Understand paragraphs

The topic is the word or phrase that best describes what all of the sentences in the paragraph are about. Words relating to the topic are usually repeated several times in a paragraph. Looking for these words can help you focus on the topic.

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Paragraphs in English usually contain a topic sentence that lets the reader know what the paragraph is about. Although this sentence is usually near the beginning of the paragraph, it can also be found in the middle or at the end.

In addition to stating the topic, most topic sentences also tell the writer's main idea, or in other words, the idea that the writer wants to express about the topic. To explain the idea, the writer includes several supporting details in the paragraph and these details are more specific than the main idea.

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Understanding a paragraph - or a longer passage - often involves more than just identifying the topic and main idea. It is also necessary to understand the way writers in English guide the reader through the logic of their ideas or show the connections between ideas.

Pronouns often function as connecting words within a sentence or among different sentences. Some of the pronouns that can be used this way are:

* personal pronouns - he, it, they, him, us, etc * possessive pronouns - his, her, our, their, etc * demonstrative pronouns - this, that, these, those * relative pronouns - which, who, where, whose etc

Pronouns are used to refer to a noun or noun phrase that has already been mentioned. (A noun phrase is a group of words that functions as a noun in the sentence.) This noun or noun phrase is called the referent. In order to understand what you read, you need to be able to identify the referent for each pronoun. A good reader does this automatically.