Tips on Diagramming Verbs You May Not Know

Diagramming verbs is one more way to succeed in academic writing. When a sentence rather looks like a diagram, all its components seem to find their place, at least in your head. Thus, diagramming verbs is a useful technique of understanding English sentence structure and of course improving writing skills. Once a student masters diagrams and schemes, words begin to come together automatically in the process of typing. It is much more fun to write even a regular essay when your brain solves all grammar dilemmas, such as when to use that or which, in the background.

Determine the type of sentence

The first step of building the right diagram is to find out what kind of sentence you have to deal with. Right now we do not take into consideration whether it is perfect or not (but we did discuss it in this article:; we rather focus on a sentence structure here. From this standpoint, English has four types of them:

  • Simple sentences have only one independent clause, which in its turn consists of a subject and a predicate. Mind that they can be homogeneous – for instance contain two or more subjects and two or more predicates, but they all come within one clause. Take a look at this example: Girls and boys from our school neither run nor scream during the breaks. Although the sentence has two subjects and two predicates, it is simple because they belong to the same clause.
  • Compound sentences in turn have two or more independent clauses. Thus, they combine several sentences like the ones discussed previously: Girls and boys from our school neither run nor scream during the breaks, but they are hyperactive at their PE lessons.
  • Complex sentences deal with dependent clauses. Of course, they will have an independent one too, but only the presence of a dependent clause makes a sentence complex: Girls and boys from our school neither run nor scream during the breaks because school has strict policy as to the behavior within its walls.
  • Compound-complex sentences will have at least two independent clauses (and it does not matter if they come one after another or not) and at least one dependent: Girls and boys from our school neither run nor scream during the breaks because school has strict policy as to the behavior within its walls, but they are hyperactive at their PE lessons.

How does it help us with diagramming? Well, the number of dependent and independent clauses determines the shape of a diagram that you are going to build. To focus exactly on diagramming verbs, for the time being we suggest examining each clause separately. Thus it is easier to grasp the connections within them and choose the right verb form. Every clause from the above-mentioned examples have similar structures (since they all represent affirmative sentences), so their schematic appearance will be as following: Subject | verb. (And remember that the line between the subject and the verbs should go a bit below the underlining.)

Before moving on to differences in diagramming transitive and intransitive verbs, we will dwell a little on our professional services. Do not forget that Royal Editing is a reliable provider of academic English editing. For those who want to test our services and estimate how helpful they are in college studies, we have prepared a list of articles that describe the main aspects of our editing work:

Differences in diagramming transitive and intransitive verbs

Our readers already know the difference transitive and intransitive verbs have, which basically lies in the fact that the former always have either a direct object (learn more about direct objects in English with Royal Editing) or an indirect one. Intransitive verbs, on the contrary, can appear in a sentence on their own, and no other words modify them. To immerse in further differences and rules about this verb classification, read this article:

What concerns diagramming, direct objects always stay on the same horizontal level as the subject and the verb:

Subject | verb | direct object.

But if a sentence has an indirect object, it goes below this whole scheme and stays on the same level as articles, adjectives and so on. A preposition in this case goes in brackets. If you get confused when it comes to telling one part of speech from another in English, check out this guide on mastering parts of speech.

Differences in diagramming action and linking verbs

Linking verbs appear almost in any aspect of English grammar. People who are interested in the usage of present tenses or learn the past or future ones, always come across the notion of linking verbs. Their main purpose in the language is not to describe the action, as it is the case with action verbs, but to show what relationship the subject has with the complement in the sentence. They can also introduce more information about the subject or outline some conditions:

  • The wind became stronger when the kids reached their house.
  • This building will not be appropriate for a huge enterprise.
  • The idea seemed hilarious, but it didn’t stop them from trying.

These are called true linking verbs because they remain so in any sentence. However, some verbs can act either as action verbs or as linking verbs, depending on the context:

  • As Nick’s parents grew older, the man found himself more and more detached from them. vs The level of unemployment in this country grows each year.
  • The sandwich tasted sour, so the girl refused to eat it. vs The girl tasted each bite of her ham sandwich.
  • This is what everyone in this classroom should feel embarrassed about. vs I don’t feel anything when you touch me like this.

Now the question is, how to find out in which case the verb is linking and in which it represents an action. Try to replace in with a true linking verb in your head. If it makes sense, the verbs is linking; if it does not, then you deal with an action verb.

  • The pupils remained silent for a few moments. (The pupils were silent for a few moments – it worked here, hence the verbs “remained” is linking.)
  • This apartment is all that remains for me. (This apartment is all that is for me – definitely no sense in this transformation, which means that the verb “remains” is an action verb in this sentence.)

Diagramming linking verbs is a bit different because they serve to introduce other parts of sentences – usually a predicate adjective or noun. Therefore, a diagram has to transform to suit this purpose. In general, it will look like this: Subject | linking verb \ predicate adjective (or noun). Now you can see that the second vertical line is not straight anymore; it is appropriate to use a back slash here.

So, now you are familiar with basic tips on diagramming verbs. Students from philological departments are likely to encounter the diagrams more frequently during their studies than any other students. The advice here will help you comprehend how to make it right, but there is much more we can add to this topic. Stay tuned for the latest updates on this website and do not miss our future articles because they are going to be even more helpful. Finally, check out the following posts about our top copyediting services that will come in handy for students of all years. There you will find answers to a variety of questions that our customers are usually curious about.