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The Structure of the Simple Sentence

All words in a sentence perform definite syntactic functions.
As a rule, every English sentence contains words or groups of
words functioning as thesubject and thepredicate. Grammatical-
ly, these functions are independent and equally significant in the
sentence. For that reason they are called the principal parts
of the sentence.

Words performing all other functions in the sentence depend
either on the subject (and together they form thesubject-phrase
of the sentence) or on the predicate (together they form the predi-
of the sentence).

A sentence which has both the subject and the predicate is
known as a two-member sentence. Most English sentences are
two-member ones.

Sentences which consist of only the subject or only the predi-
cate are termed one-member sentences. There are not many one-
member sentences in English. We find among them:

1) sentences with a verb in the Imperative mood (e.g. Keep
clear of the road: Step aside, please.)

2) some exclamatory sentences (e.g. What a nice view! How

3) questions expressing suggestion (e.g. Why not give him a
telephone call? What about having a cup of tea?)

4) sentences expressing confirmation or negation (e.g. Yes. No.)

5) some formulas of courtesy (e.g. Hello! Good-bye! See you to

Sentences built up of only the subject and the predicate are
called unextendedsentences (e.g. The rain has stopped. It is cold.)

Sentences in which, besides the principal parts, there are
words performing other (secondary) functions are called extended
sentences (e.g. Edward was mostanxious to hear all the news
about his family.).

For practical purposes of learning English, it is necessary and
sufficient to distinguish the following syntactic functions within
a simple sentence.

I. The Subject

The subject is a word or a group of words which names the
person, object or phenomenon the sentence informs us about. It
may be expressed by a noun, a pronoun, a substantivized adjec-
tive, a numeral, an infinitive and an ing-form.

e.g. The stranger came early in February.
Hospitality was a passion with him.
You're not a bad fellow.
This is my son Henry.
Someonewas singing an Italian tune.
Muchdepends on the letter.
Whathas become of him?
Ithas been raining since the morning.
It'shard to forget one's past.

Theyoung often complain that the eldersdo not understand


Two of the letters were from my uncle.

The Dutchare famous for their tulips.

The extraordinaryalways excites curiosity.

To knowall about English is one thing; to knowEnglish is

quite another.
Watching TV has become his favourite pastime.

II. ThePredicate

The predicate is a word or a group of words that informs us of
what is happening to the person, object or phenomenon indicated
as the subject in the sentence.

The predicate differs from all the other parts of the sentence in
that it relates the information contained in the sentence to reality, i.e.

it is the means of expressing predication and modality for the whole
sentence. For that reason there is only one part of speech that can
function as predicate — it is the verb in one of its finite forms.

A finite verb may be used in this function alone or combined
with other parts of speech. Depending on the structure, predi-
cates are divided into the following kinds:

1) simple verbal predicates —they consist of only a notional
verb (in any tense, aspect, voice or mood form),

e.g. His words frightenedme.
I've givenher every chance.
The heavy luggage had been putin a dry place.
I shouldn't thinkthe idea so unreasonable.

To this kind also belong predicates expressed by phraseological
units and set phrases which are treated as verb equivalents in this

e.g. They are having breakfastnow.
I took a walkas far as the river.
She amuses herself
at our expense.
They have been taking careof your children long enough.

2) compound nominal predicates —they consist of a link-verb
and a predicative (= a nominal part) commonly expressed by a
noun or an adjective. Other parts of speech may also be some-
times found in the function of predicative (see below).

The link-verb expresses all the verbal characteristics of the
predicate whereas the nominal part is the main bearer of mean-
ing. The most commonly occurring link-verbs are to be, to be-
come, to get, to grow, to look, to seem, to turn.

e.g. He was a mining engineerby profession.
The leaves are turning yellow.
Dave looked surprised.

3) compound verbal predicates —they consist of a finite form
and a verbal or an adjective. The meaning of the first component
is very pale. It mainly serves as a finite verb and usually express-
es the speaker's attitude or indicates the position/motion of the
subject. The meaning of the verbal or the adjective is quite promi-
nent and determines the meaning of the whole unit.

