Praxis Elementary Education Exam—Sentence Structure - dummies

Praxis Elementary Education Exam—Sentence Structure

By Carla C. Kirkland, Chan Cleveland

An elementary school teacher needs to be able to identify the different parts of a sentence, as well as different kinds of sentences. For example, questions about sentence structure that will appear on the Praxis Elementary Education exam may require that you know the difference between a subject and a predicate, or a compound and complex sentence.

The two main parts of a sentence are the subject and predicate. The subject is who or what the sentence is about; it is a noun or pronoun, person, place, or thing. Here is a sentence: The unexpected nature of baseball means that nothing might happen or anything might happen. The simple subject is nature; the complete subject contains all the modifiers (descriptors) of nature: the unexpected nature of baseball.

The predicate of a sentence is the verb, or the action: what the subject does or what happens to the subject. Look at this sentence: My Great Aunt Charlotte liked making her own jams and jellies. The simple predicate is the verb, liked. The complete predicate is everything that goes with liked: liked making her own jams and jellies.

A clause is a group of words, the smallest grammatical unit that has a subject and a verb, such as after the rain came. A clause may be dependent, as it is in the previous example: It cannot stand on its own because the rest of the thought/sentence is missing. An independent clause can stand on its own, such as the rain came after dinner.

A complete sentence must have at least one independent clause; if it doesn’t, it is a sentence fragment. The second, underlined part of the following is a fragment: It is a fact that sometimes students have to memorize things. Because if they don’t, they won’t remember them. Sentence fragments show up more and more in modern life, from advertising to Twitter, but they are still considered errors in formal, expository writing. In narrative writing, fragments may be used for effect.

A compound sentence has more than one independent clause: It is a fact that sometimes students have to memorize things, so students need to make time for memorization. A complex sentence has one independent clause and at least one dependent clause: When students want to take a break, they might go for a brisk walk. A compound-complex sentence has more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause: Guiding the young, elementary school teachers juggle time with all the skills and strategies they have to impart; teaching is not a simple job.

A sentence may be one of four types. A declarative sentence makes a statement and ends with a period: I found my baseball. An exclamatory sentence shows excitement and ends with an exclamation point: I found my baseball! An interrogative sentence asks a question and ends with a question mark: Have you seen my baseball? An imperative sentence makes a command or request and can end with an exclamation point or a period: Go find my baseball! Please help me find my baseball.

Practice question

  1. What words would you use to describe the following sentence: In March, when snow still covers some fields, I wonder: Will spring ever come?
    A. declarative; compound-complex
    B. imperative; compound
    C. interrogative; compound-complex
    D. exclamatory; complex

Answer and explanation

  1. The correct answer is Choice (C).
    The sentence is a question (the writer asks it of him- or herself); there are two independent clauses (I wonder and will spring ever come) and one dependent clause (In march, when snow still covers some fields). Choice (A) is wrong because the sentence asks a question and does not make a statement. The sentence is compound-complex. Choice (B) is wrong in the first part as well as the second: The sentence is not a command, and it has a dependent clause as well as two independent clauses. Choice (D) is wrong in the first part as well as the second: There is no exclamation point, and it has more than one independent clause as well as a dependent one.