More About Sentence Patterns

 

Simple sentences are the building blocks of compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences. Before a student of the English language can expect to understand the more advanced sentence constructions, he must first learn the fundamentals of simple sentences: simple sentence patterns.

The information on this page was first presented in the Grammar Review pages of www.myclasses.net. Additional information is presented on this page to further help you to understand the basic components of each of the major simple sentence patterns. Learn them well.

To begin, choose from the select menu above a simple sentence pattern you wish to review.

Subject-Verb (intransitive)

The S-Vi pattern is the simplest sentence pattern of all. The verb may be an action verb showing action we can see, such as

John sings loudly. (loudly is an adverb telling "how" John sings and is not part of the pattern name.)
or an action verb showing some action we cannot see, such as
John thought.
or a state-of-being verb, such as
John is here. (here is an adverb telling "where" John is and is not part of the pattern name.)
The S-Vi pattern is somewhat useful, but it does not allow the writer to show the subject acting on something else. We say that the verb in the S-Vi pattern is intransitive because there is no action performed by the subject on something else; however, the pattern can show the subject being acted upon when the writer chooses the passive voice of the verb, such as
John was chased by the dog.

Subject-Verb (transitive)-Direct Object

In normal word order, the S-Vt-DO pattern consists of a verb between two nouns. Think of it as a "sandwich"; we have peanut butter (the verb) between two slices of bread (the nouns).

The verb may be an action verb showing action we can see, such as

John sings ballads.
or an action verb showing some action we cannot see, such as
John planned his next chess move.
or a form of the verb "has" to show possession, even though no action actually exists, such as
John has a Fender guitar

The S-Vt-DO pattern is very useful because it allows the writer to show the subject acting on something else. We say that the verb in the S-Vt-DO pattern is transitive because the action performed by the subject on the direct object goes across the verb to reach the direct object. The prefix trans means "to go across."

The two nouns in the S-Vt-DO pattern refer to two different things. You can put the subject in one room and the direct object in another.

Subject-Verb (transitive)-Indirect Object-Direct Object

The S-Vt-IO-DO pattern functions in the same way as the S-Vt-DO pattern, but it adds the indirect object between the transitive verb and the direct object. The indirect object is not actually acted upon, but shows who or what benefits from that action. The indirect object tells to whom or what or for whom or what the action was taken.

John gave his little sister a birthday gift.

John gave the gift; his little sister benefits from that action. The gift was acted upon, not the little sister. John did not give his sister; he gave to his sister.

In fact, a writer can rewrite a S-Vt-IO-DO pattern into a S-Vt-DO pattern + a prepositional phrase, such as

John gave a birthday gift to his little sister.

Usually, the IO and the DO refer to two different things. In the example above, the little sister and the gift are two different things. We can put them into two different rooms.

Subject-Verb (transitive)-Direct Object-Object Complement

The object complement in the S-Vt-DO-OC pattern adds information about the direct object of the sentence. Look at these two examples:

John titled his painting "Sunrise on the Beach."
John painted his Volkswagon bus purple.

As these two examples demonstrate, the OC can be a noun that renames the DO, or it can be an adjective that describes the DO.

In the first example, "Sunrise on the Beach" is a noun that gives a name to the painting. John did not title "Sunrise on the Beach"; he titled his painting. The word painting is the direct object because it directly receives the action of being "titled." "Sunrise on the Beach" tells what he titled his painting; "Sunrise on the Beach" is the OC. "Sunrise on the Beach" and "painting" both refer to the same canvas.

In the second example, "purple" describes the bus by answering the question "what kind" or "what color" about the bus. Note that John painted his bus; he did not paint "the purple." "Bus" is the direct object because it was the object on which the subject acted. "Purple" just gives more information about the bus.

The OC and the DO cannot be separated into two different rooms. The painting cannot be placed in one room and "Sunrise on the Beach" in another. They are the same. Neither can we place the VW bus in one room and the color purple in another. Where one goes, the other must also.

Subject-Verb (intransitive)-Retained Object

The S-Vi-RO patterns is actually a second-generation sentence; it began its life as either a S-Vt-IO-DO or a S-Vt-DO-OC pattern, both of which contain a transitive verb, which is always in the active voice because the subject is performing the action on the direct object.

When a S-Vt-IO-DO or a S-Vt-DO-OC sentence is rewritten so that the verb is in the passive voice, either the IO, the DO, or the OC is carried over into the passive voice sentence; we say it is retained. Look at these examples:

Subject-Linking Verb-Subject Complement

Think of subject complements as a file folder on your computer's desktop. Inside that folder we will find two main types of subject complements:

The S-LV-SC patterns is very useful when the writer wants to make a statement about the subject. When the writer wants to rename the subject, he will choose the S-LV-Predicate Noun pattern, such as in this sentence:

John is president of his class.

President renames the subject "John"; in fact, the two nouns refer to the same one person. We know this is true because we cannot place John in one room and place the president in a separate, different room. Where John goes, the president goes. They are the same one person. Since the two concepts are linked together and cannot be separated, we call the verb a linking verb.

When the writer wants to describe the subject, he will choose the S-LV-Predicate Adjective pattern, such as in this sentence:

John is very intelligent.

The word intelligent describes the subject "John"; in fact, John's intelligence goes everywhere John goes. We cannot place John in one room and place his intelligence in a separate, different room. The two concepts are linked together and cannot be separated. That is why we call the verb a linking verb.

Confusing Patterns: Part One

These three patterns "sandwich" a verb between two nouns:

This similarity can make these sentence patterns confusing. How can we tell them apart?

  1. The S-Vt-Direct Object pattern involves nouns that refer to two different things, PLUS the verb is transitive and active voice.

  2. The S-Vi-Retained Object pattern involves nouns that refer to two different things, PLUS the verb is intransitive and passive voice.

  3. The S-LV-Predicate Noun pattern involves nouns that refers to the SAME ONE THING! Since a linking verb shows no action and there is no direct object, the linkng verb is always intransitive.

Confusing Patterns: Part Two

These two patterns have two nouns following the transitive verb:

This similarity can make these sentence patterns confusing. How can we tell them apart?

  1. The S-Vt-IO-DO pattern has the IO inside the DO. Additionally, the DO and the IO are two nouns referring to two different things.

  2. The S-Vt-DO-OC pattern has the OC outside the DO. Additionally, the DO and the OC refer to the same thing, whether the OC is a noun or an adjective.