( next lecture-adjectives/adverbs)

Major Clause Patterns

Syntactic functions: Subject (S), Verb (V), Direct Object (dO), Indirect Object (iO), Subject Predicative (sP), Object Predicative (oP), Adverbial (A)

Constituent / clause element: a word/phrase/clause that fulfils a syntactic function in a clause or a sentence

  1. Peter has been reading. (S-V)
  1. He chose the book because his girlfriend recommended it. (S-V-A)

Basic clause patterns: the ways in which the different constituent types can be combined in a clause (minus optional constituents)

Valency: the number of constituents that are required in addition to the verb in order to form a grammatical sentence (one-place verb: verb + one constituent, two-place verb: verb + two constituents etc.)

  1. It is snowing. (one-place: verb + subject)
  2. A heavy snowfall has blocked the road. (two-place: verb + subject + object)
  3. I’ve put a note on the door. (three-place: verb + subject + object + adverbial)

Transitivity: a transitive verb requires a direct object to complete the sentence. The opposite is intransitive.

One-place verb: SV

  1. Mary has left.
  2. Mary left a moment ago.
  3. All the honey had been eaten.

Two-place verb:

I: SVdO (monotransitive verb)

  1. Polly snatched my letter.
  2. They have eaten all the honey.
  3. We’ve been trying to organize ourselves.



II: SVsP (copular verb: ascriptive or equative)
ascriptive: the sP denotes a quality/property of the subject referent
equative: the sP refers to the same thing as the S, only with a different label. The verb is usually be, and could be replaced by an equals sign (=)

  1. Life is a joke. ascriptive
  2. He seems a bit odd. ascriptive
  3. The authorities have become aware of these practices. ascriptive
  4. I finally got rid of him. ascriptive
  5. Something went wrong. ascriptive
  6. Blindern is the name of the campus. equative
  7. Words are the building blocks for speech. equative
  8. All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth. equative



III: SVA (intransitive verb – obligatory adverbial)

  1. This job leads to nothing.
  2. He lives in a world of his own.
  3. We are in an auditorium.
  4. This glass breaks easily.



Three-place verb

I: SViOdO (di-transitive verb)

  1. She handed me a letter.
  2. I’ll call you a taxi.
  3. I paid her the full amount.



II: SVdOoP (complex transitive)

  1. She considers herself ordinary.
  2. They made the evening a success.
  3. It left her lame in her right leg.
  4. They call themselves Williams.

III: SVdOA (monotransitive verb – obligatory adverbial)

  The crisis in ambulance services is putting lives at risk.

  It’s bringing tears to my cheeks.

  They must keep the aircraft in continuous use.


A note on Adverbials (see further EGTU, ch. 10 - and  hereis the handout):

Adjunct: Obligatory or optional. Denotes time, place, manner, reason, condition, etc.
Disjunct: Always optional. The speaker’s comment on the content of the sentence, or on the truth of it (probably, maybe, certainly, as a matter of fact, frankly, in a way ...)
Conjunct: Always optional. Links sentences together (furthermore, however, secondly, to conclude ...)


Troublemaker I: postmodifier vs. object predicative

I have a basket full of apples. The basket is full of apples
* The basket is full because I have it.

I filled the glass full. The glass became full.
The glass is full because I filled it.

Troublemaker II: direct object vs. subject predicative:

She felt a fool. She felt the material. She kissed a fool.

Troublemaker III: SViOdO vs. SVdOoP

He found her a good husband. (SViOdO - he found a husband for her)
He found her a good wife. (most likely: SVdOoP - he thought she was a good wife)

I made David a meal. (SViOdO - I prepared a meal for David)
I made David a success. (SVdOoP - I caused him to be a success)

Troublemaker IV: Delimiting constituents: postmodifier vs. adverbial

I know the bloke with the beard in the corner over there.
We stationed the bloke with the beard in the corner over there.
He photographed the bloke with the beard in the corner over there.
                                                                                - ambiguous; the picture was taken in the corner (adverbial)
                                                                                    or a picture was taken of the man in the corner (postmod)

Minor patterns

Anticipatory subject (aS)(it/there) – the notional subject comes at the end of the clause

  1. There is milk in the fridge. (SVA)
  2. Is there any food left? (SVA)
  3. It is unlikely that mastery of English grammar will ever make you rich. (SVsP)
  4. It makes sense to create such a system. (SVdO)
  5. It is hard keeping a relationship going. (SVsP)

Anticipatory object (aO)

  1. I find it hard to accept this sudden change.


Free predicative (FP) - characterising the subject

  1. Terrified, they ran away as fast as they could go. (cf. They were terrified and ran away …)

Vocative (Voc) - calling the attention of the hearer

  1. What’s that, Sarah?
  2. You in the blue jacket, come here!

Insert (Ins)

  1. Ah, that’s nice of you.
  2. Oh well I don’t know.

Oblique object - a prepositional phrase with roughly the same meaning as an object

  1. I sent an application to a computer company. (cf. I sent them an application.)
  2. I’ll save one for you. (cf. I’ll save you one.)
  3. They never presented him with this problem. (He was never presented with this problem.)
  4. They never presented this problem to him. (The problem was never presented to him)


  1. And they lived happily ever after.
  2. She’s nice, if you like that type.

Semantic roles of subjects:

Agent: Mary gave John a book.

Affected: A book was given to John.

Instrumental:The book made John happy.

Charaterized:The book was expensive.

Semantic roles of direct objects:

Affected: Peter burnt the toast.

Effected: Peter made us toast.

Eventive: Peter gave a shout.

Semantic role of indirect objects:

Recipient: Mary gave John a book.

Semantic role of subject and object predicatives:

The students were overwhelmed.
The students looked overwhelmed.
The students found grammar intriguing.

Exercises with clause analysis  here
More on form and function in  The Internet Grammar

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