The Grammar Rules for Basic Clause Structure in English

1. A basic sentence is composed of at least one independent clause. A clause is composed of a minimum of a subject and a predicate. Without one of these elements, the clause is ungrammatical.

2. A subject of a clause is an entity such as a person, a place, an object, or an abstract concept, which acts, is described or is acted upon. The subject usually answers the question Who/What is the sentence about?

The lion roared.
[The subjects acts]

The lion is beautiful.
[The subject is described]

The lion was hunted.
[The subject is acted upon]

3. A simple subject is the word or group of words acting as a subject. A complete subject is the simple subject and its modifiers. A compound subject consists of two or more nouns or pronouns, linked by either and or or. A complete compound subject includes the compound subject and its modifiers.
The lion roared.
[The lion = simple subject]

The big lion roared.
[The big lion = complete subject]

The lion and the lioness roared.
[The lion and the lioness = compound subject]

The big strong lion and the beautiful lioness roared.
[The big strong lion and the beautiful lioness = complete compound subject]

4. The subject usually precedes the predicate but not always.
The lions ran off.
[subject precedes predicate]

Off ran the lions.
[predicate precedes subject]

Under the tree lay a pride of lions.
[predicate precedes subject]

Why did the lions run?
[predicate element precedes subject in questions]

5. A predicate of a clause gives information on the subject, either describing it or identifying the action it performs or that is performed upon it (its predicament). The predicate contains the verb in the sentence and objects that are affected by the subject's actions. It usually answers the question What happens/ is described?

The lion roared.
[The predicate tells what the subject does]

The lion is beautiful.
[The predicate describes the subject]

The lion was hunted.
[The predicate tells what was done to the subject]

6. A simple predicate consists of only the verb. A complete predicate consists of the verb and its modifiers. A compound predicate consists of two or more verbs with or without objects, or a verb with one object or more, linked by either and or or. A complete compound subject includes the compound predicate and its modifiers.
The lion roared.
[roared = simple predicate]

The lion roared loudly.
[roared loudly = complete predicate]

The lion roared and growled at the foxes.
[roared and growled at the foxes = compound subject]

The lion roared and growled at the small foxes loudly.
[roared and growled at the small foxes loudly = complete compound subject]

7. A direct object is a noun, pronoun or group of words acting as a noun that receives the action of a transitive verb without a linking preposition. A direct object answers the question whom? or what?
The teacher read the story.
[the story = direct object]

8. An indirect object is a noun, pronoun or a group of words acting as a noun that answers the question to whom/what? or for whom/what? the action expressed by a transitive verb was done.
The teacher read the story to the students.
[the story = direct object, to the students = indirect object]

9. In sentences where the indirect object follows the word to or for, always put the direct object before the indirect object. If the indirect object does not follow to or for, put the indirect object before the direct object.
Yes:  The teacher gave an assignment to the students.
No:   The teacher gave to the students an assignment.
Yes: The teacher gave the students an assignment.
[the verb give can be used without to]

10. When a pronoun is used as an indirect object, some verbs require to or for before the pronoun, while others do not. Consult a dictionary if you are unsure (the best place to look this up is in the example sentences within the entry of the verb in the dictionary).
The teacher explained the grammar rule to the students.
No:   The teacher explained them the grammar rule.
Yes: The teacher explained the grammar rule to them.
[the verb explain follows only one pattern, with to]

The teacher gave an assignment to the students.
Yes: The teacher gave an assignment to them.
Yes: The teacher gave them an assignment.
[The verb give follows both patterns, with and without to]

12. When both the direct object and the indirect object are pronouns, put the direct object before the indirect object and use to or for with the indirect object.
The teacher gave an assignment to the students.
No:   The teacher gave them it.
Yes: The teacher gave it to them.
Yes: The teacher gave them an assignment.
[the verb give can also be used without to before indirect object]

13. A typical word order for an English one-clause-sentence would therefore be:
Subject-Verb-Direct Object-Indirect Object
The teacher gave an assignment to the students.

14. To expand the basic one-clause-sentence, you can add manner (how?), place (where?) and time (when? how often?) modifiers. These usually appear in the above mentioned order. An easy formula to help you remember the basic word order for a basic English sentence is:
Subject-Verb-Object-Manner-Place-Time, or conversely the acronym SVOMPT (pronounced like swamp). You usually do not have to include all six parts, but if you do, this order is recommended.
The teacher gave an assignment to the students quickly in class yesterday.
     [subject] [verb] [direct object] [indirect object] [manner] [place] [time]

15. A complement is an element appearing in the predicate that renames or describes a subject or an object. A subject complement is a noun, pronoun, or adjective that follows a linking verb (e.g. be, look, appear). An object complement follows a direct object and either renames or describes it.
This student is a 12th-grader.
[is = linking verb, a student = subject complement]

This student refers to himself as "Professor X."
[refers = verb, himself = direct object, Professor X = object complement]

16. A modifier is a word or group of words that describes or limits other words. Modifiers can appear in both the subject and the predicate of the sentence. Modifiers may be single words, phrases or whole clauses.
The best student got an A on the biology test.
[the adjective best modifies the noun student, the noun biology modifies the noun test]

The students in class were very excited when the teacher read the story funnily.
[ the prepositional phrase in class modifies students, the adverb very modifies the adjective excited, the adverb funnily modifies the verb read]

Consequently, the teacher continued reading the story. He did not finish it because the lesson ended.
[the adverb consequently modifies the independent clause the teacher continued reading the story,
the dependent clause because the lesson ended modifies the independent clause he did not finish it]

17. An appositive is a word or group of words that renames the noun or pronoun preceding it. When an appositive is not essential to identifying what it renames (when it is non-restrictive), use a comma to separate it from the rest of the sentence.
Berlin, the capital of Germany, is developing rapidly.
[the appositive the capital of Germany renames Berlin]

The student talked to Mr. Smith, his counselor.
[the appositive his counselor renames Mr. Smith]

Share With Your Friends!



Digg Stumbleupon delicious technorati Furl Google Yahoo! E-mail this to a friend Share with Twitter Share with Facebook