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Sentence Structure. Part I - AVM's English Review

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. 1 (Sentence Structure. Part I)

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 Agents of the sentence

- . !

- , , . - , - -.
- - - , , : E-mail , , .

The Subject

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The subject is the agent of the sentence in the active voice; it is the person or thing that does action of the sentence, and it normally precedes the verb.

Note:  Every sentence in English must have a subject. (In the case of commands, the subject is understood.)

  1. The subject may be a single noun

    Coffee is delicious.
    Milk contain calcium

  2. The subject may be a noun phrase.

    The book is on the table.
    That new, red car is Johns

  3. In some sentences there is not a true subject. However, it and there can often act as pseudo-subjects and should be considered as subjects when rules call for moving the subjects of sentence.

    It is a nice day today.
    There was a fire in that building last month.

A simple subject is the subject of a sentence stripped of all modifiers. The simple subject of the following sentence is issue:

  • The really important issue of the conference, stripped of all other considerations, is the morality of the nation.

Sometimes, though, a simple subject can be an entire clause. In the following sentence, the simple subject is not "computer repair," nor is it "what he had forgotten," nor is it "he." The entire underlined clause is the simple subject:

  • What he had already forgotten about computer repair could fill whole volumes.

In English, the subject of a command, order, or suggestion -- you, the person being directed -- is usually left out of the sentence and is said to be "understood":

  • [You] Step lively there
  • Before assembling the swingset, [you] read these instructions carefully.

Note ( ).


The Predicate

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The verb follows the subject; it generally shows the action of the sentence.

Note:   Every sentence must have a verb.

  1. The verb may be a single word

    Coffee is delicious.
    Milk contain calcium.

  2. The subject may be a verb phrase.
    A verb phrase consists of one or more auxiliaries and one main verb. The auxiliaries always precede the main verb.

    John is going to Miami tomorrow. (auxiliary - is; main verb - going).
    Jane has been reading that book. (auxiliaries - has, been; main verb - reading).
    She must have gone to the bank. (auxiliaries - must, have; main verb - gone).

Note ( ).


The Object

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A complement answers the question what? or whom?

Note: Every sentence does not require a complement.

John bought a cake yesterday. (What did John buy?).
Jill was driving a new car. (What was Jill driving?).
She saw John at the movies last night. (Whom did she see at last night?).
They called Mary yesterday. (Whom did they call?).

 Direct and Indirect Objects

A DIRECT object is the receiver of action within a sentence, as in "He hit the ball."

The INDIRECT object identifies to or for whom or what the action of the verb is performed.

The direct object and indirect object are different people or places or things.

Note: The indirect object is an animate object or objects to whom or for whom something is done. The direct object can be a person or a thing and is the first receiver of the action


(The direct objects in the sentences below are in boldface; the indirect objects are in underline.)

I gave the book to Dan.

(The book is the direct object because the first action was that of taking the book in my hand, and the second action, the indirect one, was to give it to Dan.)

  • The instructor gave his students A's.
  • Grandfather left Rosalita and Raoul all his money.
  • Jo-Bob sold me her boat.

Note: Incidentally, the word me is not always an indirect object; it can also serve as a direct object.


  • Bless me!
  • Contact me if you have questions.

Note: Be careful to distinguish between the direct object and an object complement:

They named their daughter Natasha.

In that sentence, "daughter" is the direct object and "Natasha" is the object complement, which renames or describes the direct object.

Note:  In English, nouns do not change form when they are used as objects or indirect objects, as they do in many other languages. Nor do the articles or adjectives that are attached to them. A radio is on the desk and I stole a radio use exactly the same word form for quite different functions.
This is not true of pronouns, however, which use different forms for different functions. (See, also, pronoun cases.)


, , , ( : The Normal Pattern in a Simple English Sentence - ). .

=> , , .


  • I bought a radio set.
  • I sent my father a telegram.

