Basic English Syntax Handouts (1)

Intitulé du Master : Master 1 Linguistique ( LMD )
Semestre : 2
Intitulé de l’UE : Fondamentale 2
Intitulé de la matière : Basic English Syntax / G1+G2
Enseignant : TAKROUMBALT Mohammed Ameziane
Crédits : 4
Coefficients : 2
The term “Syntax” is from the Ancient Greek syntax, is a verbal noun which literally means
“arrangement” or “setting out together“. Syn–together, taxis–sequence, order. Traditionally, it refers
to the branch of grammar dealing with the ways in which words, with or without appropriate
inflections, are arranged to show connections of meaning within the sentence.
The expressions of a language involve a relationship between a sequence of sounds and a meaning,
and this relationship is mediated by grammar, a core component of which is syntax.
The study of sentence structure is syntax.
It concerns how different words which are categorized as nouns, adjectives, verbs etc. Are combined
into clauses which in turn combine into sentences. It means “Syntax” is concerned with the way
words combine to form sentences.
Syntax investigate into 5 levels :
Sentence are analyzed into clauses , clauses are analyzed into phrases. Phrases are analyzed into
words, words are analyzed into morphemes. In other words, morphemes are used to build words.
Words are used to build phrases. Phrases are used to build clauses. Clauses are used to build
Kinds of Sentences
Sentences can be classified in several different ways.
Simple, compound, complex, and complex –compound sentences are classifications
according to the kinds of clause in them.
Loose, balanced and periodic sentences are classifications according the position of the
subject and verb.
An embedded sentence is a grammatical structure that must be attached to an
Declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory sentences are classifications to the
way the sentence communicates an idea.
A declarative sentence makes a statement and ends with a period. Most sentences
that explain or persuade are declarative: They are coming.
An interrogative sentence asks a question and ends with a question mark.
An imperative sentence is a command and ends with a period: Come here.
An exclamatory sentence expresses strong feeling and ends with an exclamatory
They must come now!
An exclamatory sentence has the same
grammatical structure as a declarative sentence.
The sentence is the largest unit of syntax.
The sentence is the basic unit of communication in English. A sentence is a group of words
that expresses and conveys a complete thought from a speaker or writer to a listener or
reader. Clauses and phrases are the sub-units of a sentence.
The five possible elements of clause structure are
Parts of the Sentence
A simple sentence is a group of words having a
subject and predicate and expressing complete
thought. All sentences consist of two basic parts :
subject ( S ) and predicate ( P ).
The simple subject (SS) is the key noun or
pronoun (word or group of words acting as a noun)
that tells what a sentence is a about. Simple subject
is always a noun or a pronoun.
For example : The purity of revolution usually lasts
about 2 weeks.
Historical books that contain no lies are extremely
Forms of the Subject
The subject of the sentence has several formsThe
most frequent forms are nouns, proper nouns and
We shall overcome. [personal pronoun functioning
as the subject]
Who is on third base? [interrogative pronoun
functioning as the subject]
Marcus Garvey was a charismatic leader. [proper
noun functioning as the subject]
Those comments annoyed Jack. [noun functioning
as the subject]
Occasionally, larger structures, such as noun clauses, gerund, phrases and infinitive phrases,
can function as the subject of a sentence.
For convenience, nouns, pronouns and these larger structures are called nominals.
What he did annoyed Jill. [noun clause functioning as the subject]
Playing chess amused Jack. [gerund phrase functioning as the subject]
To collect every stamp issued by Mexico was Juanita’s ambition. [infinitive phrase
functioning as the subject]
Simple and Complete Subjects
The noun or pronoun by itself is the simple
subject. This subject is important to identify
because it controls the form of the verb. (The
simple subject and the verb form it controls are in
boldface type in these examples:) One of the
ships is sinking. The mayor, as well as the
councilmen, has been implicated.
The noun phrase – that is, the noun and all its
modifiers – is the complete subject. The complete
subject (except for the boldface simple subject) is
italicized in the examples above and below.
The furniture that they had bought on Monday was
delivered on Friday.
The Compound Subject
Sometimes more than one nominal can be used
as the subject of the sentence. The combination of
several nominals to express the topic of the
sentence is called a compound subject .
A compound subject is made up of two or more
simple subjects that are joined by a conjunction and
have the same verb.
E.g.: Foxes, wolves and dogs eat only meat .The
drivers and the loaders have threatened to strike.
Not only the price but also the quality of their
products fluctuates wildly.
What he did and what he said were not the same.
