Published: Nov 28, 2023 | By: Lucas Weaver
English sentence structure can be tricky for some non-native English speakers, specifically depending on which native language you speak.
However, the good news is that it’s pretty straightforward and consistent once you get the hang of it.
And unlike so many other frustrating areas of learning English, sentence structure has rules. And we stick to these rules all the time.
Some students get frustrated by the idea of having to learn “grammar rules.” But this should make you happy, rather than sad.
Let me explain why.
Imagine trying to play a game but no one told you the rules. They just yelled at you each time you made a mistake - “Hey! You can’t do that!”
Wouldn’t be a fun game, would it?
That’s exactly why it’s good for you that English sentence structure has consistent rules that will help you write easy-to-read sentences and texts over and over again.
In my course “Mastering English Writing Fluency,” I cover everything you need to know to about English sentence structure, as well as word order, comma rules, and much more, that gives you the ability to write effectively in English with confidence.
However, in this blog post, I’ll stick to a high-level overview. I’ll break down the fundamentals of English sentence structure and provide you with practical tips to improve your skills.
Before we dive into sentence structure, let's first familiarize ourselves with the basic parts of a sentence:
The subject is the entity that performs the action or is being described in the sentence. It answers the question "Who?" or "What?"
The verb is the action or state of being in the sentence. It answers the question "What is happening?"
The object is the recipient or receiver of the action in the sentence. It answers the question "Whom?" or "What?" Additionally, some sentences may have indirect objects, which receive the direct object.
The complement provides additional information about the subject or object. It can be an adjective, noun, or phrase that completes the meaning of the sentence.
English sentences can be categorized into four basic structures: Subject-Verb (SV), Subject-Verb-Object (SVO), Subject-Verb-Adjective (SVA), and Subject-Verb-Adverb (SAdv).
Let's explore each structure:
The subject-verb structure is the simplest sentence form in English. It consists of only a subject and a verb. Here's an example:
"The dog barks."
The subject-verb-object structure is the most common sentence structure in English. It includes a subject, a verb, and an object. Here's an example:
"He eats an apple."
"They watch a movie."
The subject-verb-adjective structure includes a subject, a verb, and an adjective that describes the subject. Here's an example:
"She is happy."
"The weather seems nice."
The subject-verb-adverb structure consists of a subject, a verb, and an adverb that describes the verb. Here's an example:
"He runs quickly."
"She sings beautifully."
When it comes to sentence structure, English stands out for its consistent use of Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) order.
Unlike many other languages that change word order or use different structures all the time, the fact that English sticks to SVO gives a nice advantage for language learners.
In this section, let’s look at why the consistency of English's SVO structure helps learners and can make you proficient more easily.
English's consistency in using SVO structure gives room for greater clarity and predictability in making sentences.
Learners can easily identify the subject, verb, and object in a sentence, which aids in understanding the intended meaning.
This clear and predictable pattern helps learners develop a strong foundation in constructing grammatically correct sentences.
"She (subject) is reading (verb) a book (object)."
"They (subject) enjoy (verb) playing (object) soccer (object)."
English's SVO structure also offers transferable skills to language learners. Once learners grasp the SVO pattern, they can apply this knowledge to construct sentences across various contexts and topics.
By understanding the basic sentence structure, learners can form sentences in different tenses, ask questions, and express a wide range of thoughts and ideas.
Present tense: "He eats an apple."
Past tense: "She watched a movie."
Questions: "Do you like pizza?"
Conditionals: "If it rains, we will stay indoors."
English's consistent SVO structure allows learners to focus more on expressing their ideas and less on deciphering complicated grammatical structures.
By offering a simpler sentence construction framework, English empowers learners to develop their communication skills more swiftly and effectively.
This benefit is particularly useful for non-native English speakers who may have limited exposure to the language.
The SVO order enables learners to express themselves confidently, making communication more efficient and enhancing overall language fluency.
English's consistent SVO structure also contributes to improved writing proficiency. When learners have a clear understanding of how to construct sentences, they can produce coherent and well-organized written pieces.
The ability to build sentences using the SVO order allows learners to convey their thoughts comprehensively and persuasively through writing.
English learners who are exposed to texts and speech patterns that follow the SVO structure will find it easier to comprehend and interpret the meaning of the content.
Since the SVO order is widely used in English literature, media, and conversations, learners can quickly grasp the subject, verb, and object relationships, making it easier to follow and understand spoken and written English.
Now that we have covered the basic sentence structures, let's explore some practical tips to improve your English sentence structure:
Reading books, articles, and other written materials in English will expose you to different sentence structures and help you develop an intuitive sense of how sentences are formed.
Identify common sentence patterns and practice constructing sentences using those patterns. This will make it easier for you to express your thoughts effectively.
When you come across a long or complex sentence, try breaking it down into smaller parts to understand its structure. Pay attention to the subject, verb, and object to grasp the main idea.
Tune in to English podcasts, watch movies, or engage in conversations with native English speakers. Listening to how native speakers naturally structure their sentences will train your brain to follow similar patterns.
Writing regularly is one of the best ways to improve your sentence structure. Start with simple sentences and gradually build up to more complex ones. You can also seek feedback from teachers or language exchange partners to refine your skills.
Sentence diagrams are visual representations of sentence structure. They can be a helpful tool to understand how words and phrases relate to each other in a sentence. Consider using sentence diagramming as a supplementary study method.
Don't hesitate to consult grammar books, online resources, or even English teachers to clarify any doubts or questions you may have about sentence structure and grammar rules.
Remember, learning English sentence structure takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the progress you make along the way.
Mastering English sentence structure is an absolute must for effective communication in English.
By understanding the basic parts of a sentence and practicing different sentence structures, you'll become more confident in constructing clear and concise sentences in English.
That’s why I cover all of this in my “Mastering English Writing Fluency” online English course.
Taking the course will give you the ability to write English sentences effortlessly without having to think about how to put them together.
Going from thinking about all the sentences you write to being able to write without thinking is a change you have to experience for yourself to realize just how much better you will feel.
Try the course for free for 7 days and start down your path to English fluency.
Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.