Introducing English Grammar

By David J. Young | Go to book overview
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Basic sentence patterns
In Chapter 3 (pp. 36-7) we saw that a sentence consists of a subject and a verb, and perhaps other elements following the verb. If other elements are necessary to complete the structure of the sentence, they are called complements; and if they are ‘optional extras’, giving circumstantial detail, they are called adjuncts. The following examples illustrate these types of structure. Group 1 has no complement and no adjunct, just subject and verb. Group 2 has subject, verb and complement. Group 3 has subject, verb and adjunct. Group 4 has subject, verb, complement and adjunct. The boundaries between the sentence elements are marked with a vertical stroke.
1 The last train | has arrived

Bill | drives

She | was writing

2 Your uncle | left | a message

They | are demolishing | a building

The councillors | seem |very determined

Bill | has been | a postman

3 The last train | has arrived | already

Bill | drives | quite expertly

She | was writing | in the library

4 Your uncle | left | a message | yesterday

They | are demolishing | a building | with some dynamite

The councillors | seem | very determined | this week

Bill | has been | a postman all his working life

Most of the elements of which these sentences consist belong to the types of phrase we have been looking at in Chapters 2, 3 and 4. Thus, for example, the last train is a noun phrase; are demolishing and seem are verb phrases; in the library is a prepositional phrase. In group 4, very determined is an adjective phrase, and so on. One or two of the sentence elements are phrases of a type we have not yet studied, e.g. already, yesterday and quite expertly. These are adverb phrases. They will be dealt with later in this chapter (p. 74). In the sentences listed above, these adverb phrases are functioning as adjuncts.

For the present we shall not pay any further attention to adjuncts. If they are left out of a sentence, the character of the structure remaining is not affected. Therefore, if we want to study the fundamentals of sentence structure, it is preferable not to include adjuncts. They can always be added on to the basic patterns afterwards.

It would take us beyond the scope of this book to make a close study of all the types of sentence and to compare and contrast them in detail. We must content ourselves with listing the few simplest and most sharply differentiated


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Introducing English Grammar


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