Complete Subject and Complete Predicate
The complete subject (CS) consists of the simple
subject and all the words that modify it or complete
its meaning. The complete predicate (CP) consists
of the simple predicate and all the words that modify
it or complete its meaning.
Complete Subject
Complete Predicate
The penguins of Antarctica dive into ice-cold water.
The light rain
will stop within an hour.
The gifted Maya Angelou
was featured in a newspaper article about
contemporary authors.
Forms of the Predicate
The predicate, what is being said about the topic of the sentence, always has a verb. The verb
usually has a verb completion called an object or a complement. Like the noun or the pronoun, the
verb often has modifiers. The predicate of the sentence is, in effect, made up of a verb, a verb
completion and some verb modifiers. The various forms of the predicate depend on the kind of verb
and the kind of verb completion involved.
The simple predicate (SP) is a verb or verb phrase that expresses the essential thought about the
subject of the sentence.
For example: Snow will stop.
Simple Subject
Simple Predicate
will stop.
is playing.
To find the simple subject, ask Who? or What ? about the verb.
For example: In the sentence “Mary is playing.”
The noun Mary answers the question who played.
The addition of other words and phrases to the simple subject and the simple predicate expands or
modifies the meaning of a sentence.
Predicate with a Transitive Verb
The most frequent form of the predicate is one where the verb expresses some kind of action
and is followed by a nominal. This nominal is called the object; the verb is called a transitive verb.
In the following sentences the verbs brought, tuned and said are transitive verbs.
They brought their guitars with them.
Betty tuned the piano.
After the party Jim said that they would have to
clean the place.
Some transitive verbs use two verb completions: a direct object and another structure called an
indirect object or a complement, to refer to the object and complete the meaning of the verb. Both
structures are needed to complete the thought. Compare :
He gave his teacher.
He gave his teacher the book.
[indirect object and direct object]
The problem made Jack.
The problem made Jack sweat.
[infinitive phrase (to) sweat as the
Nouns, pronouns and prepositional phrases starting with to or for can function as indirect objects.
Eliseo gave twenty pesos to his brother.
Eliseo gave his brother twenty pesos.
Luis cooked a meal for his sister.
Luis cooked his sister a meal.
He called her a taxi.
Nouns, pronouns, prepositional phrases, adjectives and verbal phrases can function as complements.
He called her a star. [The complement a star refers to the object her; they identify the same person.
This can easily be confused with the two-object form above: He called her a taxi. ( You’re a taxi is not
what is meant here!)]
He thought the whole thing a bad joke.
[The noun joke and its modifiers function as the complement.]
I made him sick. [adjective as the complement]
They heard their father leaving the house.
[participle phrase as the complement]
He put the book on the table.
[The prepositional phrase on the table functions as the complement]
Predicate with a Linking Verb
When the verb expresses being, seeming or becoming, the verb is called a linking verb. These verbs
are followed by a nominal, an adjective or an adverbial. (An adverbial is anything that works like an
adverb). Not many verbs function as linking verbs, but those are used frequently: be, seem, become,
remain, appear, look, feel, sound, taste, smell, grow.
E.g.: Puerto Rico became a commonwealth in 1952.
[noun as complement] Her point was that Michael Jordan was the greatest basketball player of all
time. [noun clause as complement ] Rita will be at her music teacher’s house. [the prepositional
phrase is the complement. It is an adverbial telling where]
Predicate with an Intransitive Verb
Some verbs do not need an object to complete them. These verbs can stand by themselves, or they
are completed by an adverbial that indicates location or direction. The adverbial is called the
complement. The verb with or without the complement is called an intransitive verb.
E.g.: The situation deteriorated. [Nothing completes the verb]
The clouds vanished. [Nothing completes the verb]
He lay down. [the adverbial down completes the verb. One cannot say He lay. This verb needs a
complement to indicate where he lay.]
He sat on the desk. [the adverbial on the desk is the complement]
Compound Predicate
A compound predicate (or compound verb) is made up of two or more verbs or verb phrases that are
joined by a conjunction and have the same subject.For example: Everyone stood and cheered. The
silver dollar fell from his pocket and rolled away. Roy will do the dishes, wash the floor and cook
Some sentences have both a compound subject and a compound predicate.
E.g.: Mitsuo and Carrie sat down and ate lunch.
Ordering of Subject and Predicate
In most sentences in English, the subject precedes the verb. The following are some exceptions to
this normal word order.
