Patterns of the English Simple Sentence

Patterns of the English Simple Sentence

Hello dear reader, I want you to know that there are many sides to the English sentence that we need to explore. That is why here, we want to examine Patterns of the English Simple Sentence. We have looked at the simple sentence and its various definitions, we have also examined types of sentences from two perspectives: types according to structure and types according to function. We even dedicate a post to the syntactic elements of the clause structure.

Patterns of the English Simple Sentence

The English sentence has two main patterns. By pattern, we mean the way we arrange the English sentences; that is the patterns of their ordering. The two patterns are the Basic and the Non-Basic Patterns. Let us consider these two patterns closely…

The Basic Simple Sentence Pattern

In this pattern, the subject is always the first structural element and the predicator immediately comes after it. That is, we have the Subject-Predicator (S-P) structure. Any sentence that does not follow this pattern is simply a non-basic sentence. In other words, any alternative to the subject-predicator structure or pattern results in the non-basic pattern. Let us see some examples:

  • The man ate a delicious meal. [S/P/C]
  • I was in the class. [S/P/A]
  • The man ate the food hungrily. [S/P/C/A]
  • Many people attended the show. [S/P/C]
  • We travelled in the business class. [S/P/A]

The Non-Basic Simple Sentence Pattern

This, by structure, involves modifications of the basic simple sentence pattern. In other words, in the non-basic pattern of the simple sentence, the Subject-Predicator (S-P) structure is slightly or wholly affected by the arrangement of syntactic elements. There are various forms by which this is done. Let us see them…

Forms of the Non-Basic Simple Sentence Pattern

The Pattern of the Imperatives Sentence

Examples of this include these imperative sentences:

  • Answer only two questions. [P/A/C])
  • Reply the letter immediately. [P/C/A]
  • Come at once. [P/A]
  • Serve them some food. [P/C/C]
  • Kill the snake now. [P/C/A]

The subjects in the sentences above have been deleted and the predicator used are also imperatives.

The Attachment of the Optional Adjunct to the S-P Structure

This has to do with the insertion of an adjunct in-between the subject and the predicator such that it alters the S-P structure and results into a non-basic pattern. For example:

  • We hurriedly left the class. [S/A/P/C]
  • The man, in a flash, arrived. [S/A/P]
  • The boy quickly pocketed the money. [S/A/P/C]
  • He scarcely goes out. [S/A/P]
  • She angrily stomped out of the meeting.

The Pattern of the Interrogative Sentence

This pattern alters the basic pattern of the simple sentence. The following interrogative sentences show this:

  • Can you bring up the issue now? [P-/S/-P/C/A]
  • What is your name? [C/P/S]
  • Are they fine? [P/S/C]
  • Why are we here? [A/P/S/A]
  • Do you plan to travel tomorrow? [P/S/-P/C/A]

Here, there are instances of the S-op inversion; the subject-operator inversion. The auxiliary is the operator which can come before the subject. That is, ‘can you’ ‘is your name’, ‘are you’, ‘do you’, etc.

The Pattern of the Exclamatory Sentence

Exclamatory sentences are used to express our emotional feelings-anger, sadness, happiness, sorrow, etc.

  • How I used to fear Lagos! [A/S/P/C]
  • What a wonderful man he is! [C/C/S/P]
  • What a mess we are in! [C/-A/S/P/A-]
  • How did we get here! [A/P-/S/-P/A]
  • What a price she paid! [C/C/S/P]

‘How’ is an ‘ex-element’; that is, an exclamatory element and ‘what’ is a complement intensive.

Movement of Elements for the Sake of Emphasis

Sometimes, in order to emphasise a point, certain syntactic elements of the simple sentence are moved. Let us see the following examples:

Movement of Complement Intensive

  • A skilful player Ronaldo is. [C/S/P]
  • A wonderful man my father is.[C/S/P]
  • A phenomenal singer Michael Jackson was. [C/S/P]
  • A serial killer Hannibal the Cannibal was. [C/S/P]

The complement intensive elements have been moved to the front for the sake of emphasis, resulting in a non-basic sentence pattern.

Movement of Complement Extensive

  • The goods were brought by the men. [C/P/S]
  • The snake was killed by the man. [C/P/S]

This is also an instance of non-basic simple sentence pattern, a product of a transformation, because there has been an inversion of the complement to the subject position resulting in a passive structure. Consequently, all passive sentences are non-basic sentences.


From the above, we can come to the conclusion that the non-basic patterns represent the modification of the basic pattern or the transformational process or processes which a basic pattern has undergone. At this Point, it is important to differentiate between the non-basic pattern of the simple sentence and the non-simple sentence.

While the non-basic pattern is a modification of a single representation of the simple sentence, the non-simple sentence is a combination of two or more simple sentences. For instance:

  • Watch and pray.

The sentence is a non-simple sentence because it contains two predicators. See more discussions on Structural Classification of the English Sentence.

It is also important to note that it is not the length of a sentence that determines whether it is simple or non-simple; it is the structure. Simply check the sentence whether it follows the rule for basic or non-basic sentence before you classify it as either. Consider this sentence which is a non-basic simple sentence:

  • Yesterday, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, two beautifully dressed elegant young Italian ladies with an eye for fashion arrived a classy Lagos hotel in a chauffeured new 2017 black Cadillac with police escorts. [A/A/S/P/C/A]

Note that the letters used at the end of the sentences we used as examples represent the following:

S {Subject}, P {Predicator}, P- {Predicator not complete}, -P {Predicator complete}, A- {Adjunct not complete}, -A {Adjunct complete}, C – {Complement – Intensive and Extensive}


Now I will make this easy for you. I will give you the following sentences in the non-basic form and all you need do is turn them into the basic form. Do you mind trying? Send me your answers in the comment box and share with your friends too.

  1. Let us work hard.
  2. Going home every Christmas is what I love.
  3. What can you offer them?
  4. How often do you visit New York?
  5. Let us pray.
  6. A master guitarist King Sunny Ade is!
  7. In a blinding flash, the hawk swooped on the chick.
  8. Can’t we just have a day of peace in the Middle East?
  9. Does your car run on a twelve-cylinder engine?
  10. Yesterday, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, two beautifully dressed elegant young Italian ladies with an eye for fashion arrived a classy Lagos hotel in a chauffeured new 2017 black Cadillac with police escorts.

I wish you all the best. Do send your answers in the comment box.


  1. 1)we have to work hard
    2)I love going home
    3)I can offer you
    4)I visit new York
    5)We have to pray
    6)King Sunny Ade is a master guitarist
    7)The hawk swooped on the chicken
    9)My car run on a twelve cylinder engine

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