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Structural classification of sentences


§ 2. From the point of view of their structure, sentences can be:

1.Simple orcomposite (compound and complex).

2.Complete orincomplete (elliptical).

3.Two-member (double-nucleus) orone-member (single-nucleus).


These three classifications are based on different approaches to the structural organisation of sentences and reflect its different aspects.

The difference between the simple sentence and the composite sentence lies in the fact that the former contains only one subject-predicate unit and the latter more than one. Subject-predicate units that form composite sentences are called clauses.


Honesty is the best policy. (one subject-predicate unit)

Still waters run deep. (one subject-predicate unit)

You can take a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink, (two subject-predicate units, or two


You never know what you can do till you try. (three subject-predicate units, or three clauses)


The difference between the compound and complex sentence lies in the relations between the clauses that constitute them (see § 137, 138, 144).


Complete and incomplete (or elliptical) sentences are distinguished by the presence or absence of word-forms in the principal positions of two-member sentences.

In a complete sentence both the principal positions are filled with word-forms.


When did you arrive?

I came straight here.


In an incomplete (elliptical) sentence one or both of the main posi­tions are not filled, but can be easily supplied as it is clear from the context what is missing.


Cheerful, aren’t you?


Could’ve been professional.

Wrong again.


Elliptical sentences are typical of conversational English. One-member and two-member sentences are distinguished by the num­ber of principal parts (positions) they contain: two-member sentences have two main parts - the subject and the predicate, while one-member sen­tences have only one principal part, which is neither the subject nor the predicate.

Two-member sentences:


The magpie flew off.

We are going to my house now.

One-member sentences:


An old park.


Low tide, dusty water.

To live alone in this abandoned house!




Two-member sentences


§ 3. The basic pattern of a simple sentence in English is one subject-predicate unit, that is, it has two main (principal) positions: those of the subject and of the predicate. It is the pattern of a two-member sentence. There are several variations of this basic pattern, depending mainly on the kind of verb occupying the predicate position. The verb in the predicate position may be intransitive, transitive, ditransitive or a link verb.

Here are the main variants of the fundamental (basic) pattern:


1. John ran.

2. John is a student.

3. John is clever.

4. John learned French.

5. John gives Mary his books.


6. John lives

in London. there

7. We found John guilty.

8. We found John a bore.


The basic pattern may be unextended or extended.

Anunextended sentence contains two main positions of the basic pattern, that of the subject and tlie predicate.


Mary laughed.

Mary is a doctor.

Mary is happy.


An extended sentence may contain variousoptional elements (including attributes, certain kinds of prepositional objects and adverbial modifiers).


John ran quickly to me.

My friend John is a very kind student.

Mary laughed heartily at the joke.


Obligatory extending elements are those which complete the meaning of other words, usually verbs, or pronouns, which without them make no or little sense. Therefore obligatory elements are called complements.


John learned French. (the meaning of “learned” is incomplete without the object “French”)

John gives Mary his books. (the meaning of “gives Mary” conveys different meaning without the object

“his books”)

John lives in London, (the meaning of “lives” is incomplete without an adverbial of place)


One-member sentences


§ 4. One-member sentences in English are of two types:nominal sentences andverbal sentences.

Nominal sentences are those in which the principal part is expressed by a noun. They state the existence of the things expressed by them. They are typical of descriptions.


Nominal sentences may be:


a) unextended.

Silence. Summer. Midnight.


b) e x t e n d e d.

Dusk - of a summer night.

The grass, this good, soft, lush grass.

English spring flowers!


Verbal sentences are those in which the principal part is expressed by a non-finite form of the verb, either an infinitive or a gerund. Infinitive and gerundial one-member sentences are mostly used to describe different emotional perceptions of reality.


To think of that!

To think that he should have met her again in this way!

Living at the mercy of a woman!


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