LawProse Lesson #329: The Seven Types of English Sentences.

LawProse Lesson #329: The Seven Types of English Sentences.

The Seven Types of English Sentences.

At a time when we all need distractions from the news, it seems timely to remind ourselves of something as beautiful as English syntax.

In English, there are seven basic patterns that an independent clause can follow. Only seven. (Not counting that incomplete sentence, or this one.) The basic elements are subject (S), verb (V), direct object (O), indirect object (IO), complement (C), and adverbial (A). Two to four of these elements can appear in an independent clause (usually thought of as a complete sentence). Here are the seven basic patterns:

S + V Leslie smiled.
S + V + O Leslie caught the ball.
S + V + C Leslie is delighted.
S + V + A Leslie plays well.
S + V + IO + O Leslie gave Tommy a coin.
S + V + O + C Leslie got her hair done.
S + V + O + A Leslie lifted her bag off the cart.

There are variations on these elements—mostly inversions. We always invert the elements with questions (V + S + C): “Is Leslie all right?” And sometimes we invert for a special kind of emphasis (C + S + V): “Leslie Brown my name is!”

Native speakers use these patterns automatically. Effective writers use them in great variety, freely combining them with subordinate clauses. Ineffective writers often stick to the S + V + O pattern with great monotony.

Now back to your daily life! Here in Dallas, we’re holed up and holding up. We hope you are, too.

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