kitchen table math, the sequel: 5+2: the canonical sentences

Sunday, September 9, 2012

5+2: the canonical sentences

source: John Seely's Grammar for Teachers, a short, succinct, clear, and useful distillation of Quirk and Greenbaum.

Teaching English composition, I now start with these three 'canonical' sentence patterns:


For the SVC and SVO patterns, I use Phyllis Davenport's ur-sentences:

SVC: Something (or somebody) is something.
SVO: Something (or somebody) did something.

For my 'core' SV examples I like:

Rex barked
Jesus wept.*

From the first three, I move on to:


And from there to:


Spelled out, using John Seely's examples:

SV: Subject+Verb
Elephants exist.

SVO: Subject+Verb+Object
Elephants like grass.

SVOO: Subject+Verb+Indirect Object+Direct Object
Elephants give children rides.

SVC: Subject+Verb+Complement
Elephants are animals.

SVOC: Subject+Verb+Object+Complement
Elephants make children happy.

SVA: Subject+Verb+Adverbial
Elephants live here.

SVOA: Subject+Verb+Object+Adverbial
The elephant thrust him away.

In these sentence patterns, all "sentence slots" -- S, V, O, C, A -- must be filled. If a slot is not filled, the sentence becomes "grammatically incomplete."

I've written "5+2" because the final two patterns - SVA and SVOA - are, in Seely's words, "much less common": "They only occur with a very small number of verbs, but they are important."

Seely's book is fantastically helpful. I've been using the iPad version, but I may order a hard copy, too.

* John 11:35


RMD said...

just downloaded the Seely book. . .terrific!

Catherine Johnson said...

Seely's book is FANTASTIC. I can't say enough good things about it. Every teacher/parent/student should have a copy.

The book is a 170-page distillation of an 1800-page book.