Writing Sentences

Lesson 1.

The basic sentence pattern in English is:

Subject / Verb / Complement

I / like / video games.

The word "complement" comes from the word complete. It it the part that completes the meaning of the sentence. Don't confuse it with the word compliment, which means to flatter someone. The subject is always a subject and a verb is always a verb, but the complement can be different things. The most common is probably an "object." An object is a noun or pronoun that the verb acts upon and answers the question "what?, or in the case of a person, "whom?"

I eat (what?) > apples.

"Apples" receive the action of the verb "eat." That's an object. Anything that receives what is happening in the verb is a verb object. Here is another: I / play / basketball. Again, an object must be a noun or pronoun and answers the question "what? or whom?"

There are two main types of verbs, action and stative. Action verbs show actions while stative verbs show states or circumstances. For example, "I own a car." The word own show no action but only a state, situation, or circumstance. Compare I own a car, to I drive a car. in I drive a car, the verb drive shows an action. Only action verbs can ever have -ing put on them; stative verbs cannot. I can say I am driving a car, but I cannot say I am owning a car.

There is a misconception that the verb must be an action verb to have an object. But that is not at all true. Stative verbs can have objects too and usually do, like in the first example at the top, I like video games. Like is not an action verb but a stative verb. Though stative verbs don't show any actual "action" they still impart something to an object even if just a feeling or situation. Stative verbs do not show any physical action but instead show a state of being, like: like, love, hate, want, owe. Do you see the difference between verbs like eat, walk, talk, run, throw; and verbs like like, love, have, know, or want? Action verbs show physical movement, but stative verbs show situations: I owe ten dollars to Bob. Note that you can put -ing on action verbs but not on stative verbs. You can't say "I'm owing ten dollars to Bob."

So, you will need a clear understanding of verbs before continuing.

There are action verbs (also called dynamic verbs) and stative verbs (also just called state verbs), and a third type of verb called linking verbs (also called copular verbs). Linking verbs are a special type of stative verb that can be followed by adjectives. That's the test. If a verb can be followed by an adjective, it's a linking or copular verb. For example: She is beautiful. So any verb you ever find will be an action verb, a non-linking stative verb, or a linking stative verb. Remember linking verbs are also stative verbs. So, there are really only TWO main types of verbs, action and stative, but there are two kinds of stative verbs, non-linking and linking. All of the "be" verbs, are linking verbs. There are eight be verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, and been. The be verb is the only verb that has eight forms. All others have four: present, past, past participle and present participle, as in eat, ate, eaten, eating.

Guess what? Linking verbs do not link to objects, but to what are called subject complements. In the sentence "She is beautiful," the word beautiful is an adjective that describes the subject "she." A subject complement is a different kind of sentence complement that is called a subject complement. Objects are verb complements, while subjects complements are subject complements. So, now we have two ways to end a sentence, an object or what is often called a direct object, and a subject complement. Next, you should understand that there are two types of subject complements. One is an adjective, and the other is a noun that renames the subject, as in: My father / is / a fireman. Fireman isn't an adjective, but a noun. That noun "fireman" is still describing the subject but in a different way, it's renaming the subject in a more specific way. It's sill a subject complement, though. These two types of subject complements have special names: predicate adjectives and predicate nouns (also called predicate nominatives.) Just remember that the word "nominative" and "noun" both begin with a n.

Yet, another way to end a sentence is with an indirect object. an indirect object receives the object. For example: I threw John the ball. The word "ball" is the direct object, and John received the ball; John is the indirect object. Note the indirect object is more properly written before the direct object, but may be rephrased as a prepositional phrase after the object, like this> I threw the ball to John.

So let's review:

We learned that a sentence is composed of a subject, a verb, and a complement that completes the meaning of the sentence.

There are basically two verb types, actions and stative, but stative verbs have a subcategory called linking verbs that can be followed by adjectives. They don't have to be followed by adjectives, however. They are sometimes follow by nouns that rename the subject. It might be best to just figure there are three types of verbs, action verbs, non-linking stative verbs, and linking stative verbs. Only the last type, linking verbs, cannot take objects. Both action verbs, and non-linking stative verbs can and usually do take objects

Actions verbs and stative don't always take objects, though. When they cannot take objects, they are called intransitive. For instance like saying: "I sneezed." Sneezed is an action verb, but there is no object. Nothing received the sneeze. You could say "I sneezed on the tissue," LOL, but "on the tissue" is not an object, it's a prepositional phrase acting as an adverb telling us where something happened. Another example would be, "He laughed." Laughed at is a phrasal verb and can take an object>> "I laughed at her." An example of an intransitive stative verb would be "know," as in I know.> " John is a nice guy." "I know."

We learned that the complement can be of different types: a direct object, a subject complement of two types (adjectives or nouns) an indirect object (something the receives that object). We can also just have nothing at all as a complement, as in "I sneezed."

We aren't finished yet, though. We still have three more types of complements.

Next is the object complement. Just like the subject compliment, there are two types, adjectives and nouns. These are words that describe the object. Here are some examples: I named my dog Spot, or I made him angry, or, I painted my room green. Do you see how Spot, angry, and green describe the object with either an adjective or noun? Only a few main verbs allow for object complements.

Lastly, there is the adverbial complement. An adverbial complement is a sentence complement where an adverb or adverbial phrase is needed to complete the sentence. For example, I put the flowers on the table. Without the "on the table," the I put the flowers makes no sense. We need to know where the flowers were put. You could also have something like, She is ... . We would like to know where of course -- In the kitchen, or playing golf, or at her friend's house might be appropriate. Some very strict grammarians argue that She is, is already a complete sentence meaning she exists, so the in the kitchen is just a regular adverb adjunct (extra information.) LOL. Just try saying "She is." in answer to the question, "Where is mom?," and see if anyone thinks you made any sense. No need to be splitting hairs here. The in the kitchen should be considered for normal situations to be necessary information and an adverbial complement, and not just an adverbial adjunct. in any event, just remember sentences can sometimes be ended with only adverbs.