1. In the case of commands or request ‘you’ is understood rather than expressed.
E.g.: [You] stop! [You] Stand up. [You] please try again.
2. To add emphasis, a sentence can be written in inverted order, with the predicate coming before
the subject.
On the plain are
two frightened ostriches.
Beyond the river lay
3. The predicate usually comes before the subject when the words there or here begins a sentence
and is followed by a form of the verb To be.
Here is
my opinion.
There are
many reasons to go.
Depending on the meaning of the sentence, the same word may be intransitive verb.
The car ran well.
Ben ran
direct object
his car into a telephone pole.
A complement is a word that is necessary to complete the meaning of a verb. The four kinds of
complements are direct object, indirect object, object complements and subject complements.
linking verb predicate adjective
Barbara is
transitive verb
Barbara gave
indirect object
transitive verb
the ball.
direct object
Barbara found the work
direct object
objective complement adjective
transitive verb direct object objective complement noun
The committee elected Barbara chairperson.
A linking verb must be followed by a predicate adjective and a predicate noun, a pronoun or an
adverbial complement. A transitive verb in its active form must be followed by a direct object. Some
transitive verbs can also be followed by indirect objects and some can be followed by objectives
direct object
George found a Kite.
indirect object direct object
Goerge found
a Kite.
direct object
George found
objective complement
Henry difficult.
Depending on the meaning of the sentence, the same word may be transitive or linking verb.
Arthur grew
direct object
linking verb
Arthur grew
predicate objective
Direct Object
A direct object answers the question What? or Whom? after an action verb. The subject of a
sentence performs the action indicated by the verb. That action may be directed toward or received
by someone or something - the direct object.
Direct objects are nouns, pronouns or words acting as nouns. Only transitive verbs have direct
E.g.: Raymond needs money. [Raymond needs what?]
Inez saw us at the game. [Inez saw whom?]
Jerry explained what you meant.
[Jerry exsplained what?]
Lian invited Jamal and Paula to the party.
[Lian invited whom?]
A direct object follows an active verb. Somebody or something ( subject ) acts in some way ( verb ) on
somebody or something ( direct object )
Direct object
the ball.
bought some ice-cream.
The direct object is something or somebody different from the subject except for the rare direct
object that is a reflexive pronoun.
Direct object
a ball
himself (reflexivepronoun) on the elbow.
(it) over the fence.
The direct object can be a noun, a noun phrase, an object pronoun, a noun clause, an –ing form, or
an infinitive.
Direct object
the ball. (noun)
bought some ice-cream. (noun phrase)
bought it. (pronoun)
bought whatever we wanted. (noun clause)
eating ice-cream. (-ing form)
to eat ice-cream. (infinitive)
Indirect Object
An indirect object answers the question to whom? for whom? to what? for what? after an action
verb. In most cases a sentence must have a direct object in order to have an indirect object.
The indirect object always appears between the verb and the direct object.
E.g.: That noise gives me a headache.
[that noise gives a headache to whom?]
Michael brought Mary a gift.
[Michael brought a gift for whom?]
An indirect object is always part of a clause in which the main verb is an active verb. The indirect
object is almost always the person to whom or for whom something is done.
Active verb
Indirect object Direct object
the ball.
In the sentence above the indirect object comes before direct object. It can also come after the
direct object, following to or for. Most verbs can have the indirect object in either place.
Active verb
Mary threw
Direct object
the ball
to John.
Indirect object
Mary brought Fred
Indirect object
Direct object
a sandwich.
Direct object
Mary brought a sandwich
Indirect object
for Fred.
An object pronoun can be an indirect object.
Indirect object
Mary threw him the ball. (more common word order)
Indirect object
Mary threw the ball to him. (possible word order)
A non personal indirect object is possible with verbs such as give, owe, pay, and send.
Indirect object
Direct object
Frank paid the bank the amount that he owed.
Word order of Indirect Objects
1. With most verbs, if the direct object is a noun, the indirect object can be put either before it
or after it.
Active verb
Indirect object
Direct object
Indirect object
the book.
the book.
the book
to her.
2. If the direct object is a pronoun, the indirect
object usually comes after the direct object.
Direct object / pronoun/
Paul gave
Wilma bought
to her.
for John.
3. If either the direct object or the indirect object
is long or has many modifiers, it usually comes last.
Put an indirect object that is modified by a clause
or a long phrase after the direct object.
Direct object
Indirect object
Paul gave the book to the girl who was waiting for it.
Terry cooked dinner for the Boy Scout troop.
