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2.2: Sentence Patterns

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    Most English sentences, no matter how long or complicated, make use of the following five basic sentence patterns:


    Example: The hammer fell.

    The verb [fell] in this type of sentence is intransitive, meaning that it does not require a direct object, as the transitive verbs do in patterns 4 and 5. Also, not being a linking verb (see patterns 2 and 3), it does not require a complement. It is possible, then, for a sentence using this pattern to be comprised of only a subject and a verb, as in this example. However, modifiers can always be added, making the sentence longer. Consider this example: The hammer fell with great force. In this example with great force is a prepositional phrase added to describe (or modify) how the hammer fell. But because this prepositional phrase is extra material that is not essential to the sentence’s structure (the sentence is grammatically complete without it), this longer version is still an example of the basic Subject-Verb sentence pattern.

    Subject–Linking Verb–Noun

    Example: The professor is an economist.

    This pattern is distinguished by its use of a linking verb. The most common linking verb in English is to be, which is conjugated as is in this example. In this pattern, the linking verb is used to re-name the subject by linking it to another noun, as in this example where the professor is said to be an economist. This re-naming noun is known as the complement of the linking verb.

    Subject–Linking Verb–Adjective

    Example: The athlete is tall.

    As in pattern 2, this pattern uses a linking verb (is) to connect the subject with a complement, but here the complement is an adjective (tall) that describes the subject.

    Subject–Verb–Direct Object

    Example: The pitcher threw the ball.

    The verb in this pattern is transitive: it requires that the action be performed on something or someone. In other words, something or someone receives the action of the verb (threw, in this example), and that thing or person is the direct object (the ball, in this example).

    Subject–Verb–Indirect Object–Direct Object

    Example: The lobbyists gave the Congressmen money.

    In this pattern, the transitive verb takes both a direct object and an indirect object. In this example, the direct object is money (because money is the thing that was given) and the indirect object is Congressmen. The indirect object identifies to whom (or which) or for whom (or which) the action is done. The indirect object is usually a noun or pronoun, and in this pattern it comes before the direct object. Usually a sentence using this pattern can be re-written in a form that places the indirect object in a prepositional phrase that comes after the direct object, thus: The lobbyists gave money to the Congressmen. Here the indirect object, the Congressmen, becomes the object of the preposition to.

    Contributors and Attributions

    2.2: Sentence Patterns is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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