Grammar: Clauses Realisation

Grammar in EAP

Clauses and Simple Sentences

Realisations of the elements of the clause.

It is important to remember that with the exception of the Predicator function, there is no one-to-one correspondence between class of unit (noun, verb, nominal group, finite clause, …) and syntactic function (subject, predicator,  complement, adjunct) in English.

So, whereas the Predicator is always realised by a Verbal Group, the other functions have a wide range of possible realisations by different words, groups and clauses. It is true that most functions are typically realised by a certain class of unit (for example, Subjects and Objects are typically realised by Nominal Groups), but in reality almost any group or clause can realise these functions.

Subject and Predicator

1.The Subject can be realised by a wide range of groups and clauses.

2. The Predicator is realised by a Verbal Group.

Realisations of the Subject

Subjects can be realised by various classes of groups and clauses. For example:

nominal group

  • Tobacco can damage the heart as well as the lungs.
  • The precise number of heart attacks from smoking is not known.
  • It is frightening.

finite clause

  • That he failed to come to the meeting surprised nobody.
  • What he said at the meeting shocked me.

non-finite clause

  • To take such a financial risk was rather dangerous.
  • Where to site the new factory is a problem.
  • Having to find a new room for the meetings was a problem.

anticipatory it + extraposed finite or non-finite clause

  • It surprised nobody that he failed to come to the meeting.
  • It was impossible for everyone to attend the meeting.

prop it

  • It became legally possible for the church to own property..

unstressed there

  • There’s plenty of time for everything on the agenda.

prepositional groups

  • By plane costs more than by train.
  • Before lunch would be a good time to hold the meeting.

adverbial groups

  • Now is the ideal time to review your total eating behaviour and your exercise habits..

adjectival groups

  • The handicapped are given special facilities in many offices.
  • The very old and the very young need state care.

Realisations of the Predicator

The Predicator is always realised by a VG, whose structure may consist of one single form or a number of forms. Single forms are either finite such as ate, brings, talked, or non-finite such as saying, finished, to be. Longer VGs consist of the main verb preceded by one or more auxiliaries:

  • When the emergency is dealt with the Government’s work will have finished and parties will return to their ordinary positions
  • Concessions would only be required once a united Ireland was being negotiated.


Direct, Indirect and Prepositional Objects

1. The Direct Object is the single Object in a transitive clause. In clauses with two Objects, it follows the Indirect Object. It can become Subject in a passive clause. Typically, the Direct Object is realised by Nominal Groups, less typically by other classes of unit.

2. The Indirect Object is that clause constituent which immediately follows the Predicator in clauses with two Objects. It can become Subject in a passive clause, and has a prepositional paraphrase. It is realised by Nominal Groups and nominal relative clauses.

3. The Prepositional Object is an Object mediated by a preposition (agree on a plan) The nominal element following the preposition can become Subject in a passive clause.

Realisations of the Direct Object

The Direct Object can be realised by, for example:

nominal group

  • The judicature Acts in 1873-5 abolished the old Court of Chancer,

finite clause

  • Many people agree that some kind of taxation is necessary.
  • I know what he studies.

non-finite clause

  • Some general practitioners will prefer to carry out treatment themselves.
  • Do you mind waiting a few minutes?

anticipatory it

  • I find it strange that he refuses to come to the meeting.

prepositional group

  • I would prefer before noon for the meeting.

Realisations of the Indirect Object

Indirect Objects are typically realised by Nominal Groups and less typically by WH-nominal relative clauses:

  • Ken has taught his secretary to use the computer. (Nominal Group)
  • Lend whoever calls the stapler in the office. (Clause)

Realisations of the Prepositional Object

The Prepositional Object is realised by a Prepositional Group. Just as with any Prepositional Group, the completive of the preposition can be realised by Nominal Groups and by clauses:

  • The committee tried to keep to the schedule. (Nominal Group)
  • The opposition strongly objected to what the government was suggesting. (Clause)

Subject and Object Complements

1. The Subject Complement can be realised by Nominal Groups, Adverbial Groups, Prepositional Groups or by finite WH-clauses:

2. The Object Complement is realised by Adjectival Groups, definite and indefinite Nominal Groups and clauses.

Realisation of the Subject Complement.

Subject Complements can be realised by Adjectival Groups and Nominal Groups and by clauses.

  • Too much of some vitamins (notably A and D) can prove toxic. (Adjectival Group)
  • Good animal sources are the redder fish such as herring and sardines. (Nominal Group)
  • He soon became what he always wanted to be. (Finite Clause)
  • The only action the govenrment took was increase the taxes. (Non-finite Clause)

Realisations of the Object Complement

Object Complements can be realised by can be realised by Adjectival Groups, Nominal Groups, Prepositional Groups and by clauses.:

  • He was considered unworthy of the position. (Adjectival Group)
  • He considered himself a genius? (Nominal Group)
  • He could  imagine himself the owner of an international copmpany? (Nominal Group)
  • Our reserach has made the company what it is today. (Finite Clause)
  • The explosion left the laboratory in a mess. (Prepositional Group)
  • His admirers believed him to be a genius. (Non-finite Clause)



Adjuncts are optional elements which can be added or omitted without producing an ungrammatical clause.

They are typically realised by Adverbs, Prepositional Groups and Adverbial Groups.

  • In the spring of 1495 a dreadful plague broke out among those involved in the siege of Naples. (Prepositional Group)
  • It has been raining very hard indeed. (Adverbial Group)
  • We were flying due north. (Adverbial Group)
  • Curiously, though, we were never given problems with real sites. (Adverb)
  • In fact, in rural areas today, the Orange hall has frequently been the only place where protestants of all shades have met to renew their belief and commitment to Ulster protestant loyalism (Harris 1972: 162-5). (Prepositional Group)
  • Broadly speaking, the powers and duties of parents and guardians relate not to property, but to the care and custody of the infant’s person. (Non-finite.Clause)
  • If I may be frank with you, I think your book is terrible.(Finite Clause)

(Based on Downing & Locke, 1992)

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