How to structure a sentence?
Sentence structure….. is it even important in English? YES!
As you know, a sentence is a group of words that can express a statement, command, question or exclamation.
Though you may understand what a sentence is, knowing how to structure a sentence is very important in your spoken and written English. Common mistakes English learners make are simple mistakes when it comes to structuring sentences.
Having an in depth knowledge of how to structure a sentence will help you write better in English, communicate your ideas more clearly and portray you message to your reader or listener!
Lets begin by looking at: what is a sentence?
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.
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.
In the English language there are 7 types of clause structures . Lets go through them together….
1. SUBJECT – VERB
My girlfriend is waiting.
The verbs used in this structure are called intransitive verbs, because they do not require an object or a subject complement.
You can add an extra adverbial to this clause structure.
My girlfriend is waiting outside.
2. SUBJECT – VERB – SUBJECT COMPLEMENT
This dress looks nice.
The old theatre became a cinema.
The verbs used in this structure are called linking verbs, because they link the subject complement to the subject of the sentence.
3. SUBJECT – VERB – OBJECT
The dog has eaten the bone.
Someone called me.
The verbs used in this structure are called transitive verbs.
4. SUBJECT – VERB – OBJECT – OBJECT COMPLEMENT
The project kept everyone very busy.
They named him Johnny.
5. SUBJECT – VERB – INDIRECT OBJECT – DIRECT OBJECT
They gave me a present.(me – indirect object; a present – direct object)
John sent her some flowers.(her – indirect object; some flowers – direct object)
The verbs used in this structure are called ditransitive verbs, because they take two objects – an indirect object and a direct object.
6. SUBJECT – VERB – ADVERBIAL
The show is tomorrow.
The books are on the table.
7. SUBJECT – VERB – OBJECT – ADVERBIAL
I put the cat in its basket.
The police got the car out of the river.
If you loved this lesson, you will also love these lessons:
Remember to practice! PPP (Perfect Practice makes Perfect)
If you do not practice using your English in a natural context, then you will loose your English. It is one thing to be able to know all of these rules, structures and hearing these tips; though another to be using and applying your knowledge!
A common mistake that many English learners make (maybe EVEN YOU!) is that they do not practice! The more you practice, the better you will get. You have to be practicing on a consistent basis, applying your knowledge. Only in this way WILL YOU IMPROVE YOUR SPOKEN ENGLISH.
Speaking with friends, communicating in English on a consistent basis, making mistakes, working on fixing your mistakes and getting feedback on your spoken English will help you identify YOUR common mistakes, work on these mistakes so that you CAN improve your spoken English and communication skills!
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