Be a Stripper!

No, don’t panic; I have not gone to the wild side. I am talking about being a sentence stripper! It’s fairly easy to hear a subject-verb error in a sentence. Test makers know this…and test makers are slightly evil. Therefore, they hide simple subject-verb errors in flowery, complex sentences in which the subject gets lost. It’s your job to strip the sentence down to the bare essentials and find the subject!

If Little Miss Sentence wants to walk down the street, she needs to be wearing the basics: pants and a shirt. However, if Little Miss Sentence wants to be trendy, she can accessorize: scarves, necklaces, feather boas, bracelets, hats – the works! But accessories can be overwhelming! Little Miss Sentence needs to strip down to the basics: a subject and a verb. Any extras – adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, etc. – need to go! The sentence “striptease” process is detailed below.

Stripping to the Bare Essentials

  • Step 1: Cross out Prepositional Phrases

e.g. The bird in the yard began chirping.

This step requires that you know your prepositions! For the most part, prepositions are little words that give position. “In”, “on”, “above”, “toward”, “by” – these guys. The three most commonly used prepositions are “of”, “for” and “to”.

So, a prepositional phrase is a preposition with a noun that follows. Prepositional phrases will never include the subject of a sentence. Prepositional phrases are strictly accessories used to decorate the subject-containing sentence.

  • Step 2: Cross out Interrupting Phrases

e.g. The team, ignoring tradition, will update the uniforms.

Interrupting phrases are typically thrown into a sentence between two commas or two dashes. A general rule: Cross out anything sandwiched between commas.

  • Step 3: Cross out Non-essentials

e.g. Early this morning, Emma awoke to finish studying for her difficult chemistry exam.

Other non-essentials include introductory phrases (such as “Once upon a time”) and most adjectives and adverbs. Non-essential phrases may also be attached to the end of a sentence- so strip from both ends!

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