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    Question How do I teach students to identify conjugated verbs (i.e. predicates) in a sentence?

    I am trying to teach my 3 Chinese students to perform grammatical analysis on English sentences (or what some people call "diagramming a sentence"). I am nothing close to a qualified English teacher; I only come from a heavily French Canadian education background. Back in high school, I was taught to perform grammatical analysis for the French language, but never for the English language. Of course, since both languages originate from Western Europe, I was curious whether I could apply the same analysis on English sentences as I would on French sentences; so a few years ago I asked my English teacher in pre-university college about this matter. She said that, indeed, the structure of English sentences is similar enough to that of French sentences that I can pretty much apply the same analysis, with minor differences - e.g. we don't have gerunds in French, AFAIK. She also said that although the vocabulary for French grammatical analysis may not be "official" when applied in the context of English, the majority of it definitely would not be "wrong" as far as the meaning and result are concerned. That English teacher is from England, so I trust her.

    Now, given that I can apply mostly the same grammatical analysis in English as in French, the English sentence would then be composed of one or more clauses. The core of each clause is, naturally, the conjugated verb (i.e. the predicate), just like in French. So now my first challenge is teaching my students to identify conjugated verbs (i.e. the predicate), as opposed to infinitives, participles, gerunds, and maybe more forms that I'm missing. I realise that it is trickier to identify predicates in English than in French because French conjugated verbs don't look anything like their infinitive or participial forms, be it regular or irregular verbs; whereas in English, this is not the case. For instance, in English, the indicative present tense first person singular usually looks the same as the infinitive, save for the lack of "to." Another example is irregular verbs like "to put": the past participle is spelled exactly the same as the infinitive (and the indicative present tense first person singular).

    To help solve the problem, here are a few rules or guidelines that I have come up with:

    • "If a word looks like a verb and comes right after a preposition, it is not conjugated, and thus not the predicate."

    • "If a word that looks like a verb is a found between an article or a determiner, and a noun, it is not a predicate."

    • "If a word does not _look like_ it has a subject, it is _probably_ not a predicate; verbs in the imperative mood make exceptions, of course."

    • "Some words in English may belong to multiple classes, so what looks like a verb may not be a verb at all in any particular sentence. Check the dictionary for all possible classes when the "verb" doesn't look like it is doing a verb's job."

    I am probably missing a few more that would be useful. Would anybody be able to come up with more rules?

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    Re: How do I teach students to identify conjugated verbs (i.e. predicates) in a sente

    Hi SwordAngel

    Your explanations, while fine, seem somewhat rather complicated. Here's a quicker way.

    How to find an action verb in a sentence:
    Go word by word and ask, "Is that something a person can do?" If the answer is Yes, then it's an action verb.

    How to find a linking verb in a sentence:
    First, learn the list (Click here). Secon
    d, perform a substitution test:
    If you can replace the verb with a form of the verb "to be" (is, am, are, was, were, be, been, or being), and the sentence still makes sense, the verb in the sentence is a linking verb. If it does not make sense to replace it, the verb in the sentence is an action verb.
    Process for finding the verb or verb phrase in a sentence:


    Look for a word that shows action in the sentence.


    Double-check to be sure the word is the action in the sentence. (Ask yourself, "Is someone or something doing that in this sentence?")

    If "yes," double-underline the word and label it "A" for action verb. Now skip to the sixth part of the process. If "no," look for a linking verb.


    Perform the Substitution Test to be sure it is linking and not action.


    When you are sure the word is a linking verb,
    double-underline it and label it "L" for linking verb.


    Look at the words that appear before the main verb

    (your A or L) in the sentence. Are any of them
    on the list of helping verbs? If so, double-underline

    each of them and label them "H" for helping verb.

    Source: -

    See also,

    The Verb

    What is a verb? (Linguistics)


    What Is a Verb?

  2. #3

    Re: How do I teach students to identify conjugated verbs (i.e. predicates) in a sente

    Regarding the actual diagramming of a sentence, these pages will help you.

    This page is an index of how to diagram pretty much anything:

    Diagramming Sentences Index

    This page has example sentences that you or your students could use:

    The English Grammar Exercise Page

    :) Elizabeth

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