Logo Image for Writing Support

Sentence Structure: Subject-Verb-Object Sentences

Understanding Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) sentences

A subject - verb - object sentence consists of a subject See the glossary definition , a monotransitive verb See the glossary definition , and a direct object See the glossary definition . Both the subject and the object are always filled by noun phrases or nominal See the glossary definition clauses. A subject - verb - object sentence could be as simple as the example below:

However, as we have seen, noun phrases can be long and complex so most SVO structures are much longer, as in some of the examples below (click and drag to stop, start and find the sentence you wish to examine):

You can view an analysis of some of the noun phrases in the above examples in the animations below (click on Subject or Object to view each noun phrase).

Indicates an obligatory element. Indicates an optional element.

In the above example the head of the subject phrase is "studies" and there are two premodifiers; the adjective "separate" and the noun modifier "attribution". The adjective "separate" really applies to "attribution studies": separate [attribution studies].

The example above contains an ed-clause See the glossary definition "consumed later in the day". You can see more examples of ed-clauses on the ed-clause page.

In the above example the head of the object is "policies" which is part of a prepositional phrase See the glossary definition "of public policies". "increasing" is a participial adjective modifying the noun "number", which is itself modified by an embedded prepositional phrase. You can see that we have a complex structure here, but these are not uncommon in academic writing. You can see more about these constructions and embedding on the prepositional phrase page.

There is one example above in which the object is not a noun phrase: the sentence "A doctor discovered what was wrong.". The clause "what was wrong" is a nominal relative clause See the glossary definition acting as the object.

Optional Elements

Most sentences contain one or more optional elements as well as those strictly necessary to form a grammatical construction. Here are a few examples:

Indicates an obligatory element. Indicates an optional element.

Leaving the adverb "only" out of the sentence would still leave a grammatical sentence.

"Sometimes" is a time (or frequency) adverbial. Omitting it would still leave a grammatical sentence.

You can see further examples of this structure (including optional elements) on the SVOd page and test yourself on the SVO Quiz page and the SVOd exercise page.


Next ❯ ❮ Previous