Five or Seven Sentence Patterns?

While the seven sentence pattern description is the norm in English linguistics today there still persists the use of five sentence description in some non-English speaking countries like Japan which teach English as a foreign language.

Essentially the seven sentence pattern is a five sentence pattern with the extra two pattern as extensions of SVA and SVOA. The problem is that some common sentence patterns seemingly cannot be described by the five sentence pattern model. Take sentence (1.), for example:

  1. John sat up.

There is ‘John’ and he is performing the action of sitting up from perhaps a slouched position. In other words there is one actor doing one action. Therefore it is an SV pattern (John (S) / sat up (V)). Now consider (2.):

  1. John put the bag down.

There is ‘John’ and ‘a bag’ of which the actor had ‘put down’. But which pattern is it of the five sentences pattern model? Because the verb is unusually “split” it is difficult describe eventhough the sentence seems of the SVO pattern. In fact it is as you can see if we rearrange the words as in (3.):

  1. John put down the bag.

Clearly ‘John put down the bag.’ is an SVO sentence. But how does one deal with (2.) ‘John put the bag down.’ with SVO? The pattern is:

John (S) / put (V) / the bag (O) / down (?)

The verb is not ‘put’ is but ‘put down’. But the pattern is not *SVOV either for two main verbs in a single sentence are not possible. For this reason we need to to “adapt” the description to explain the structure. While the five sentence pattern model is good at describing what I call linear patterns but not non-linear ones like (2.). It is clear that the ‘put’ and ‘down’ are related to each other in terms of role and function within the sentence, and that one must be subordinate to the other. No better description, then, will fit this role than the term ‘adverbial’.

In the seven sentence pattern model the additional sentences include A for adverbial. By being an adverbial means it is playing “second fiddle” to the verb. But it is a necessary adverbial in that without ‘down’ as in (4.) the sentence is ungrammatical.

  1. *John put the bag. (!?)

This description of necessity is one of the important points of the seven sentence pattern model. ‘John sat up.’ is therefore described as an SVA and ‘John put the bag down.’ is an SVOA with the adverbial being a compulsory part of the sentence (note: there sometimes are adverbs which are optional) in order for the sentences to be grammatical.

In short, the syntactic structures of SVA and SVOA are really just SV and SVO sentences with mandatory disguises.

Modern English Syntax (Advanced English Syntax)
A Comprehensive Grammar of English

2 thoughts on “Five or Seven Sentence Patterns?

    • Hi Kamolaf,
      The patterns you have given are the same as the seven.

      SV (sp)
      SVC (spc(n), spc(a), SPCA)
      SVOC (spoc, spoc(adv)
      SVA (spa(dj))

      They are using more terms which are (I believe) unnecessary.


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