7 Basic Sentence Patterns

The English language has seven basic sentence (or clause) patterns. Examples are:

  1. John / laughed. (SV)*
  2. John / kissed / Jane. (SVO)
  3. John / is / tall. (SVC)
  4. John / gave / Jane / a present. (SVOO)
  5. John / made / Jane / angry. (SVOC)
  6. John / sat / up. (SVA)
  7. John / put / the bag / down. (SVOA)

Most simple and complex (but not compound) clauses are of one of these patterns no matter how long the clauses are. For example, the following two sentences are essentially of the same pattern.

  1. Jane / bought / fruit. (SVO)
  2. My long lost sister Jane / has been buying / a variety of fruit. (SVO)

* There are five sentence class terms: S = subject, V = verb, O = object, C = complement, and A = adverbial. The slash (/) denotes the boundary between syntactic terms.

Reference: Everyday Grammar by John Seely.

See also:

30 thoughts on “7 Basic Sentence Patterns

    • It could be A. It is an A if it is obligatory. Here it can be optional.

      I will admit this is a case in which it can be either. So it depends on what comes before the sentence.


  1. Can you help me with this sentence.
    An average person eats about forty-five tons of food during his lifetime.


    • I think this is S/V/O/A. [An average person (S)] [eats(V)] [forty-five tons of food(O)] [during his lifetime(A)] <- the last part describes when he eats not the food so technically its an adverb.


    • Consider (1) and (2).

      (1) The average person eats forty-five tons of food.
      (2) The average person eats forty-five tons of food during his lifetime.

      Both are these are acceptable. If something is optional (as in “during his lifetime”) it is not counted as part of the basic pattern. So in my opinion SVO is fine.

      One must differentiate optional and obligatory adverbs.


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