Note (to put on, to take off, to pick up, to let in . - : ) :

  • , ,
  • , , .


  • Put it on.
  • Let him in.
  • Put your coat on.
  • Put on your coat.
  • She put on her coat.
  • She put her coat on.
  • Let the boy in.
  • Let in the boy.

=> .


  • I sent my father a telegram.
  • We read the buyers the documents.

=> .


  • The sellers received a telegram from the buyers.
  • I sent a telegram to my father.

  Transformation of direct and indirect objects

=> There are two ways of writing the objects of many verbs without changing the meaning of the sentence.
The indirect object may occur after the direct object, preceded by a preposition, or it may occur before the direct object without being preceded by a preposition. The prepositions that are generally used in this structure are for and to.
Not all verbs allow for this object transformation. Here are some that do.

The verbs that allow for object transformation
to bring
to build
to buy
to cut
to draw
to feed
to find
to get
to give
to hand
to leave
to lend
to make
to offer
to owe
to paint
to pass
to pay
to promise
to read
to sell
to send
to show
to teach
to tell
to write

Study the following rules.

S + V + IO + DO

S + V + DO + {for | to} + IO

Note: Some of these verbs can be followed by either the preposition for or to, while others must be followed by one or the other. The transformation means exactly the same as the sentence with the original preposition. Study the following rules.

Note: In the first rule, where the indirect object precedes the direct object, no preposition exists.


  • John gave the essay to his teacher.
    John gave his teacher the essay.
  • The little boy brought some flowers for his grandmother.
    The little boy brought his grandmother some flowers.
  • I fixed a drink for Maria.
    I fixed Maria a drink.
  • He drew a picture for his mother.
    He drew his mother a picture.
  • He lent his car to his brother.
    He lent his brother his car.
  • We owe several thousand dollars to the bank.
    We owe the bank several thousand dollars.

=> The transformation is not possible in the folowing cases.

  1. If the direct object and indirect object are both pronouns, the second rule is generally used. ( , , .)


    They gave it to us.


    They gave us it.
  2. Some verbs must use the preposition to. So the second rule is used in this cases.
    The verbs that do not allow for object transformation
    ( )
    to announce
    to attribute
    to communicate
    to declare
    to deliver
    to describe
    to explain
    to introduce
    to mention
    to propose
    to prove
    to read
    to repeat
    to ship
    to submit
    to suggest
    to write
    and some others


    • Explain this rule to me.
    • He read the letter to her.
    • I introduced John to Dr. Jackson.
    • I introduced Dr. Jackson to John.
    • He mentioned the party to me.
    • They will deliver the goods to our agents at the end of the week.

  3. ( ) , , .


    • I told the news to him (and not to her).
    • He gave a book to my brother (and not to me).

  4. , , , (.. ).


    • To whom did you show the letter?
    • To which of you did he tell the news?
    • This is the student to whom I lent my dictionary.

Note: , , , .


  • What did he give the boy?
  • What did he give to the boy?
  • What book did he show you?
  • What book did he show to you?
  • I returned the book which he had lent me.
  • I returned the book which he had lent to me.
  • We have delivered the goods which we sold them.
  • We have delivered the goods which we sold to them.
  • :

  • What did he suggest to you?
  • The rule which the teacher explained to us is very difficult.

Note: , , , .


  • The ore was sold them for immediate shipment.
  • The ore was sold to them for immediate shipment.
  • The book was lent me for five days.
  • The book was lent to me for five days.
  • :

  • The rule was explained to us yesterday.


 The Complement

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A complement completes the verb. It is similar to the subject because it is usually a noun or noun phrase; however, it generally follows the verb when the sentence is in the active voice.

The complement cannot begin with a preposition.

Note:  Some verbs can take another verb as the complement instead of a noun. See also Verbs as Complements part for more.


The Adverbial Modifiers

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- , , .

A modifier tells the time, place, or manner of the action.

