Grammar: Introduction Clauses Simple

Grammar in EAP

Clauses and Simple Sentences

Clauses: Introduction

clause is the main unit of grammatical structure. It usually consist of a subject and a predicate. It consists of one or more groups. A typical structure of a clause is SPCA – subjectpredicatorcomplementadjunctSubject is typically realised by a nominal groupPredicator is typically realised by a verbal groupComplement is typically realised by a nominal group. Adjunct is typically realised by a adverbial group.

There are two main types of clause: independent clause and dependent clauses. An independent clause is a clause that can stand alone, wheres an dependent clause cannot. A dependent clause can be either finite or non-finite.

A finite clause includes a finite verb – a verb that is marked for either tense or modality.If the verb in the clause is not marked for either tense or modality, then the clause is non-finite.

For example:

The Liberals were split three ways by the 1931 election. (Independent)

because they were losing their sense of identity. (Dependent – finite)

having lost their sense of identity. (Dependent – non-finite)

Elements of the finite clause

A clause – or a simple sentence – consists of two elements.

Subject Predicate
The participants were chosen.
Jones investigated the issue secretly in the early 1950s.


Exercise: Clauses 1

Exercise: Clauses 1a

All finite clauses require a subject and a predicate. The predicate consits of several other elements, some are essential and some are optional. The description of the structure of the clause uses four main elements: subject (S), predicator (P), complement (C) and adjunct (A).

For example:

Jones investigated the issue secretly in the early 1950s.

In this case, the subject, predicate & complement are essential, but the adjuncts are optional. What is essential and what is optional depends on the predicator.


Exercise: Adjuncts

Elements of structure

Clauses consist of various combinations of elements, or elements of structure.

He | reported | the findings. S | P | C
Jones | reported | his findings | to the conference| last year | though. S | P | C | C | A | A

Each element is a constituent of the clause and is related to the other elements; they co-operate with each other, performing different functions in the clause.


Exercise: Clauses 2


There are various kinds of complement: Direct Object (Od), Indirect Object (Oi), Prepostional Object (Op), Subject Complement (Cs), Object Complement (Co), Prepositional Complement (Cp).

She published the findings. SPOd
She sent me the report. SPOiOd
The results depended on the the method. SPOp
The results sounded plausible. SPCs
They found the results plausible. SPOdCo
She published the findings in the journal. SPOdCp

Objects and other Complements

We can distinguish between Direct Object (Od), Indirect Object (Oi) and Prepositional Object (Op).

Direct Object (Od) The researcher published the report,
Indirect Object (Oi) The researcher sent the editor the report.
Prepositional Object (Op) The researcher can rely on the editor.

Complements which are not Objects are classified as follows:

Complement of the Subject Cs Jones is a researcher
Complement of the Object Co She found the research useful.


Exercise: Complements

Basic structures of the clause

Clausal elements or functions enter into varied relationships with each other to express different types of proposition concerning different  situations. These are exemplified as follows:

SP The researcher / resigned.
The research / failed.
The principal researcher’s main aim to understand falling overseas sales / has failed.
SPOd Jones / investigated / sales.
The researcher / studied / the reasons for the decrease in overseas sales.
SPOiOd The researchers / have sent / the editor / the paper.
The Ministry of Education / awarded / the researchers / a grant.
SPOp You / can rely / on the results.
The researchers / are looking / into the matter.
SPCs My brother / has become / a professor.
Your exam results / were / better than mine
SPOdCo They / appointed / him / professor..
The committee / do not consider / Jones / much of a researcher.

The SPCs structure is very common in academic texts, with two complex nominal groups joined with a linking verb such as “is“. However, in such cases the group structure is much more complicated.

For example:

Besides historiography and mathematical astronomy, another great innovation by the Greeks of the fifth century BCwas the art of tragedy.

Exercise: SPCs Clause Structure

Examples of Clause Elements

Subject (S) Tertullian enjoyed paradox. SPCsA
Predicator (P) The grant ended this week. SPA
Direct Object (Od) Jones has published a new book. SPOd
Indirect Object (Oi) They sent their colleagues copies of the research. SPOiOd
Prepositional Object (Op) You must allow for price increases. SPOprep
Subject Complement(Cs) He is powerless to make any changes. SPCs
Object Complement(Co) We consider the research important. SPOdCo
Adjunct (A) The paper was published on Tuesday. SPOdA

Realisation of Clause Elements

These elements of clause stucture are realised by various word, groups or clauses. In English there is no one-to-one correspondence between class of unit (noun, verb, nominal group, finite clause, …) and syntactic function (subject, predicator,  complement, adjunct). See: Grammar: Realisation of Clause Elements

Combining Clauses

Clauses can also combine to form complex or compound sentences.

Combining Clauses: Grammar: Clause Complexes


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