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:

21 thoughts on “7 Basic Sentence Patterns

  1. Thank you for visiting Oceantics, Warren, and for liking the “Ripped Pages” piece. I came here, curious about the 7 sentence patterns. I use SVO as the basis of all business communication in my book, The Corporate Storyteller. I call it Three Steps to Everywhere b/c of its capacity to build strong neural networks and external relationships. I’m including the link here, not as spam, only to affirm what you’ve presented here. It’s powerful stuff!


    • Thanks for dropping by.

      An understanding of syntax is the first step to clear communication. That is what I tell my second language students. But of course this is good advice for native speakers as well.

      Good luck in your future writing endeavours. Looking forward to seeing more.


  2. This makes it sound as if she needs to return home without finishing the work at the project site. Is this sentence pattern S-V-O-C?


    • Yes.

      This (subject)
      makes (verb)
      it (object)
      sound as if she needs to return home without finishing the work at the project site. (complement)

      The last component is long and complex but essentially it is just a complement. (It sounds as if she needs to return home without finishing the work at the project site.)


    • (1) He is sure to fail.

      This is considered by some to be SVCA. But in the system described above this sentence is considered SVC where complement is “sure to fail”.

      A syntactic part can be a single word or multiple words, as in

      (2) He is there.
      (3) He is at the station.

      where the bold words in both sentences are adverbials. So in (1) we can consider “sure to fail” as one syntactic part.


  3. Can you help me with this sentence “Coiled bars shall be cold-drawn”? What pattern does it fall under and what is “cold-drawn” (adverb?) here?


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