The Sentence: Six Basic Patterns Built On Verb Types

Basic sentence patterns are built around verbs. There are six different verb types that are followed by structures always associated with those verbs. Therefore, there are six basic sentence patterns, which are also called sentence nuclei. Once these basic patterns are understood, other structures may be attached to the sentence nuclei to form larger sentences. These other structures added to the sentence nuclei are usually phrases or clauses that function as nouns, verbs, adjective and adverbs.

1. The first verb type is called "intransitive." This type of verb can end the sentence, or it can be followed by an adverb phrase. Intransitive verbs do not need to be followed by noun phrases or adjective phrases.

1a. The president spoke.

1b. Margo slept.

1c. Margo slept soundly.

1d. The small boy jumped from the high oak tree.

1e. Jimmy went to London.

2. The second verb type is called "linking." This type of verb must be followed by noun phrases or adjective phrases, which refer to the same person or thing as the subject of the sentence. Some typical linking verbs are become, appear, grow, remain, stay, and seem. Some other linking verbs involving the senses are feel, look, smell, sound, and taste. Note that the forms of the verb "be" are placed in a special category below, because forms of "be," unlike other linking verbs, can be followed immediately by an "adverb of place."

2a. Clark Kent became Superman.

2b. The president looked weary.

2c. Jamal remained an honest man.

3. The third verb type is the word "be" and all its forms, which is a special category of linking verb. The verb "be," unlike other linking verbs, can be followed by a phrase functioning as an "adverb of place," in addition to the noun phrases or adjective phrases that follow other types of linking verbs. The word "be" has eight forms: be, is, am, are, was, were, been, being.

3a. The student is a math whiz.

3b. Marilyn was insecure.

3c. The new houses are around the corner. (The verb is followed by a phrase functioning as an adverb of place.)

4. The fourth verb type is "one-place transitive." This verb must be followed by a noun phrase that functions as a direct object. Often the subject "does something" to this object. Sentences with transitive verbs can usually be turned into passive sentences. Note that some intransitive verbs can also be used as transitive verbs.

4a. The office manager typed the letter.

4b. Satellites monitor the country's military bases.

4c. The country's military bases are monitored by satellites. (Sentence 4b is changed to a passive sentence.)

5. The fifth verb type is "Vg two-place transitive." This "Vg" verb can be followed by one of two structures. In the first pattern, the verb is followed by two noun phrases, with the first noun phrase functioning as an indirect object, and the second functioning as a direct object. The alternate sentence pattern is related to the first, but the first noun phrase is a direct object, and the second is an indirect object placed in a prepositional phrase introduced by "to" or "for," or more rarely by "of." Sentences formed from "Vg" verbs must always have both direct and indirect objects. Although indirect objects are usually living things, they can also be inanimate objects.

5a. Dennis bought Ann some fancy flowers.

5b. Scientists fed some nutritious food to the laboratory rats.

5c. The Governor gave the schools additional money.

5d. The senator asked a question of the Supreme Court Justice.

6. The sixth verb type is "Vc two-place transitive." This "Vc" verb is followed by a noun phrase that functions as a direct object, plus another noun phrase, adjective phrase, or infinitive phrase that functions as a complement. The term "complement" refers to a structure that completes a phrase or clause.

6a. Republicans consider Democrats big spenders.

6b. Excessive tax cuts make some people uncomfortable.

6c. Some historians believe Franklin Roosevelt to be our most effective president.