How To Analyze a Sentence in 6 Easy Steps

Are you wondering how to analyze a sentence? You probably learned how to do so during English class, but it’s always good to have a refresher.

If you want to become a better writer, it is essential to practice. Every sentence matters, and it can be helpful to break down a sentence occasionally. Regardless of whether you are dealing with simple or complex sentences, you need to figure out how the sentences relate to one another. One of the best ways to do so is to break down individual sentences.

What do you need to do if you want to analyze the sentence? Sentence analysis can be challenging, and there are multiple sentence structure options from which to choose. The best way is first to learn how to break down a simple or compound sentence and build from there.

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Materials Needed

How to analyze a sentence?

If you would like to learn how to analyze a sentence, there are several materials you need to have. These include:

  • You should have the sentences you will analyze. They should either be in a book or on a sheet of paper in front of you.
  • You should have a notebook you can copy the sentences onto a larger sheet of paper. You will need more space to analyze them.
  • You should have a pencil or pen you can use to write down your thoughts. 
  • You may want to have multi-colored pencils, pens, or highlighters to break down the parts of a sentence. This is important for parsing each word or sentence fragment.

You don’t need to have a lot of materials to analyze a sentence, but you should have the items above. Software can also help. Read our guide to the best sentence checkers.

Step 1: Identify the Type of Sentence You Are Working With

When analyzing a sentence, the first thing you need to do is identify the type of sentence you will analyze. Sentences come in many shapes and forms, and the type of sentence you are looking at will dictate how you break it down.

For example, you might have a declarative sentence, which makes a statement about something that happened. Or, you may have an imperative statement that gives a command to the reader.

You might also have an interrogative sentence that asks a question. You could even have an exclamatory sentence, which usually ends in an exclamation. All of these sentences have a slightly different structure to them. If you can figure out what type of sentence you have before you, you will have an easier time breaking it down. You should practice breaking down multiple types of sentences so that you can get better at all of them. 

Step 2: Pick Out the Subject of the Sentence

Once you have figured out the type of sentence in front of you, you can pick out the subject. The subject is the first part of the sentence you want to identify because everything else relates directly to the subject. A few crucial points to keep in mind include:

  • If you are dealing with an imperative sentence that gives a command, the subject is usually the reader. Read the command, and figure out who the command’s target is. The target of that command is the subject of the sentence. If you cannot identify the target of that command, there is a good chance that it is the reader, which is “you.”
  • If you have an interrogative sentence in front of you, the subject is often at the start of the sentence. For example, if the question is “who is reading this,” the subject is “who.” There are other situations where the subject may come after the predicate. For example, if someone asks, “Are these your books,” the subject is “you.”
  • If you have a simple declarative sentence, the subject usually comes at the beginning of the sentence. So, for example, if the sentence is, “he’s reading,” the subject is “he.”

Remember that your sentence can also have more than one subject. If multiple subjects are in the sentence, they will usually be joined by a conjunction, such as “and.” You might also find our explainer on how to research books helpful.

Step 3: Identify the Action or Verb

How to analyze a sentence?
Remember that some verbs are action verbs while other verbs might be helping verbs

Once you have identified the subject, the next step is to identify the verb. Again, you need to parse through many parts of speech, but you need to find the verb in the sentence because this indicates the subject’s action.

In most cases, you can find the verb directly after the subject; however, if the sentence is asking a question, you may need to look at the area preceding the subject to find the verb. Remember that some verbs are action verbs while other verbs might be helping verbs. If you have identified a helping verb, you should look for another verb in the sentence. Usually, these verbs work together to describe the subject’s action. 

Finally, just as there might be multiple subjects in the same sentence, there might be multiple verbs in the sentence as well. You may find multiple verbs linked together using a conjunction, such as, “or,” or, “and.” For example, in the sentence, “we go swimming, biking, and hiking,” there are three verbs in the sentence, and all of them are 

Step 4: Look for Any Objects in the Sentence

The next step is to look for any objects that might be present in the sentence. Not all sentences will have objects. For example, in the sentence, “John runs,” there are no direct or indirect objects. On the other hand, a lot of sentences will have both direct objects and indirect objects. You need to identify them to determine the true meaning of the sentence.

A direct object answers the question “who” or “what.” For example, if the sentence is, “Mary caught the ball,” you could ask the question, “Mary caught what?” In this case, Mary caught the ball. Therefore, the ball is the direct object in this sentence. 

