i love english language

1.7 Sentences

7. Sentences

Subject, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Complement, Transitive Verb, Intransitive Verb

First off, some basic definitions:

Sentence – a group of words which makes sense on their own, which always has both a subject and a verb.

I killed the cat.

Clause – a group of words with a subject and a verb which cannot grammatically stand on its own.

                                    Because I killed the cat.

Subject – the person or thing doing or being what the verb describes.

                                                I killed the cat.

Object – the person or thing to which whatever the verb describes is done.

I killed the cat.

Some sentences can do without an object (because the verbs are intransitive as opposed to the more normal transitive); however, every sentence must have a subject and a verb.

I exist.

So sentences are made up of subjects and objects and verbs. And because every sentence is essentially a more complicated version of this, they can all be reduced to this essential shape.


When I was walking the dog in the park a man came up to me and slapped me across the face really hard so that it stung like crazy and I cried and I cried until I made it back to my lovely little house.

…can be reduced to…

            A man slapped me.

Subject, Verb and Object.

The rest is just tagged on as the author sees fit – either to provide extra information or to direct the reader a certain way.

When analysing a text you will never write – this word or phrase or clause simply “adds more information”. That is far to vague. You must explain the precise effect of that choice of the author’s. If there is nothing else to say about that particular word or phrase or clause, then choose another.




However, of course, it does get a little more complicated than this:


I gave the football.

…doesn’t really stand on its own. This sentence needs an indirect object.

I gave the football to John.

And the sentence:

                        He is an idiot.

                        … is an example of a Subject, Verb, Complement construction, rather than a Subject, Verb, Object construction, because “idiot” is not independent of the subject in the same way that “football” and “I” are in the sentence above.

Basic sentence types:


SV                               I exist.

SVO                            I eat dinner.

SVOdOi                      I gave the football to John.

SVC                             He is an idiot.

And to each of these can be added a whole plethora of words, phrases and clauses for one reason or another.

The most common addition is an Adverbial, which answers a question about the action the verb describes:

When did it happen?                        I eat everyday.

How did it happen?              I eat with great relish.

Where did it happen?                      I eat in the dining room.



1. Write an account of a food fight in the canteen.

2. Take that account and strip it down to its basics – the S,V,O & C of each sentence, getting rid of anything which doesn’t have to be there.

3. Without adding additional verbs to each setence, take someone else’s bare bones and elaborate as you see fit, with adjectives, adverbs and adverbials.

4. How do the two final accounts differ? What could you say about each version’s added extras, the adjectives, adverbs and adverbials the author has thought necessary?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: