The fixed syntax of English

English syntax today is comparatively fixed than to the past. Every statement form adheres to the seven sentence patterns with two being variations of the five base sentence patterns. Once understood, the speaker has in their grammar arsenal the tools necessary to make beautiful sentences.

The seven sentence patterns are:

  • Jane smiled. (SV)
  • Peter was handsome. (SVC)
  • Jane hugged him. (SVO)
  • Peter made her mad. (SVOC)
  • Peter gave her a ring. (SVOO)
  • Jane ran away. (SVA)
  • Jane took the ring off. (SVOA)

All English sentences will adhere to these seven patterns. Optional parts (mostly adjectives, adverbs, and adverbial phrases) maybe added to them, but equally these optional parts may be removed without change to the basic meaning of the sentences.

Note that the adverbial (A) in the last two sentences (SVA and SVOA) cannot be removed without changing the meaning.

  • Jane ran.
  • Jane took the ring.

Both these two sentences, even though they are perfectly good sentences, are now different to the original intended meaning.

Finally, the word ‘fixed’ cannot be emphasized enough also. A change in word order means a change in meaning. Consider these two sentences:

  • The boy hit the ball.
  • The ball hit the boy.

Even though they contain the same set of words the order of the words changed the meaning entirely.

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