Sentence Patterns


“Sentence patterns” is just another way talk about the way a sentence is put together; the order of the elements in the sentence; sentence construction. Some sources say there are six English sentence patterns; some say eight. A few sources list even more. Here are the ones we feel are the most common, and the easiest to recognize:

1.  Subject + Verb (S-V)

This is the simplest kind of sentence.  It consists of a subject, a verb, and possibly some adjectives, adverbs,  or prepositional phrases.  There are no direct objects, indirect objects, or complements.

  • Abraham speaks fluently.  (subject, verb, adverb)

  • Many of the class members write well in class.  (subject, verb, adverbs) (The “complete” subject is “Many of the class members”–a noun phrase.)

2.  Verb + Subject (V-S)

Sentences in English usually have the subject come first, followed by the verb. But when a sentence begins with there is, there was, there are, there were, the verb comes first, followed by the subject. The word There is never a subject!

  • There is a strange shadow in the woods.  (verb, subject–the complete subject is the noun phrase a strange shadow, adverb)

  • There were no leftovers after the buffet.  (verb, subject, adverb)

3.  Subject + Verb + Direct Object (S-V-DO)

  • Andrew composes music.  (subject, verb, direct object.)

  • Matthew helps others in several English practice rooms.  (subject, verb, direct object, adverb)

  • Helen tells jokes to make people smile.  (subject, verb, direct object, adverb)

4.  Subject + Verb + Complement (S-V-SC)

A complement is a word or group of words that describe or rename the subject. Complements follow a linking verb.  There are two kinds of subject complements:  1) predicate nominative, which is a noun or pronoun that renames or classifies the subject of the sentence and 2) predicate adjective, which is an adjective that describes the subject of the sentence.

  • Mother looks tired.  (subject, verb, complement–predicate adjective)

  • Some students in the class are engineers.  (the noun phrase Some students in the class is the complete subject, verb, complement–predicate nominative)

  • The men are handsome, the women are clever, and the children are above-average. (compound sentence of three independent clauses, so three subjects, three verbs, threecomplements–all predicate adjectives)

5.  Subject + Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object (S-V-IO-DO)

An indirect object tells for whom or to whom. If the indirect object comes after the direct object (in a prepositional phrase “to ________” or “for _______”), the sentence pattern is shown as S-V-DO-IO.  Pronouns are usually used as indirect objects (but not always).

  • I sent her a birthday present.  (subject, verb, indirect object, direct object)

  • Jay gave his dog a bone.  (subject, verb, indirect object, direct object)

  • Granny left Gary all of her money.  (subject, verb, indirect object, direct object)

  • Granny gave every last asset to Gary. (subject, verb, direct object, indirect object in a prepositional phrase)

6.  Subject + Verb + Direct Object + Object Complement (S-V-DO-OC)

This pattern isn’t as common as the others, but it is used.  An object complement is a word or group of words that renames, describes, or classifies the direct object.  Object complements are nouns or adjectives and follow the object.

  • Debbie left the window open during the rain storm.  (subject, verb, direct object, object complement, adverb)

  • The class picked Susie class representative.  (subject, verb, direct object, object complement)


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