1 April 2016

Sentence Elements


Dividing simple sentences into their elements is the first step in grammatical analysis.

Every sentence can be divided into its elements. An element is made up of one or more words which together comprise the element. Sentence elements constitute the ‘building units’ of a well-formed sentence

There are five types of sentence element:
1 subject
2 verb
3 object
4 predicative (aka complement)
5 adverbial (aka adjunct)

A sentence element approach to grammar assumes a top-down methodology: it starts with the sentence as a whole and then divides it into its functional components.

In the sentence below every type of sentence element is present and is represented in this example by a single word.

They elected him president yesterday.

They (=subject), elected (=verb), him (=object), president (=predicative), yesterday (=adverbial)


Subject and predicate

In English every sentence has a subject. The subject is the grammatical topic of the sentence and the predicate (consisting of the remaining elements of the sentence) is the comment on the subject. Look at the example below.

Mr Jones planted cabbages in the garden.

In this example Mr Jones is the subject, and planted cabbages in the garden is the predicate. Mr Jones is the grammatical topic; and the comment is that he planted cabbages in the garden.

The subject is necessarily a nominal (e.g. noun, pronoun, noun phrase or clause).

The verb governs the predicate and determines whether objects, predicatives and adverbials are required, permitted or proscribed. Look at the example below:

My older brother gave Lorna a book yesterday in the garden.

In this example the verb to give requires two objects (direct: a book, indirect Lorna) and permits temporal and locative adverbials (yesterday and in the garden)

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