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Ten Basic Sentence Structures for Writing


A sentence is the basic building block of writing. Sentences can be simple or complex and make statements, ask questions, give commands or make exclamations. The subject (noun) and predicate (verb) are the two essential elements of an English sentence. Infuse your writing with a variety of sentence structures by using different verb forms to link the subject of a sentence to different parts of speech – adverb, adjective, direct object and more.

'Be' Verbs

The first three basic sentence structures include a subject and a form of the “be” verb, such as “is,” “am,” “are,” “was” and “were.” The part of speech – adverb, adjective, noun phrase – that comes after the verb determines which pattern the sentence follows. The first sentence structure consists of a subject, “be” verb and an adverb of time or place. “Jack is outside” is one example. The second structure consists of a subject, “be” verb and adjective as in “Jack is sleepy.” The third structure consists of a subject, “be” verb and noun phrase – “Jack is a student.”

Linking Verbs

The fourth and fifth sentence patterns include a linking verb like “become,” “seem,” “appear,” “feel,” “look” and “taste” and a subject complement – a word or words that complete the meaning of the linking verb and that refer back to the subject of the sentence. The difference between the two sentence structures is the part of speech filling the subject complement spot. In one structure, the linking verb is followed by an adjective as in “Jack looks sleepy.” In the fifth structure, the linking verb is followed by a noun phrase – “Jack became a student.”

Intransitive Verbs

In the sixth sentence structure, the verb does not accept a direct object. One kind of intransitive verb, a linking verb, uses a noun, pronoun or adjective to complete its meaning, such as in the sentence: “Jack looks sleepy.” Other intransitive verbs do not use either a direct object or subject complement and often are called intransitive complete verbs. “Jack studied” is one example.

Transitive Verbs

The last four sentence structures each contain a transitive verb, which is a type of verb that takes a direct object. The seventh sentence structure comprises a subject, transitive verb and direct object. “Jack studied math” is an example. Sentence structure eight includes a direct object preceded by an indirect object as in the sentence: “Jack gave Sue his book.” The ninth sentence structure is made up of a subject, transitive verb, direct object and adjective. “Sue found it helpful.” The 10th and final sentence pattern includes a subject, transitive verb, direct object and noun phrase as in the sentence “Jack liked Sue the popular girl.”

References
  • Understanding English Grammar; Martha Kolln, et al; 1998
  • Hodges’ Harbrace Handbook; John Hodges, et al; 2001
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