In contrast, an indirect object answers the question of whom, for whom, or what. For example, the sentence could be changed to John through Mary the cup. Now, the question is, “John threw the cup to whom?” In this case, John threw the cup. Therefore, in the sentence above, the cop is the indirect object. 

It can take a lot of practice to tell the difference between direct objects and indirect objects. Therefore, you should try to analyze multiple sentences. This will make it easier for you to figure out which objects are direct objects and which objects are indirect objects. Remember that there can be multiple objects in a single sentence. 

Step 5: Highlight Any Modifiers and Figure Out What They Go With

After identifying the individual objects in the sentence, you also need to look for modifiers. Remember that some modifiers can be multiple words or phrases. Depending on where the modifier falls in the sentence, you should figure out what it goes with.

For example, adjectives are usually placed immediately before the noun they go with. Regardless of whether you are looking at the subject or one of the objects in the sentence, the adjectives usually go right before it. For example, if the sentence is, “John threw the big ball.” The adjective “big” goes right before the object, “ball.” Therefore, “big” goes with the word “ball.”

Adverbs are used to modify verbs. There are some situations where adverbs can be put before verbs; however, there are a lot of situations where adverbs come after the verb they modify as well. Try to identify adverbs in the sentence, and figure out where they go. For example, a lot of adverbs end with -ly. These are the two main types of modifiers. Try to identify them in the sentence, and link them to a specific area. 

Step 6: Identify Any Conjunctions or Transitions in the Sentence

Finally, you should try to identify any conjunctions or transitions in the sentence. If you are dealing with a compound sentence, there should be a conjunction or a transition somewhere that demonstrates when the sentence progresses to the next part. For example, a comma or semicolon might join two independent phrases. You might want to use a different color to identify these conjunctions as transitions.

If you are dealing with two independent clauses, you may be able to perform all of the steps above on the second clause in the sentence. The other independent clause should have its own subject and verb. To finish the analysis of the other independent clause, you should be able to identify why the two sentences are linked together and why the author might have thought it was a good idea. 

Tips for Analyzing a Sentence

You should be able to repeat the steps above for multiple sentences. It can be a challenge to analyze and diagram different sentences, but there are several tips you may want to follow. They include:

  • Try to practice analyzing multiple types of sentences. Every sentence has a slightly different structure, and the more you practice, the better you will get at it.
  • When you analyze sentences, you should use different colors for different steps. This will make it easier for you to see how the individual components of the sentences relate to each other. 
  • Break down the parts of speech. This will help you with syntax, prepositional phrases, adjective phrases, and other parts of English grammar.
  • Always rewrite the sentence in a notebook using a large font. That way, you have plenty of space to analyze the sentence, and you don’t have to squint to read your writing.

With a bit of practice, you can get better at analyzing sentences. Eventually, you should be able to analyze a sentence just by looking at it, which will make it easier for you to interpret works of writing. 

Final Word on How To Analyze a Sentence

These are a few of the most important steps you should follow to analyze the sentence. Analyzing a sentence is crucial because you need to see how the individual parts of the sentence go together. If you do not know how the subject, verb, and object relate to one another, you may not know what the author is saying.

When you analyze the sentence, it is helpful to rewrite it on another sheet of paper in a larger font. That way, you have more space to scrutinize the individual components of the sentence. In addition, it would be best if you tried to practice analyzing a sentence regularly. That way, you can improve your skills. For more help, learn how to analyze a paragraph

FAQs About How To Analyze a Sentence

What are the individual parts of a sentence?

Every sentence is different, so each will have slightly different parts. Most sentences will have a subject and a verb. Some sentences will also have modifiers, direct objects, and indirect objects.

Why is it important to learn how to analyze a sentence?

It is important to learn how to analyze a sentence because you need to figure out what action the sentence is taking, who is taking it, and why it is important. As you read an essay or story, you need to keep track of what is going on. The ability to analyze a sentence can help you do exactly that. 

Are there multiple types of sentences?

Yes, there are multiple types of sentences. For example, sentences can be simple, compound, or complex. In addition, you may categorize sentences as declarative, interrogative, or imperative. Different types of sentences have different structures, so you need to figure out what kind of sentence you are working with. 

How can I get better at analyzing a sentence? 

If you want to get better at analyzing sentences, you need to practice regularly. The more sentences you study, the better you will get at doing so.