Basic Sentence Structure
Sentences are made up of a subject and a predicate.
The subject is a noun, pronoun, or a phrase or clause which acts like a noun.
The predicate is everything in the sentence aside from the subject. A simple predicate is just the verb phrase; the complete predicate includes the complement.
A complement is the part of the predicate aside from the verb phrase. It can include the direct object, indirect object, subject complement, or the object complement.
This form is usually referred to as S-V and S-V-C.
The subject of a sentence states what the focus of the sentence is. The subject is either doing something is it is being described in some way.
The subject of a sentence can be anything that can act like a noun:
- simple noun: Language is important.
- pronoun: It is important.
- noun phrase: The clear expression of language is important.
- gerund phrase: Writing is important.
- infinitive phrase: To write clearly is important.
- appositive phrase: Writing, one form of communication, is important.
- nominal clause: What we write is important.
In a question, the subject may be replaced with a (w)h- word.
The predicate is either an action taken by the subject, or describes something about the subject.
The simple predicate is either just the verb, or is a verb phrase which could include adverbs and or auxiliary (helping) verbs.
- He ran.
- He already ran.
- He was running.
- He was already running.
The complete predicate inlcudes a complement. A complement is not an independent clause or an adverbial clause.
A complement is the remainder of the complete predicate after the verb or verb phrase. A complement may include adjuncts, which are non-essential words or phrases.
There are four basic types of complements:
- SUBJECT • PREDICATE • DIRECT OBJECT
- SUBJECT • PREDICATE • INDIRECT OBJECT • DIRECT OBJECT
- SUBJECT • PREDICATE • SUBJECT COMPLEMENT
- SUBJECT • PREDICATE • DIRECT OBJECT • OBJECT COMPLEMENT
The direct object receives or shows the result of the action. A direct object can be a noun or something that acts as a noun.
- simple noun: He bought a car.
- pronoun: He bought it.
- noun phrase: He bought an expensive new car with all the extras.
- gerund phrase: He enjoys hiking in the woods.
- infinitive phrase: He wanted to go hiking in the woods.
- appositive phrase: He bought a Lamborghini, a luxury sports car.
- nominal clause: He bought what we wanted.
The indirect object is someone or something that receives or benefits from the action of the verb.
- simple noun: He bought Andrea a car.
- pronoun: He bought her a car.
- noun phrase: He bought his new wife a car.
- appositive phrase: He bought his wife Andrea a car.
- nominal clause: He bought who he married a car.
Note: since an infinitive phrase describes an action (e.g., "to eat" or "to go"), it cannot receive or benefit from an action.
However, there are a few special cases in which something can be given to a gerund:
- gerund phrase: With Star Wars, George Lucas gave filmmaking an exciting turn.
- gerund phrase: Hideo Nomo gave playing for American teams new popularity.
The subject complement is used when a linking verb is the predicate.
Linking verbs include: include all forms of be, but also verbs like
- The verb be (am, is, are, was, were, etc.)
- Sensory verbs, such as feel, look, small, sound, and taste
- Other verbs such as become, seem, and appear.
The subject complement decribes the subject using a noun, modifier, or prepositional phrase.
- Bill is a chemist.
- Bill is smart.
- Bill is in the classroom.
- Bill feels well.
- Bill looked tired.
- Bill sounds excited.
- Bill became a doctor.
- Bill seems creative.
- Bill appears calm.
The object complement describes the direct object. It is used with the verbs such as call, keep, make, name, prove, find, or catch.
- Luis called his friend a liar.
- Luis kept the information a secret.
- Luis made his students happy.
- Luis named his dog Ponta.
- Luis proved the idea correct.
- Luis found the chicked delicious.
- Luis caught his student cheating.
A word or phrase which can be added to a part of the sentence but is not necessary to the core meaning of the sentence is called an adjunct. Adjuncts add extra information, but are not necessary to make a complete sentence.
An adjunct can be any word or phrase that can be removed, but the sentence still makes sense. For example:
- The student studied hard.
In the above example, only hard can be removed without creating a grammatical problem with the sentence. Therefore, hard is an adjunct.
Here is the same sentence as above with more adjuncts:
- His books next to him, the student in the dormitory late at night studied hard to pass the test.