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Simple sentences

On this page:
Aims | Introduction | Example sentences | Explanation (Phrases and clauses, noun phrases, verbs, clauses)

Aims:
This page informs you about English sentence structure, and concentrates on simple sentences, which are sentences with only one clause.

Introduction
Although some sentences are very short; e.g. 'Yes.', most sentences are made up of phrases and clauses, often arranged in a subject - verb - object order. The subject and object are nouns or noun phrases, and the verb is a single verb or a verb phrase.

Example sentences

A simple sentence:

I like grammar.
Subject verb object

 

A sentence with a noun phrase:

This student likes grammar.
Determiner noun verb noun
Subject noun phrase verb object

 

A sentence with a three-word noun phrase:

These bright students like grammar.
Determiner adjective noun verb noun
Subject noun phrase verb noun

 

A sentence with a four-word noun phrase:

These remarkably bright students like grammar.
Determiner adverb adjective noun verb noun
Subject noun phrase verb noun

 

A sentence with a relative clause in the subject:

These remarkably bright students who are reading books like grammar.
Determiner adverb adjective noun relative
pronoun
auxiliary
verb
verb noun main verb noun
Noun phrase relative clause main verb noun
Subject noun phrase main verb noun

 

A sentence with a verb phrase:

These remarkably bright students who are reading books are studying grammar.
Determiner adverb adjective noun relative
pronoun
auxiliary
verb
verb noun auxiliary
verb
verb noun
Noun phrase relative clause verb phrase
(main verb)
noun
Subject noun phrase Predicate

 

A sentence with a noun phrase as the object:

These remarkably bright students who are reading books are studying common errors.
Determiner adverb adjective noun relative
pronoun
auxiliary
verb
verb noun auxiliary
verb
verb adjective noun
Noun phrase relative clause verb phrase
(main verb)
noun phrase
Subject noun phrase Predicate

 

A long sentence with two relative clauses in the subject noun phrase, and four noun phrases in total.

These remarkably bright students who are reading grammar books that they found in the Centre for Independent Language Learning are studying common errors.
Determiner adverb adjective noun relative
pronoun
auxiliary
verb
verb noun noun relative
pronoun
pronoun verb preposition article noun preposition adjective noun noun auxiliary
verb
verb adjective noun
      main subject   verb phrase noun phrase   subject verb   noun phrase (object) verb phrase
(main verb)
noun phrase
Noun phrase relative clause relative clause
Subject noun phrase Predicate

 

A sentence with an adverb as a complement:

These remarkably bright students who are reading books are studying efficiently.
Determiner adverb adjective noun relative
pronoun
auxiliary
verb
verb noun auxiliary
verb
verb adverb
Noun phrase relative clause main verb adverb
Subject noun phrase verb phrase complement

 

A sentence with an adverb phrase as a complement:

These remarkably bright students who are reading books are studying highly efficiently.
Determiner adverb adjective noun relative
pronoun
auxiliary
verb
verb noun auxiliary
verb
verb adverb adverb
Noun phrase relative clause main verb adverb phrase
Subject noun phrase verb phrase complement

 

 

 

Explanation

Phrases and Clauses

Noun phrases
A phrase is a group of words that is part of a clause. For example, a noun phrase is a noun and some associated words, such as plural noun: 'students', noun phrase 'These mature students'. This example contains a determiner 'These'; an adjective 'mature'; and a plural noun 'students'.

A determiner determines which noun is being described. Other determiners include articles such as 'The', 'A', and 'An', and also words like 'Some', 'His', 'Hers', 'This', 'That', 'Those'.

A noun phrase can have many adjectives, but they need to be in a special order. Click here for more information on adjective order.

A noun phrase can also include a relative clause; e.g. 'These mature students who are standing here'. The verb 'are standing' is part of the relative clause, so it is not the main verb of the sentence. To make a sentence it is necessary to add a main verb and an object or complement; e.g. 'These mature students who are standing here are waiting for the teacher.'

Verbs
Verbs can be single words such as 'like', or be a verb phrase and so have more than one word; e.g. 'would have liked to have been' in 'I would have liked to have been a pilot, but my eyesight isn't good enough'. Verbs can show when something happened, how long for, and whether there are present results. Click here for more information on verbs and tenses.

Clauses
A sentence usually has at least one clause. A clause is a subject (a noun or noun phrase), a verb, and a complement. The complement may be an object noun or noun phrase, or another kind of phrase, such as an adjective; e.g. 'fast' in 'I can run fast.' A simple sentence has one clause, but a compound sentence has more than one; e.g. 'I can run fast and my brother can jump high'.

Complement
A word or phrase that identifies, classifies or describes the subject or object.

Predicate
A predicate is a main verb and words that either classify the subject or describe an action.

 

 

Last updated on: Friday, March 23, 2012