Wednesday, 10 September 2008


Unit 1 Clause and sentence structure

Main points

* Simple sentences have one clause.
* Clauses usually consist of a noun group as the subject, and a verb group.
* Clauses can also have another noun group as the object or complement.
* Clauses can have an adverbial, also called an adjunct.
* Changing the order of the words in a clause can change its meaning.
* Compound sentences consist of two or more main clauses.
Complex sentences always include a subordinate clause, as well as one or more main clauses.

1 A simple sentence has one clause, beginning with a noun group called the subject. The subject is the person or thing that the sentence is about. This is followed by a verb group, which tells you what the subject is doing, or describes the subject's situation.
I waited.

The girl screamed.

2 The verb group may be followed by another noun group, which is called the object. The object is the person or thing affected by the action or situation.
He opened the car door.
She married a young engineer.

After link verbs like `be', `become', `feel', and `seem', the verb group may be followed by a noun group or an adjective, called a complement. The complement tells you more about the subject.

She was a doctor.
He was angry.

3 The verb group, the object, or the complement can be followed by an adverb or a prepositional phrase, called an adverbial. The adverbial tells you more about the action or situation, for example how, when, or where it happens. Adverbials are also called adjuncts.

They shouted loudly.
She won the competition last week.
He was a policeman in Birmingham.

4 The word order of a clause is different when the clause is a statement, a question, or a command.

He speaks English very well. (statement)
Did she win at the Olympics? (question)
Stop her. (command)
Note that the subject is omitted in commands, so the verb comes first.

5 A compound sentence has two or more main clauses: that is, clauses which are equally important. You join them with `and', `but', or `or'.

He met Jane at the station and went shopping.
I wanted to go but I felt too ill.
You can come now or you can meet us there later.

Note that the order of the two clauses can change the meaning of the sentence.

He went shopping and met Jane at the station.
If the subject of both clauses is the same, you usually omit the subject in the second clause.
I wanted to go but felt too ill.

6 A complex sentence contains a subordinate clause and at least one main clause. A subordinate clause gives information about a main clause, and is introduced by a conjunction such as `because', `if', `that', or a `wh'-word. Subordinate clauses can come before, after, or inside the main clause.

When he stopped, no one said anything.
If you want, I'll teach you.
They were going by car because it was more comfortable.
I told him that nothing was going to happen to me.
The car that I drove was a Ford.
The man who came into the room was small.

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