By a normal sentence I mean any sentence of the form subject + predicate. Every sentence that is not normal is called advanced. A simplest example of an advanced sentence is, say, Being a doctor, he often voluntarily helps people around him.

Since I am not a native speaker in english, from time to time I found it difficult for me to discern the meaning of a given advanced sentence. But for a normal sentence I found it readily intelligible.

Which readings could help improve this asymmetry of understanding english? Further, which books may give rules or advices relevant to understanding advanced sentences for non-native english speakers?

Thanks so much.

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    The key, in my opinion, is to learn to know which word is linked to which word in a given sentence. Basically, you should try to teach yourself to always be able to spot the verb, the subject, and the objects. Then, teach yourself how other words are linked to such skeletons. A common term for this activity is "parsing". Everyone does parsing internally, unconsciously, all the time. As a learner, you can do this explicitly. For example, from what I've heard, diagramming sentences could be fun. Books about English syntax could be useful too. Commented Jul 13, 2014 at 8:37

1 Answer 1


The first step is to find the basic meaning of the sentence. Somewhere in there, there will be a subject and a finite verb; there may also be an object or complement. In your example sentence, the basic meaning is 'he helps people' (subject pronoun - verb - direct object). Almost everything else gives extra information about one of those things or about the whole sentence. Of the closest words, 'often' tells us 'how often?', 'voluntarily' tells us 'how?' and 'around him' tells us 'which people?'.

The second step is to add the meaning of the 'advanced' parts of the sentence, which will tell us 'extra extra information'. 'Being a doctor' tells us more about 'he', and probably also indicates why he always voluntarily helps people.

Any reading of moderate or higher English should include a mixture of sentence types.

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