Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 6

speech-t herapy-inf ormat ion-and-resources.

com
http://www.speech-therapy-information-and-resources.com/clause-structure.html

What is a clause?
We represent our experiences linguistically by packaging inf ormation into clauses. As such, clauses can be
considered to be the key unit of grammar. They are units of inf ormation structured around a verb phrase
(VP) and, according to some theories (e.g. Systemic Functional Theory), a basic clause must consist
minimally of a Subject and a verb.
Using a dif f erent descriptive approach, however, clauses may be described in terms of processes (what is
going on), participants (the person(s) or thing(s) involved), and the circumstances accompanying the
process (see What Do We Talk About?). Using this descriptive approach, a basic clause must consist of a
process and at least one participant.
There are several exceptions to the above claims but space does not allow a more detailed discussion. The
interested reader is ref erred to the work of Biber, Conrad and Leech (2002).
For now, we will examine the seven basic clause structures in English that are built around a verb phrase:
1. SVO
2. SV
3. SVA
4. SVC
5. SVOC
6. SVOA
7. SVOO
SVO structure
English syntax generally f ollows a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) order. Consider the f ollowing example.
the boy hugged the dog
We see that the Subject of the clause (the thing or person perf orming the action) is the boy; the Verb,
which describes the particular action, is hugged, and the Object (the thing undergoing the action) is the dog.
This clause can, theref ore, be represented as f ollows.
Subject Verb Object
the boy hugged the dog
We have also noted how both the Subject and Object are represented by noun phrases and that the Verb is
represented, as it must always be, by a verb phrase. Further examples of the basic SVO structure include
the f ollowing.
Subject Verb Object
my dad washed his car
your f riend was opening the door
Verity is throwing a ball
The basic SVO structure of English syntax can be modif ied in a number of ways but there are two main
methods. The f irst is to remove or replace a f unctional element and the second is to add another
f unctional element to the three-part structure.
SV structure
The basic Subject-Verb-Object structure can be reduced to produce a clause with the structure Subject-
Verb (SV), e.g.
Subject Verb
Anila kicked
my mother is drilling
the girl laughed
Li Wei went
A point to note here is that some verbs may take an Object, and thereby be expanded into the basic SVO
structure, whereas some may not. Consider the f irst example Anila kicked. This SV structure could be
expanded into an SVO structure as f ollows.
Subject Verb Object
Anila kicked the ball
Similarly, the second example my mother is drilling could also be expanded into an SVO clause, e.g.
Subject Verb Object
my mother is drilling a hole
Verbs such as kick and drill that are capable of taking an Object are ref erred to as transitive verbs.
However, not all verbs are capable of taking an Object. Consider the verb laugh in the third example the girl
laughed. It is not possible to expand this utterance into an SVO structure, e.g.
Subject Verb Object
the girl laughed it
It is evident that this utterance is syntactically incorrect because laugh is incapable of taking an Object.
Similarly, the verb go in the f ourth example Li Wei went is also not capable of taking an Object. So, f or
example, the f ollowing construction is also syntactically incorrect.
Subject Verb Object
Li Wei went it
Verbs such as laugh and go that do not take an Object are known as intransitive verbs.
SVA structure
The Object in the basic SVO structure can be substituted by an Adjunct that supplies f urther detail about
actions, events and states. Adjuncts are most of ten optional elements that provide inf ormation related to
manner, time, location or cause. Consider the f ollowing.
Subject Verb Adjunct
the small child cried very loudly [Adjunct of manner]
my f riend lef t that evening [Adjunct of time]
Sarah lives in America [Adjunct of location]
she has been sad since you lef t [Adjunct of cause]
We noted earlier that Adjuncts may be represented by adverb phrases, noun phrases and prepositional
phrases. From the above examples, the Adjunct of manner in the small child cried very loudly is represented
by the adverb phrase very loudly. Further examples of Adjuncts represented by adverb phrases include the
f ollowing.
Subject Verb Adjunct (AdvP)
Rooney played superbly
my charming son was hovering rather sheepishly
she would behave so bravely
From the previous examples, the Adjunct of time in my friend left that evening is represented not by an
adverb phrase but by a noun phrase, that evening. Further examples of Adjuncts represented by noun
phrases include the f ollowing.
Subject Verb Adjunct (NP)
the boy ran two miles
your f ourth cousin sang this af ternoon
Ravi shouted that morning
The Adjunct of location in Sarah lives in America f rom the earlier examples is represented by a prepositional
phrase, in America. Further examples of prepositional phrases f unctioning as Adjuncts include the f ollowing.
Subject Verb Adjunct (PrepP)
Robert ran to the door
Helens brother played af ter his dinner
the ball was bouncing on the pitch
SVC structure
There is a f undamental dif f erence between an Object and a Complement. The dif f erence is that the Subject
