Here’s a new English lesson for all of you eager to learn something new about English grammar. Some of you have asked me to explain the structure of sentences in English, so here it is. As you know, a sentence is a group of words that can express a statement, command, question or exclamation.
A sentence consists of one or more clauses. In case you need to remind yourself what a clause is, check the post about phrases and clauses.
It usually has at least one subject and verb.
It begins with a capital letter and ends with a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark.
I don’t want to lose you.
Shall we dance?
What a great idea!
After this brief introduction, we will be looking at the basic clause structure in English, that is, the simple sentence.
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THE SIMPLE SENTENCE
The simple sentence is a sentence with just one clause.
As you already know, a clause that can stand alone and form a sentence by itself is called independent or main clause.
It has a subject and a verb.
Mary is gone.
The simple sentence can also have other elements, such as: an object, a complement, or an adverbial.
Before we go on to the sentence patterns, let me explain what subjects, objects, complements, and adverbials are.
The subject of a sentence is a noun phrase. It expresses the agent of the action expressed by the verb, that is, the person or thing that is performing the action.
Mary had a little lamb.
Dennis is playing volleyball.
The object of a sentence is also a noun phrase. It expresses the person or thing that is affected by the action expressed by the verb.
I sent some letters.
Jack bought a new TV.
A complement usually gives some extra information, either about the subject of the sentence, or the object of the sentence.
It can be an adjective phrase (e.g. nice) or a noun phrase (e.g. a cinema).
When the complement refers to the subject of the sentence, it is called subject complement.
This dress is nice.
Verbs that go with a subject complement are called linking verbs, e.g. be, become, get, look, seem.
When the complement refers to the object of the sentence, it is called object complement.
They named him Johnny.
An adverbial expresses an idea such as when, how, or why something happens.
It can be an adverb phrase (e.g. tomorrow), a prepositional phrase (e.g. on the table) or a noun phrase (every six months).
I put the cat in its basket.
The show is on Saturday.
The adverbial can refer either to the subject, or the object of the sentence.
Each of these elements plays its part in the structure of a clause. We can put these elements together to form different kinds of clauses.
The normal word order in a statement is SUBJECT + VERB.
There are 7 types of clause structures in English language: