Basic Sentence Structure In English
Basic sentence structure is the way you put words together to construct a sentence, so for the person who is learning English as a second language it is important to understand some of the basic sentence structures which are commonly used.
Basic Sentence Structure
What is a sentence?
In grammar, a sentence is the basic grammatical unit. It contains a group of words and expresses a complete thought.
Parts of Sentences:
Every word in a sentence serves a specific purpose within the structure of that particular sentence. According to rules of grammar, sentence structure can sometimes be quite complicated. For the sake of simplicity, however, the basic sentence structure is discussed here.
The two basic parts of a sentence are the subject and predicate.
The subject of a sentence is the person, place or thing whom we talk about or is performing the action of the sentence.
The subject represents what or whom the sentence is about. The simple subject usually contains a noun or pronoun and can include modifying words, phrases, or clauses.
- The man . . .
The predicate says something about the subject. It consists of the ’verb’ and the ’complement’ which comes after the verb.
- The man / builds a house.
The subject and predicate make up the two basic structural parts of any complete sentence. In addition, there are other elements, contained within the subject or predicate, that add meaning or detail. These elements include the direct object, indirect object, and subject complement. All of these elements can be expanded and further combined into simple, compound, complex, or compound/complex sentences.
What is an Object?
An object is a noun or pronoun that gives meaning to the subject and the verb in a sentence.
An object often follows the subject and verb in a sentence.
- Ali wrote the poem.
There are two types of objects: direct and indirect.
Direct object: The direct object receives the action of the sentence. The direct object is usually a noun, pronoun, clause or phrase that follows transitive verbs( action verbs that require something or someone to receive the action).
You can identify the direct object by using this simple formula:
Subject + verb + who? or what? = DIRECT OBJECT
- The man builds a house.
- The man builds it.
The subject is “The man ,” and the verb is “builds.” Next ask yourself the question “who or what?” about the verb “builds.” What does the subject, the man, build? He builds a house. Therefore, the direct object is “a house.” Because it receives the action of the sentence.
The indirect object indicates to whom or for whom the action of the sentence is being done. The indirect object is usually a noun or pronoun. Indirect objects are seen infrequently. In order to have an indirect object, there is a direct object. The indirect object typically precedes the direct object and is identified by asking who or what receives the direct object.
- The man builds his family a house.
- The man builds them a house.
“The man” is the subject, and “builds” is the verb. Ask the question “builds what?” “A house” is the direct object. To determine the indirect object, ask who received the direct object. “His family” is the indirect object.
A subject complement is a noun, pronoun, adjective, clause or phrase that follows a linking verb, such as is, are or was and complements or completes the subject of a sentence by describing or renaming it and is part of the predicate.
- The man is a good father. (father = noun which renames the subject)
- The man seems kind. (kind = adjective which describes the subject)
Confusing direct objects with subject complements
It is easy to mistake a direct object for a subject complement. It is important to note that only action verbs can have direct objects.Therefore, if the verb is a linking one, the word that answers the question “what” or “who” is a subject complement.
- The chauffeur accidentally locked his keys in his limousine. “Chauffeur” is the subject, and “locked” is the action verb. What did the chauffeur lock? Answer: his keys, the direct object.
- The chauffeur was happy to find a spare key.
“Chauffeur” is the subject and “was” is the linking verb. The chauffeur was what? Answer: happy, the subject complement.