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:

34 thoughts on “7 Basic Sentence Patterns

    • No. 4 in the sentence pattern has an SVOO construction.

      John / gave / Jane / a present.

      Jane is the indirect object while the present is the direct object. The terms indirect refers to the relationship of an object and the verb of the sentence. What John gave was a present. He did not give Jane. Jane was the recipient of the present.

      So, the object which is affected by the action (the verb) is the direct object. And the object which is passive to the action is the indirect object. This is clear when the same sentence is rephrased so that the indirect object is expressed as an obligatory adverbial as in

      4a. John gave a present to Jane.

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    • 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.

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

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    • 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.

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    • 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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