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:

5 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!
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Corporate-Storyteller-Business-ebook/dp/B004HD6A8M

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    • 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.

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