and Object ref er to dif f erent things whereas the Subject and Complement (in a SVC clause) ref er to the
same thing. Consider the f ollowing.
Subject Verb Object
Julie stroked the cat
In this clause, the Subject ref ers to one thing (Julie) and the Object ref ers to another thing (the cat), i.e.
they are not the same. In contrast, the Subject and Complement ref er to the same thing, e.g.
Subject Verb Complement
Dawn seems happy
In this clause, the Complement (happy) makes ref erence to the same thing as the Subject (Dawn), i.e. it is
Dawn that is happy. Other examples include the f ollowing.
Subject Verb Complement (AdjP)
Brian went mad
this book is rather terrible
my mother appeared sad
It should be apparent f rom all of these examples that the Complement ref ers to the same thing as the
Subject, i.e. Brian is mad, the book is terrible, the mother is sad. In all the examples provided above, the
Complement has been represented by an adjective phrase consisting of just a head adjective (mad, terrible,
sad). However, we have indicated that Complements may also be represented by noun phrases. For
example:
Subject Verb Complement (NP)
the witch changed into an ant
Adam was born a hero
Kathryn became the dentist
Again we see that the Subject and Complement ref er to the same thing, i.e. the witch is the ant, Adam is the
hero, Kathryn is the dentist. In each of these examples, the Complement is represented by a noun phrase
made up of an identif ier and a head noun (an ant, a hero, the dentist).
SVOC structure
Recall that, as well as removing or replacing an element in the basic SVO structure, we can also add other
elements. One possibility is to append a Complement, i.e. SVOC. We have seen that when a Complement
f ills the same position as the Object in the SVO structure then the Complement ref ers to the same thing as
the Subject. However, the Complement ref ers to the same thing as the Object when it f ollows the Object.
For example:
Subject Verb Object Complement
Paul considered your ideas rather silly
It is apparent in this example that the Complement (very silly) ref ers to the same thing as the Object (your
ideas), i.e. it is the ideas that are very silly and not Paul that is very silly. Other examples include:
Subject Verb Object Complement
Cole f ound the game f rustrating
the mussels made Rupinder ill
Duncan designed the room rather dark
In each of these examples we see that the Object and the Complement ref er to the same thing, i.e. it is the
game that is f rustrating and not Cole that is f rustrating; it is Rupinder who is ill and not the mussels, and it
is the room that is dark and not Duncan.
SVOA structure
As well as adding a Complement to the f undamental SVO structure, we can also add an Adjunct. Recall that
Adjuncts are discretionary elements that supply extra inf ormation related to manner, time, location, and so
on. Consider the f ollowing.
Subject Verb Object Adjunct
the boy hugged the dog gently
In this utterance the Adjunct f unction is represented by an adverb phrase that consists of just the head
adverb gently. This Adjunct provides additional inf ormation regarding the manner in which the Subject, the
boy, carried out an action on the Object, the dog. We now realize that this action was carried out gently.
Here is a f urther example.
Subject Verb Object Adjunct
the man held the woman so sof tly
In this clause, the Adjunct is again represented by an adverb phrase, this time consisting of the head adverb
softly that is pre-modif ied by the intensif ying adverb so. Once more, this is an Adjunct of manner that
describes how the Subject, the man, perf ormed the action of holding on the Object, the woman. Here are
some f urther examples of SVOA structures.
Subject Verb Object Adjunct
Graeme wrote his essay quickly [Adjunct of manner]
the therapists assessed the children yesterday [Adjunct of time]
Daniel cleaned his f lat in London [Adjunct of location]
SVOO structure
The f inal English clause structure involves the addition of a second Object to the primary SVO structure, i.e.
SVOO. When two Objects are included in a clause a distinction is made between the direct object (Od) and
the indirect object (Oi). The direct object is the thing or person undergoing an action, being talked about,
and so on, and the indirect object is the person who is the recipient or benef iciary of the action. Consider
the f ollowing example.
Subject Verb Indirect Object Direct Object
Anna gave her mother a beautif ul card
In this example, the thing undergoing the action is a beautiful card, i.e. it is the card that is being given. This
is, theref ore, the direct object. The person who benef its f rom the action is her mother, i.e. the beautif ul
card is given to the mother. This is, theref ore, the indirect object. Consider a f urther example.
Subject Verb Indirect Object Direct Object
Graham sent Margaret his love
In this clause the thing undergoing the action of being sent is his love, i.e. it is Grahams love that is being
sent. This is, theref ore, the direct object. The recipient of the action is Margaret, i.e. she is the one who
receives Grahams love. This is, theref ore, the indirect object. Further examples of SVOO clauses are given
below.
Subject Verb Indirect Object Direct Object
Alex sent Ryan his regards
the twins shipped their f riends the carved clock
Sheila tossed Amerjit my shuttlecock
References
Biber, D., Conrad, S. and Leech, G. (2002) Student Grammar of Spoken English Harlow: Longman.