, taste, turn,
The nouns and adjectives that follow linking verbs are called predicate nouns (or predicate nominatives) and predicate adjectives.
Predicate nouns are nouns that come after linking verbs and rename the subject.
Predicate adjectives are adjectives that come after linking verbs and they describe the subject.
When diagramming, you diagram it the same way you diagram regular subjects and verbs. When diagramming a predicate noun/adjective, it goes after the linking verb on the same horizontal line. Draw a slanted line between the linking verb and predicate noun/adjective
Linking Verb or Action Verb?
Some of the verbs from the linking verb list can also act as action verbs. If you're unsure which kind of verb it is, give it the “Equals Sign Test” to see if it is acting as a linking verb or an action verb. Replace the verb with an equals sign.
“Does the ___subject_____ = ___noun/adjective in predicate__?"
If YES, then it’s a linking verb. If NO, then it’s not a linking verb.
Independent Clauses vs. Dependent Clauses (Adverb Clauses)
An independent clause (or main clause) is a group of words with a subject and a verb. It is a complete thought. Independent clauses can stand alone as complete ideas. Every complete sentence needs at least one independent clause.
A dependent clause (or subordinate clause) is a group of words with a subject and a verb. It is not a complete thought. Dependent clauses cannot stand alone and need to be attached to an independent clause in order to make sense.
Subordinating conjunctions introduce dependent adverb clauses. They connect dependent adverb clauses to independent clauses.
Independent clauses are diagrammed at the top, with the dependent adverb clause below it. The two clauses are connected with a slanted, dotted line originating from the word in the independent clause that the adverb clause is modifying. The subordinating conjunction will go on the dotted line.
Dependent Clauses (Noun Clauses)
Noun clauses are dependent clauses that act as nouns. Noun clauses can do anything that nouns can do. They can be diagrammed in any of the spaces that nouns are diagrammed. Before you diagram a noun clause, decide what its function is in the sentence. When you know what job the noun clause is performing in the main clause, diagram it on the appropriate spot in the independent clause's sentence diagram. Connect the noun clause to the main clause with a little forked line.
Dependent Clauses (Adjective Clauses)
Adjective Clauses are diagrammed with the independent clause at the top. Diagram the adjective clause below the independent clause on a horizontal line just like a regular sentence. Use a dotted, vertical line to connect the relative pronoun or relative adverb in the adjective clause with the word in the independent clause that the adjective clause modifies.
Verbals are words that are formed from verbs but don't act as verbs, acting as adjectives, adverbs, and nouns. There are three kinds of verbals: gerunds, infinitives, and participles.
Gerunds are verbals that end in -ing and act as nouns, such as singing or crying. They're formed from verbs, end in -ing, and act as nouns. Gerunds can function in any way that nouns can function.
Gerunds sit on steps. The -ing part of the gerund sits on the bottom part of the step, and the rest of the gerund sits on the top step. Draw the step above the space in the main diagram where it belongs. This depends on what noun job the gerund is performing. Connect the step to the main diagram with a forked line.
A gerund phrase is made of a gerund and any word(s) that modify or complement it. The phrase acts as one noun. Diagram the gerund and everything else as you normally would.
Participles are verbals that end in -ing, -d, -t or -n and act as adjectives. Since they act as adjectives, they can modify any noun or pronoun. Participles are diagrammed like regular adjectives, except they go on a curved, slanted line instead of just a slanted line.
A participial phrase is made of a participle and any word(s) that modify or complement it. The phrase acts as an adjective. Participles act as adjectives, but because they are formed from verbs, they maintain some of their ability as verbs and can do many things that verbs can do.
Participial in participial phrases are diagrammed as they normally are. Add its complements (direct object…) and modifiers (adverbs…) and diagram them as you normally would.
Infinitives are verbals that are usually made of two words: to + a verb. They act as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs. The to part of the infinitive is diagrammed on a slanted line, and the verb part of the infinitive is diagrammed on a horizontal line that is connected to the slanted line. A forked line is used to attach the infinitive part of the diagram to the space in the main sentence diagram that corresponds to how the infinitive is acting.
An infinitive phrase is made of an infinitive (to + a verb) and any word(s) that modify or complement it. The whole phrase acts as a noun, adjective, or adverb. Treat the infinitive like a verb and diagram the infinitive phrase.