4. Certain verbs must have to or for with the indirect object. The to or for phrase usually comes
after the direct object. Some of the most common of these verbs are:
admit: She admitted her mistakes to her mother.
communicate: The dean communicated the decision to the student.
announce: The judges announced the winner to the crowd.
dedicate: The football team dedicated the game to their injured teammate.
describe: The tourist described the beautiful view to (for) us.
entrust: They entrusted their money to their best friend.
explain : The professor explained the problem to ( for ) him.
indicate : The guide indicated the way to me.
introduce : Albert will introduce you to his friends.
mention : Charlotte forgot to mention her accident to her husband.
outline : The director outlined the work to ( for ) us.
prescribe : The doctor prescribed medicine for the patient.
propose : The chairman proposed a new plan to the committee.
prove : The lecturer proved his theory to the audience.
recommend : My friends have recommended this restaurant to me.
repeated : I will repeat the problem to ( for ) you one more time.
report : The new members of the team reported to the coach today.
return : My brother returned the book to me.
suggest : The doctor suggested a vacation to him.
5. If a WH-word is the indirect object in a clause, the sentence will be a question. In that case, follow
the word order for questions.
Indirect object
Direct object
Informal: Who(m) did Terry cook dinner for?
Formal: For whom did Terry cook dinner?
6. With some verbs, the indirect object can become the subject of a passive sentence.
direct object
Active: Paul gave Jane
Direct object
the book.
Wilma asked them what the question was.
Passive: Jane was given the book ( by Paul )OR
The book was given to Jane ( by Paul )
They were asked what the question was.
Objective Complement
An objective complement modifies or gives additional information about a direct object. An
objective complement always follows a direct object. Only a few transitive verbs can take objective
direct object objective complement
Active: The club elected Helen treasurer. (noun)
Helen was elected treasurer. (noun)
Active: We found the baby crying. (adjective)
Passive: The baby was found crying. (adjective)
Active only: Charles made his mother happy. (adjective)
Active only: The training made the team a winner. (noun)
Only sentences with direct objects can have object complements. Only those sentences with these or
similar verbs that have the meaning of “make” or “consider” can have object complements.
name think
make render
An object complement may be an adjective, a noun or a pronoun. It usually appears in a sentence
after the direct object. For example:
The jury found the defendant innocent of all charges. [adjective]
Some pet owners consider their dogs children. [noun] The school board made the problem theirs.
Subject Complement
A subject complement follows a subject and linking verb identifies or describes the subject.
The two kinds of subject complements are predicate nominatives and predicate adjectives.
A predicate nominative is a noun or pronoun that follows a linking verb and points back to
the subject to identify it further.
E.g.: Many doctors are specialists.
The surgeon for this operation was she.
The general predicate nominatives appear in sentences with forms of the linking verb be. Predicate
nominatives may follow a few other linking verbs. ( For example: remain and become ).
E.g.: Ethiopia is an African country.
Allergies remain a problem.
Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to
graduate a medical school in the United
States, became a doctor and a teacher.
A predicate adjective follows a linking verb and points back to the subject and further describes it.
E.g.: Pandas are unique.
Airline pilots should be healthy.
Predicate adjectives may follow any linking verb.
E.g.: The journey will be tiring.
The nation grew more hopeful.
The dinner is delicious and nutritious.
The baby seems sick.
An adverbial is a construction that modifies or describes verbs.
An adverbial is any word, phrase or clause used like an adverb, whether functioning as an element
in clause structure or at some other level.
E.g.: She speaks English fluently. (word)
Hang your coat on a hanger. (phrase)
He speaks just like his father did. (clause)
When an adverbial modifies a verb, it changes the meaning of that verb. Traditionally adverbs are
divided into various meaning related categories, such as manner (which includes many typical – ly
adverbs. E.g.: sensibly, sadly), place (here, there, upstairs, downstairs), time (sometimes, yesterday,
soon), degree (too, very, only).
In modern grammar adverbs are sometimes analyzed in much greater detail.
The terms adverb and adverbial are distinct. Adverb is the name of a word class ( or part of speech).
An adverb phrase is a phrase headed by and adverb so an adverb can be a head of an adverb phrase.
E.g.: Very carefully is an adverb phrase. Carefully is a head of this phrase.
Adverbial is the name of constituent of a sentence or clause. An adverb phrase may function as an
I met my husband here. – an adverbial
In every sentence pattarn, the adverbial tells where, when, why, how etc.
Adverbials can answer the questions How? How often? When? Where? Why or to What extent?
How: The embers glowed softly.
