The Understanding Series – Part 1

You are here ins all probability because of two reasons. You are taking an English test, or you are looking to improve your English. If you are taking an English test, you will invariably have to deal with sentences. In this installment of the Understanding Series – we will look at how to figure a sentence out.

There are four fundamental elements that you would need to know about before you start figuring out sentences. These are listed in the table below:

Subject Verb Complement Modifier
Surendra answered phones today
Sowmya helped the boys in the morning

Now, into some greater detail:


The subject is the person or thing that performs, or is responsible for, the action of the sentence. Every sentence in English must have a subject. Commands will not have a visible subject, however, the subject [you] is understood. Example: Clean the table! = {You} Clean the table!


A verb usually reveals the action of the sentence. Every sentence in English must have a verb.

Remember, you cannot form a sentence without a subject (noun) and a verb. And the subject can either be visible or understood.

Complement (also called the object):

A complement provides more information about the verb.  A complement answers the question what? or whom?

My teacher praised me. (Whom did the teacher praise?)


A modifier tells the time, place, or manner of action. The modifier usually follows the complement. Not every sentence requires a modifier.

A modifier answers the question of where? When? or how?

She is enrolled at First Academy. (Where is she enrolled?)

A sentence may have multiple modifiers, for instance:

She enrolled at First Academy on Monday. (Where is she enrolled?, When did she enroll there?)

Grammar 1


Why are these important?

Whether you are taking the GRE or other exams like IELTS, PTE, or OET, understanding the meaning of the sentence is one thing, and understanding why a sentence has been written is another thing. Understanding the different parts of a sentence will give you an idea of why each element is there. This will give you context. This will also allow you to identify the basic purpose of the words even if you do not know the exact meaning.

This can go a long way in helping you figure out answers in both sentence completion (for GRE) and reading comprehension (GRE, and other tests).

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