English Grammar Review
Sentences and Choices

Sentence Patterns

All sentences are based on ten basic patterns.

1. NP1 + Vbe + ADV/TP
    He is here.
2. NP1 + Vbe + ADJ
    She is happy.
3. NP1 + Vbe + NP1
    They are managers.
4. NP1 + LV + ADJ
    He seems interested.
5. NP1 + LV + NP1
    She became CEO.
6. NP1 + Vint
    They answered.
7. NP1 + Vtr + NP2
    He needs advice.
8. NP1 + Vtr + NP2 + NP3
    She gave me books.
9. NP1 + Vtr + NP2 + ADJ
    They consider me helpful.
10. NP1 + Vtr + NP2 + NP2
    He made her boss.

NP : Noun Phrase
Vbe : Verb of being
LV : Linking Verb
Vtr : Transitive Verb
Vint : Intransitive Verb
ADV/TP : Adverb of Time or Place
ADJ : Adjective

Note: NP1 and NP2 in the same sentence means those noun phrases refer to different things. NP1 and NP1 in the same sentence means those noun phrases might be different words, but they refer to the same thing.

Memorizing those ten patterns is unlikely to make you a better writer at work. But being familiar with the nomenclature does provide several benefits.

First, it helps us understand that underneath general concepts such as the subject and the predicate there are well-known building blocks we use to make up proper sentences.

Second, it provides us with structure that can assist us in rewriting, which is the hard-won skill of the gifted writer.

Need for rewrite: answer and explain

Suppose you received an email that asked the question, "How many people were in the meeting in Caracas?"

You click Reply and write, "Nine."

But you change it to, "Nine people were there."

Or, perhaps best, you change it to, "There were nine people in the meeting."

Question: Why do this?

Answer: To respond with professional clarity and to avoid the possibility of appearing abrupt.

This transformation requires that you start with sentence pattern 1 with a verb of being as the main verb.

1. NP1 + Vbe + ADV/TP

Nine people + were + there.

The transformation includes two steps:

(1) Place There at the beginning of the sentence.

(2) Reverse positions of the subject and verb.

1-transformed:

There + Vbe + NP1 + ADV/TP.

There were nine people there.

Even more professional and clear:

There were nine people in the meeting.

Need for rewrite: ask for verification

Suppose you need to ask that something be verified.

This transformation may be used with any of the sentence patterns, but it varies based on the pattern.

Case A: The main verb is a verb of being, Vbe.

The transformation includes one step:

(1) Transpose the positions of the subject and verb.

1. NP1 + Vbe + ADV/TP

Carlos is here.

1-transformed:

Vbe + NP1 + ADV/TP

Is Carlos here?

Case B: The main verb is a linking verb or a transitive verb, but has an auxiliary verb have or be.

The transformation includes one step:

(1) Transpose the positions of the subject and the auxiliary verb.

5. NP1 + LV + NP1

Daniela became CEO.

5-aux:

NP1 + Vaux-LV + NP1

Daniela has become CEO.

5-aux-transformed:

Vaux + NP1 + LV + NP1

Has Daniela become CEO?

Case C: The main verb is a linking verb or a transitive verb, but does not have an auxiliary verb.

The transformation includes one step:

(1) Begin the sentence with the verb do, but with the appropriate number and tense.

7. NP1 + Vtr + NP2

Rafael needs advice.

7-do:

NP1 + do + Vtr + NP2

Rafael does need advice.

7-do-transformed:

do + NP1 + Vtr + NP2

Does Rafael need advice?

Need for rewrite: ask for explanation

Here we will change a declarative sentence to an interrogative sentence that is expected to produce details beyond a yes/no answer.

This transformation may be used with most of the sentence patterns, and has several steps:

(1) Reverse positions of the subject and verb.

(2) Place an interrogative word at the beginning of the sentence:

How . What . When . Where . Which . Who . Whom . Why

Example:

3. NP1 + Vbe + NP1

Mr. Trujillo is the manager.

3-transformed:

Why + Vbe + NP1 + NP1

Why is Mr. Trujillo the manager?

Need for rewrite: emphasize something

This is needed when we want to draw special attention to the subject or object in the sentence.

This transformation may be used with any of the sentence patterns, and has several steps:

(1) Begin the sentence with It and a verb of being with the appropriate number and tense.

(2) Focus on the subject or object.

(3) Create a second half of the sentence that begins with that, who, or what.

Example - emphasizing the subject:

8. NP1 + Vtr + NP2 + NP3

Quintina gave me books.

It + Vbe + NP1 + who + Vtr + NP2 + NP3

It was Quintina who gave me books.

Note: Extra words, it and who, now refer to the given subject. That creates a strong emphasis.

Example - emphasizing the object:

8. NP1 + Vtr + NP2 + NP3

Quintina gave me books.

It + Vbe + NP3 + that + NP1 + Vtr + NP2

It was the books that Quintina gave me.

Note: Extra words, it and that, now refer to the object. Again, we have a strong emphasis.

There are a variety of sentence transformations (some say nine total) that are left for the interested reader to research and absorb. Good luck with that.

Lesson: Sentence Patterns
Module: Sentences and Choices
Course: English Grammar Review