As the first component of a compound verbal predicate we find:

a) modal verbs (can, may, must, be to, have to, shall, should,
will, would, ought to, need, dare),

e.g. You oughtn't to go backon your word.
You should have goneto the concert.
He had to tellthe story to his room-mate.
She must have regretteddoing it.

b) verbs of seeming (to seem, to appear),

e.g. He seemed to have heardthe news.

For a moment she appeared to be hesitating.

c) verbs of unexpected occurrence (to happen, to turn out, to
chance, to prove),

e.g. They happened to meetat the bus-stop.

He turned out to haveno feelings for his nephew.

d) some verbs of position and motion (to stand, to sit, to lie,
to be in/out/away, to come, to go),

e.g. He sat staringat the letter.
The boys have gone fishing.
Mother is out shopping.
They stood motionless
with their backs to the wall.

III. The Predicative

A predicative (= the nominal part of a compound nominal
predicate) may be expressed by a noun, an adjective, anumeral, a
pronoun, an infinitive, an ing-form and sometimes an adverb.

e.g. He was not an artist,but he liked to create artistic things.
It was getting dark.
Henry, as usual, looked reserved.
The book is very amusing.
We were sixin the room.
This suit-case is mine.

My first thought was to askhim for support.
My job was gettingit alldone in time.
Everybody is in.

IV. The Second (Subsequent) Action
Expressed by a Verbal

Verbals in this function indicate a second action accompanying the
action of the predicate verb. If transformed, the two actions would
form homogeneous predicates connected by the conjunction and.

A second action may be expressed by an infinitive, an ing form
and a participle.

e.g. He woke up to see his wife sitting by his bed. (= He woke up

and saw...)
He walked down the path humming a tune. (= He walked...

and hummed...)
Having locked the office he started for home. (= He locked...

and started...)
Dressed, he stood staring at the fire. (= He was dressed and


V. The Subjective Predicative

Words in this function occur after a limited number of verbs in
the Passive Voice (see "Verbs", §§ 192, 221, 248; "Nouns", § 21;
"Adjectives", § 7). They modify the subject of the sentence, forming
with it a syntactic complex, often known as the complex subject.

A subjective predicative may be expressed by a noun, a noun
introduced by as, an adjective, an infinitive, an ing-iorm and a

e.g. He was appointed secretary of the committee.
He was regarded as a promising young writer.
The box was found empty.
He was heard to mention it.
The children were seen running down the lane.
The note was found pinned to the door.

VI. The Objective Predicative

Words in this function occur after a limited number of verbs
in the Active Voice (see "Verbs", §§ 193, 222, 249; "Nouns", § 21;
"Adjectives" § 7). They modify the object of the sentence, forming
with it a syntactic complex, often known as the complex object.

An objective predicative may be expressed by a noun, a noun intro-
duced by as, an adjective, an infinitive, an ing-form and a participle.

e.g. They appointed him secretary of the committee.
We regarded him as a promising young writer.
I found the box empty.
We thought the game dull.
They heard him mention it.
He saw the children running down the lane.
She had her hair cut very short.

VII. The Object

Objects are words which modify verbs and adjectives. They
complete their meaning indicating the person, object or phe-
nomenon which the action of the predicate verb affects.

Objects may be expressed by a noun, a pronoun, a substan-
tivized adjective, an infinitive and an ing form. There are three
kinds of objects:

1) direct — a prepositionless object immediately following the

e.g. I miss the opera here.
I heard him on the radio.
We did not find anyone there.
I found it difficult to cope with the task.
Do you want to speak with me?
It pained him to think of it.
I'm extremely sorry to disturb you.
It was foolish to speak like that.
They found it difficult to walk in the deep snow.
I usually avoid asking him questions.
She was busy packing upstairs.
It was pleasant lying on the warm sand.
I thought the book worth reading.

2) indirect — a prepositionless object placed between the pred-
icate verb and the direct object and indicating the person who is
the receiver of the action.

e.g. They offered Ed a new job.
I lent him my car.

3) prepositional —an object introduced by a preposition.

e.g. He had been waiting for Noraa long time.
That doesn't depend onme, you know.
He was afraid of dogs.
Do you believe in the supernatural?
He is keen on collectingshells.
He thought ofgoing awayfor the week-end.
He was used to havingan early breakfast.


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