Taken from my guide to sentence structure and word order, Word Order in English Sentences, here is a brief introduction to basic sentence structure in English.
Sentences in English stick to a standard general order, that is simply explained as:
(1) Subject (2) Verb (3) Object
These general groups of words can be a single word each, or entire phrases. This is especially true for the object part of the sentence structure, which can represent any complement to the verb, or additional information.
- The subject is the actor of the verb.
- The verb is the action, event or state.
- The object is what the verb is done to.
For sentences with more information, the additional information can be divided into smaller parts, including indirect object, direct object, place/location and time. These usually follow this word order:
- The indirect object is what is affected by the verb.
- Prepositional phrases, or place are noun phrases usually started by a preposition. As well as location, they can show different indirect objects or tools used (with prepositions such as with, for, and to).
- The time is when the event happens.
Not all groups of words are necessary in all sentences. A basic sentence in English should at least have a subject and verb, though sometimes even a subject is not necessary (such as with instructions).
These two example structures are the very beginning of understanding sentence structure in English. The components can also be broken down into words or grammatical functions, which may have their own rules to define how they are formed (such as adjective word order, or compound noun word order).
Each of these components can also become more complicated as they can contain large amounts of information. For example, the time can be made of a time clause, which needs its own subject-verb-object pattern to be a complete idea. An object can be a clause too. Consider the following sentence:
- The bus that I took was driven by a man who had no idea what he was doing.
In its simplest form, the components can still be broken down into three basic parts, subject (The bus that I took) verb (was driven) object (a man who had no idea what he was doing). However there is clearly a lot more to it than this!