1. There are four basic sentence patterns:
PATTERN 1A: SUBJECT + ACTION VERB (S+V)
To find the subject, ask "What is the sentence about?"
To find the action verb, ask "What did the subject do?"
PATTERN 1B: SUBJECT + ACTION VERB + DIRECT OBJECT (S+V+DO)
Bill likes music.
To find the direct object, find the action verb and ask "What?"
PATTERN 1C: SUBJECT + ACTION VERB + INDIRECT OBJECT + DIRECT OBJECT (S+V+IO+DO)
Mom gave Betty a kiss.
To find the indirect object, ask, "To or for whom was the action done?"
PATTERN 1D: SUBJECT + LINKING VERB + SUBJECT COMPLEMENT (S+LV+SC)
Alice is smart.
To find a linking verb, substitute IS or ARE. If the meaning is the same, the sentence has a linking verb, not an action verb.
2. You can add adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases without changing the basic pattern:
The sad little girl tried.
The hazy, yellow sun set.
The old grandfather clock ticked.
The girl tried very hard.
The sun set slowly.
The clock ticked loudly.
Adding prepositional phrases:
The girl in the blue jeans tried.
The sun set in the west.
The clock in the hallway stopped after father's death.
about before during of toward
above behind except off under
across below for on until
after beneath from outside up
against beside in over upon
along between inside past with
among beyond into since within
around by like through without
at down near to
When you find prepositional phrases, ignore them. None of the major sentence elements will be in prepositional phrases.
For more practice, go to the practice test menu and type 1A for the S+V pattern, 1B for the S+V+DO pattern, 1C for the S+V+IO+DO pattern, and 1D for the S+LV+SC pattern.