The Write Stuff Video Series: An Introduction to 4-Level Analysis

Illustration by Kwang Choi
Illustration by Kwang Choi

Why 4-Level Analysis?

I use 4-level analysis in my classroom for two reasons: 1) The sentence is a paradigm (an example serving as a model) of grammar. Studying the 4-levels of a sentence shows students how each level is a part of a whole, and how each of those parts works together, logically, to create a complete thought. And, 2) Studying the 4-levels of a sentence gives students the language necessary to correct their writing. When I tell students, “You have a fragment. Your sentence is missing a subject.” They know immediately how to fix it. If students don’t have the language necessary to understand grammar concepts, they may never be able to fix and deepen their knowledge of effective communication.

Here is a break down of the 4 levels:

Level 1

The first level is Parts of Speech: The 8 types of words in our language. By itself, identifying the parts of speech are not important; the parts of speech help us identify the important elements at the other levels, so we can communicate clearly.

Noun: a word that names a person, place, thing, or idea; can be common or proper.

Pronoun: a word that replaces a noun or another pronoun; pronouns have person (1st, 2nd, 3rd), number (singular or plural), and case (subject or object).

Adjective: a word that modifies a noun or pronoun; articles (a, an, the) are specific types of adjectives; adjectives also have a degree (positive [cold], comparative [colder], superlative [coldest]).

Verb: a word that shows action, links a subject to its subject complement, or denotes a state of being.

Adverb: a word that modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

Preposition: a word that connects its object to another part of the sentence.

Conjunction: a word that joins words or groups of words; they can be coordinating (FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), subordinating (since, if, because, etc., which creates a dependent clause), or correlative (not only…but also; neither…nor; either…or).

Interjection: a word that expresses emotion, but has no other grammatical purpose in the sentence; I like to call them Batman words (Ouch! Pow! Zap! Ugh!).

Level 2

The second level is Parts of a Sentence: The two-part essence of thought, the subject-predicate set(s) and their modifiers.

Subject: the noun or subject-case pronoun the sentence is about.

Predicate: the verb that tells what the subject is doing or being, or links the subject to its subject complement. Predicates that are action verbs may have a direct object and indirect object; may be transitive or intransitive; or may be active or passive voice. Predicates that are linking verbs will have a subject complement; the subject complement may be a predicate nominative (noun or pronoun) or a predicate adjective (an adjective).

Level 3

The third level is Phrases: Two or more words that work together, acting like a single part of speech. A phrase will not have a subject-predicate set.

Prepositional phrase: a group of words that begins with a preposition and usually ends with its object (a noun or object-case pronoun). Prepositional phrases will act like modifiers and will be either an adjective or adverb phrase.

Appositive phrase: a group of words that replaces or clarifies a noun or pronoun.

Verbal phrase: a group of words that will either be a gerund (a former verb that is now acting like a noun and ends in -ing), a participle (a former verb that is now acting like an adjective and will end in -ing or -ed [or some other past tense form]), or an infinitive (a former verb that is in its base form and begins with to [to hear, to think, to sing]).

Level 4

The fourth level is Clauses: This level will tell how many subject-predicate sets are in a sentence. This level helps determine how to punctuate a sentence properly.

Independent clause: a clause that is a complete thought and can stand alone.

Dependent clause: a clause that is not a complete thought and needs to be attached to an independent clause. Dependent clauses can function as big nouns or big modifiers (adjectives or adverbs).

The Write Stuff Blog

Please let me know if you have any questions. Was this lesson helpful? I’d love your feedback. Also, let me know if you have any grammar rules I can help you understand.

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