How often: This flower blooms infrequently.
When: The exam will be taken tomorrow.
Where: The children are playing outside.
Why: I could not come to the meeting because of illness.
To What extent: Our emergency supplies were nearly gone.
Study these examples of adverbials and the questions they answer:
hurriedly, in a hurry
When? finally, at the weekend
Where? nearby, in the garden
To what extent? very, often
How to identify an adverbial clause? Compare:
I try hard, but I can never remember people’s names.
However hard I try, I can never remember people’s names.
Hard is an adverb; however hard I try is an adverbial (or adverb) clause: it is telling us something
about (or modifying) can never remember. Adverbs can often be identified by asking and answering
the question When? Where? How? Why? and adverbial clauses can be identified in the same way:
Time: Tell him as soon as he arrives. (When?)
Place: You can sit where you like. (Where?)
Manner: He spoke as if he meant business. (How?)
Reason: He went to bed because he felt ill. (Why?)
Types of adverbials: there are 3 types of adverbials.
- adjuncts
- conjuncts
- disjuncts
An adjunct is a type of adverbial illustrating the circumstances of the action expressed by the
sentence it appears in. It expresses such relations as time, manner, place, frequency, reason
and degree etc. Answers the questions : where, when, how and why. E.g.: I saw her yesterday.
(time adjunct).
Almost every semantic type of adjunct can be realized by a phrase with either an adverb or a
preposition as head (adverb or prepositional phrase). In the following, the first underlined
word in each clause is an adverb, the second a preposition:
1. She did it carefully/with great care. [manner]
2. They live locally/in the vicinity. [special location]
3. I haven’t seen her recently/since August. [temporal
4. She is working with us temporarily/for a short time.
5. They check regularly/at regular intervals.
6. I loved her immensely/with all my heart. [degree]
7. It failed consequently /for this reason. [reason]
A conjunct is an adverbial that adds information to the sentence, but which connects the
sentence with previous parts of the discourse. They indicate the connection between what is
being said and was said before. For example: The work should be finished sooner. It is
therefore necessary to encourage the operators. You may pick three times. However, should
you prefer just two, you still have a 25% discount. On the other hand she made an attempt to
help the victim. Here are examples of conjuncts, listed semantically:
First, second.... ; firstly, secondly....; next, then, finally, last (ly), in the first place, ...; first of
all, last of all, to begin with, to start with, likewise, similarly, in the same way, in conclusion,
to conclude, to summarize, on the contrary, in contrast, in comparison, on the other hand,
anyhow, anyway, besides, however, nevethless, still, though, yet; in any case, at any rate, after
all, at the same time, all the same time, incidentally, by the way
A disjunct is a type of adverbial that expresses information that is not considered essential to
the sentence it appears in, but which is considered to be the speaker’s or writer’s attitude
towards the propositional content of the sentence. Semantically disjuncts express an
evaluation. For instance: Honestly, I didn’t do it. Fortunately for you I have it right here.
In my opinion, the green one is better. To my surprise, the doctor phoned. There are two
major types of disjuncts: style disjuncts and content disjuncts. Disjunctives either express the
speaker’s or writer’s attitude to the content of the sentence (content disjunctives).
Style disjuncts can be paraphrased by a clause with a verb of speaking. For example, the style
disjunct frankly functions as a manner adverb “ in a frank manner”.
Frankly: I say to you frankly.....
Here are examples of style disjuncts, listed semantically:
Approximately, briefly, broadly, crudely, generally, roughly, simply, bluntly,confidentially,
frankly, honestly, privately, strictly, truly, truthfully, literally, metaphorically, personally.
Content disjuncts may be modal or evaluative: -This is probably a women’s size.
-Moreover, Irish votes have wisely never given him an overall parliamentary majority.
Wisely makes a value judgement on the subject of the sentence.
Here are examples of content disjuncts (a) modal,
(b) evaluative:
a/ admittedly, certainly, clearly, evidently, indeed, obviously, plainly, surely, undoubtedly,
apparently, arguably, likely, maybe, perhaps, possibly, presumably, probably, supposedly,
actually, basically, essentially, ideally, nominally, officially, stensibly,really, superficially,
technically, theoretically
b/ fortunately, happily, luckily, regrettably, sadly, tragically, unhappily, unfortunately,
amazingly, curiously, funnily, incredibly, ironically, oddly, remarkably, strangely, unusually,
appropriately, inevitably, naturally, predictably, understandably, amusingly, hopefully,
interestingly, significantly, thankfully.