Grammar 5


Building Blocks

Clauses and phrases are the basic building blocks of the English sentence. We can put them together in thousands of different combinations, and usually we connect them with a drop of "glue" (a glue word).

Here are but a few examples:

clause glue phrase
clause glue clause


clause glue phrase glue clause
phrase glue clause glue phrase

For a sentence to be "complete", it needs to have at least one clause.


Now let's zoom in on a clause. By zooming in, we can see that clauses are built from smaller units called subjects and predicates. The subject always comes first, and the predicate always comes last.

subject predicate

If we zoom in even further, we start to see subtle variations. For example, we notice that there are actually two different kinds of subjects (real and dummy), and that predicates are made up of smaller blocks called verbs, objects, and complements.

subjects predicates
  • (real) subjects
  • dummy subjects
  • verbs
    • linking verbs
    • action verbs
  • objects
    • (direct) objects
    • indirect objects
  • complements

Furthermore, if we were to analyze thousands of clauses, we would eventually notice that these building blocks are always assembled in a predictable order. In fact, these blocks are always found in one of five different patterns.

Here are the five clause patterns, in slightly more detail than you need to know at this moment.

1 subject linking verb complement
2 subject action verb  
3 subject action verb (direct) object
4 subject action verb indirect object direct object
5 dummy
the rest of the sentence

Understanding these five basic clause patterns is our overarching goal for this unit.

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.