Do you teach sentence patterns to your students outright? Most textbooks don’t deal with sentence patterns all at once, but I’ve found it really helps my students understand English better when I lay out the patterns for them. When English language learners have a basic understanding of sentence patterns and structures in English, they can recognize parts of speech and correct their mistakes more easily.
Basic Sentence Patterns
English uses a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) sentence pattern, but this is only the beginning. Let’s take a look at the patterns for the main parts of speech in English.
1. Nouns (S, O, N):
Nouns are people, places, or things. Nouns and pronouns can be subjects of a sentence, objects of a sentence, or objects of a preposition. Nouns are often preceded by an article (Art), including a, an, the, a number (one, two), a quantifier (many, a few), or a possessive adjective (my, their).
|S + V + O||People like him.|
|Art + N||The girl ate an apple.|
2. Verbs (V):
Verbs are the action or state of being in a sentence. Verbs usually follow a subject and can be followed by an object. With imperative verbs, the subject is dropped.
|S + V (+ O)||My sister jogs.
She likes him.
|V (+ O)||Begin.
3. Adjectives (Adj):
Adjectives describe nouns and have two common patterns in English.
|Adj + N||beautiful flower|
|BE + Adj||The flower is beautiful.|
4. Adverbs (Adv):
Adverbs can describe verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or even the whole sentence. For more details and examples, see 7 Adverb Patterns.
|Adv + V||often go|
|V + Adv||speak fluently|
|V + Adv + V||is quickly preparing|
|Adv + Adv||really well|
|Adv + Adj||very shiny|
|Adv + S + V + O||Actually, I like rainy days.|
|S + V + O + Adv||I like rainy days, actually.|
5. Prepositions (Prep):
Prepositions are little words that indicate direction, time, place, etc. They are followed by a noun.
|Prep + N||at school|
Expanding on the Basics
Intermediate-level students need to see how the patterns work in conjunction with each other. For example, in the Prep + N pattern, the noun can take an article (Art + N) and/or an adjective (Adj + N).
|Adj + N||fast car|
|Art + Adj + N||a fast car|
|Art + Adv + Adj + N||a really fast car|
|Prep + N||at school|
|Prep + Art + N||at the school|
|Prep + Art + Adj + N||at the elite school|
|V + Adv||writes often|
|V + Adv + V||is often writing|
|V + Adv + Adv + V||is so often writing|
|SVO||Cats chase mice.|
|(Art + N) + V + (Art + N)||The cats chase the mice.|
|(Art + Adj + N) + (Adv + V) + (Art + Adj + N)||The hungry cats always chase the scared mice.|
For higher-level students, you can now show how complex sentences involve multiple clauses and phrases that are joined by conjunctions, transitional words (adverbs), punctuation, etc.
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