Sentence Beginning VarietyEach
time I asked a class to write a sentence worthy of their grade level on
the first or second day of class, ninety percent or better wrote a
simple sentence that started with the subect followed by the verb, the
same sentence format they learned in the first grade. Naturally,
some were afraid of being labeled as a brain and wrote silly sentences.
I wonder if they ran slowly at a track meet for fear of
being mistaken for an athlete. For most, though, that basic
structure is the first one they pull out of their toolbox. For
some, it's the only tool in the box. This list includes some
other power tools for your sentences.
- Subject + verb -
This beginning is overused, which creates the need for variety in the
first place. It's so common because it's an easy, natural way for us to
think. A subject is a noun while a verb is the action that noun is
doing or being. Limit your use of this most basic of beginnings.
- Participial phrase
- Participles look like verbs because they have some common verb
endings (-ing, -ed, -en, or -t), but they are not verbs. Follow them
with a comma and a subject and verb combination. Examples: Running
through the woods, the deer made some noise. Excited by the race, the
fans cheered. Beaten by every team, the Chiefs organization folded.
Bent by the hurricane winds, the palm trees nearly snapped.
- Infinitive phrase
- Begin these with the word to and follow it with your choice of verbs,
any words you need to make sense, and a comma when it's not the subject
of the sentence or no comma and when it is the subject. To eat pizza
with a spoon, Greg needs a bib. To eat pizza with a spoon requires a
- Prepositional phrase
- Prepositions are hard to recognize because on their own they don't do
a darn thing. Look at of, to, in, under, etc. They aren't things, and
you can't do them. However, follow them with a noun and some other
words in between and they become a great way to start a sentence. They
usually tell where or when in more than one word. Examples: In the dark
closet, the three-year-old cried for his momma.
- Subordinate clauses
- This is a big name for something relatively easy to understand. When
you are subordinate, you recognize the fact that someone has more
authority than you do. If you are insubordinate, it's because you don't
or won't. A clause is a subject and verb combination. Therefore, a
subordinate clause is a subject and verb combination that doesn't have
as much authority or importance as the main clause. They are easy to
spot because they begin with one of the following words: after,
although, as, as far as, as if, as long as, as soon as, as though,
because, before, even though, if, in order that, since, so that, than,
though, unless, until, when, whenever, where, wherever, while, how, if,
that, what, whatever, when, where, whether, which, who, whoever, whom,
whomever, and why. Some of these words don't always begin subordinate
clauses, but look for any subject and verb combinations that follow
them. Examples: When I go to town, I see my friends. You can spot the
subject-verb combinations of I go and I see. Adding the word when shows
that the idea of going to town isn't as important as the fact that you
see your friends there.
- Appositive phrases-
An appositive is a noun that renames another noun without a verb
between them. Consider the sentence "Mr. Roden, a teacher with singular
style, is a hero to millions." Teacher renames Mr. Roden with no verb
between these two nouns. Therefore, it's an appositive. If the sentence
read "Mr. Roden is a teacher with singular style," then teacher is not
an appositive because the verb is separates them. Normally, the
appositive comes after the noun it renames, but it's okay to put the
appositive phrase, the appositive and the words that go with it, before
the noun it renames. Examples: A man of singular style, Mr. Roden is a
hero to millions. Note the comma that follows this phrase. A lovely
example of individuality, her tattooed, pierced, dyed belly button
really caught my attention.
- Single-word modifiers
- This is a fancy way of saying adjectives and adverbs. An adjective is
a word that modifies a noun of any kind by answering the questions what
kind, which one, how many, and how much. An adverb modifies verbs,
adjectives, and other adverbs by answering the questions when, where,
how, and to what extent. Usually, these modifiers are near what they
modify. However, you can move them out of their usual position for
sentence beginning variety as long as you follow them with a comma.
Examples: Lovely and tasteful, her dress was quite striking. Her dress
is both lovely and tasteful, adjectives that answer what kind? about
dress. Frequently, she drives her mother's car. Frequently answers the
adverb question to what extent? about drives.