A modifier answers the question when? where? or how?


  • John bought a book at the bookstore. (modifier of place. Where did John buy a book?)
  • We ate dinner at seven oclock. (modifier of time. When did we eat dinner?)
  • He was driving very fast. (modifier of manner. How was he driving?)

Note: Every sentence does not require a modifier.


  1. (Adverb - : ):

    The doctor bent over him, but the Prince shook his head slowly.
    , .

  2. :

    In the room next door a lamp was lighted.

  3. (Adverbial clause - : ):

    The Count approached us while we were standing near the door.
    , .

  1. Very often it is a prepositional phrase.
    A prepositional phrase is a group of words that begins with a preposition and ends with a noun.

    in the morning,
    at the university,
    on the table

  2. A modifier can also be an adverb or an adverbial phrase.

    last night,
    next year,


, , , ( : The Normal Pattern in a Simple English Sentence - ).

S + V + (O) + Mm + Mp + Mt.

Note: .

Note: The modifier normally follows the complement, but not always. However, the modifier, especially when it is a preposition phrase, usually cannot separate the verb and the complement.




on the street

the car.






the car

on the street.





( ) ( ). , , , , .

S + V + (O) + Mm +...

  • Joan has lost her ball by chance.
  • Joan walked slowly.

S + (Vaux) + Mm[Adv] + Vtr + (O) +...

S + (Vaux) + Mm[Adv] + Vmain + (O) + Vinf +...

  • She has easily translated the article.
  • He flatly refused to answer the question.

=> , :

  1. , (: The Adverb - ) (: The Verb - )


    • He walked slowly.
    • The sun shines brightly.

  2. , , .


    • He answered the question calmly.
      He calmly answered the question.
    • He translated the article easily.
      He easily translated the article.
    • He has easily translated the article.
      He has translated the article easily.

  3. , .


    • Incorrect: He refused flatly to answer the question.
    • Correct: He flatly refused to answer the question.
    • Incorrect: I have read the book easily to find an answer to the question.
    • Correct: I have easily read the book to find an answer to the question.
    • Incorrect: He walked slowly to watch show-windows.
    • Correct: He slowly walked to watch show-windows.

  4. ( ) ( ) - .


    • I have read the letter with great pleasure.
    • I have read the letter to him with great pleasure.
    • I have read the book with great interest to find an answer to the question.
    • He walked with great pleasure.


=> , ( ).


  • I met him by chance at the theatre.
  • I met him easily at the theatre.
  • I easily met him at the theatre.


, .. . , .

S + V + (O + Mm + Mp) + Mt.

Note: A modifier of time usually comes last if more than one modifier is present.

  • I met him by chance at the theatre on Sunday.
  • Jill was swimming in the pool yesterday.
  • I have seen this film before.
  • I have not been there lately.

S + (Vaux) + Mt[Adv] + Vmain +...

  • He often goes there.
  • He always comes early.
  • I usually get up at seven o'clock.
  • I once went there with my brother.
  • I shall never forget it.
  • He has just left.
  • He must never get off the tram when it is moving.
  • He can always prove it to be true.

Note: , .

  • He has just been asked to take part in that work.

Note: "have" + Vinf "used" + Vinf, .

  • I often have to go there.
  • You always used to agree with me.

S + V['to be'] + Mt[Adv] + {N | Adj}...

  • He is always busy.
  • He is always here at five o'clock.
  • He is never late for the lectures.

=> .

  • On Sunday I met him by chance at the theatre.
  • To-morrow I shall go there.
  • Often in the literature the RLFs of phase space are described as circular.

=> .

  • He was born on the first of January in the year 1924.
  • I shall come here at ten o'clock to-morrow.


The Attribute

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Some determiners can be used only with count or non-count nouns, while other can be used with either... (Will be continued)



Go Top / Go back

Some determiners can be used only with count or non-count nouns, while other can be used with either... (Will be continued)


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