Skills

Levels

Basic Sentence Structure

There are five basic patterns around which most English sentences are built.* They are as follows:

S-V

 

Subject-Verb

 

John sleeps.


 
 

Jill is eating.


 
 

Jack will arrive next week.

S-V-O

 

Subject-Verb-Object

 

I like rice.


 
 

She loves her job.


 
 

He's eating an orange.

S-V-Adj

 

Subject-Verb-Adjective

 

He is funny.


 
 

The workers are lazy.


 
 

Karen seems angry.

S-V-Adv

 

Subject-Verb-Adverb

 

Jim is here.


 
 

Flowers are everywhere.


 
 

No one was there.

S-V-N

 

Subject-Verb-Noun

 

She is my mom.


 
 

The men are doctors.





Mr. Jones is the teacher.

At the heart of every English sentence is the Subject-Verb relationship. Other elements can be added to make a sentence more interesting, but they are not essential to its formation.

The following sentences are examples of the S-V pattern.

She sleeps.

 

Core sentence

She sleeps soundly.

 

An adverb is added to describe how she sleeps.

She sleeps on the sofa.

 

A prepositional phrase is added to tell where she sleeps.

She sleeps every afternoon.

 

A time expression is added to tell when she sleeps.

She is sleeping right now.

 

Verb tense is changed, but S-V relationship remains the same.

Mary will sleep later.

 

Subject is named and another tense is used.

The dogs are sleeping in the garage.

 

New subject may require a different form of the verb.

Note: Any action verb can be used with this sentence pattern.

The following sentences are examples of the S-V-O pattern.

They like rice.

 

Core sentence

The people like rice.

 

Specific subject

The friendly people like rice.

 

Subject modified with an adjective

The people in the restaurant like rice.

 

Subject modified with an adjective

The people like boiled rice.

 

Object modified with an adjective

The people like hot, white rice.

 

Object modified with more than one adjective

Note: Only transitive action verbs can be used with this sentence pattern.

The following sentences are examples of the S-V-Adj pattern.

He is fine.

 

Basic sentence with "be" verb

He seems happy.

 

Basic sentence with another linking verb

Jordan is tall, dark and handsome.

 

Series of adjectives

He appears very comfortable.

 

Adverb or intensifier added

George became sick last night.

 

Different tense and linking verb

Note: Only linking verbs can be used with this sentence pattern.

The following sentences are examples of the S-V-Adv pattern.

The teacher is here.

 

Basic sentence

The teacher is over there.

 

Using an adverb phrase

Teachers are everywhere.

 

Plural noun and verb used

The teachers are in the lobby.

 

Prepositional phrase functioning as adverb

Note: Only linking verbs can be used with this sentence pattern.

The following sentences are examples of the S-V-N pattern.

The man is a doctor.

 

Basic sentence

The women are doctors.

 

Using plural noun and verb

My father is a nice guy.

 

Modified subject and complement

My grandparents are senior citizens.

 

Modified plural subject and complement

Note: Only linking verbs can be used with this sentence pattern.

*Other, less common structures are dealt with in another unit.

See also :

Grammar : Noun and Verb Phrases

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Last updated: 15 February, 2010 02:43:16