It’s one thing to learn each part of speech separately. It is quite a bit more challenging to review them all at once. Yet it can be immensely rewarding to start seeing exactly how a sentence has been put together. It’s a bit like staring at an optical illusion, waiting for a picture to emerge. When it does, it’s an amazing experience.
To be successful at parsing a sentence, it helps to be a bit strategic. Start by looking for parts of speech that you find easy. You might be able to tell right away that a sentence contains an adjective or two. Once you’ve gained some confidence, it’s a good idea to see if the sentence contains any conjunctions. If it does, you might be able to split the sentence up into smaller units (clauses and phrases). After that you can zoom in and start looking for nouns, pronouns, and verbs, as those tend to form the core of most sentences.
There is of course no foolproof way to analyze a sentence, and it gets easier once you’ve learned about the general structure of a sentence. Still, the more you practice and review your parts of speech, the more successful you’ll be.
Before you do the review exercises, here’s an example of how we might take apart a sentence. Here we’ve analyzed the opening sentence of chapter 1 of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein:
We can also diagram each prepositional phrase, but hopefully this gives you the basic idea. And, as you can tell from this example, learning about parts of speech can reveal how a sentence like this creates balance, as its two clauses are remarkably similar in structure.
Review Exercise 1
Review Exercise 2
Review Exercise 3
Review Exercise 4