Sentence Patterns – What They Are and How to Use Them

English learners and writers are required to study different aspects of the language, i.e. nouns, verbs, adjectives etc. But that is not enough. They also have to consider the sentence as a whole. This means you have to learn basic sentence patterns.

In this article, we have discussed what is a sentence pattern and why it is important. We have also discussed different patterns with examples.

What is a sentence pattern?

A sentence pattern is an arrangement of words. This arrangement needs to be in a grammatically correct structure. It means the placement of verbs and nouns should be correct to form a meaningful sentence. Apart from that, there are punctuations which play an important role in making a sentence readable and understandable.

Without the correct placement of words, you can not express your thoughts properly while speaking. Same way, without proper use of punctuations, you can’t express your thoughts effectively in writing. Note that the structure and pattern differ for different languages.

Why are sentence patterns important?

When you are writing an assignment, the pattern and structure of a sentence will be the most important things for you to consider. In order to make your sentences meaningful and effective, you will have to learn how to make correct sentences using different patterns.

If you are a student or a beginner in the writing field, learning and mastering the patterns will help you perform well in your English language tests. It will also help you improve your writing skills in English. There are several patterns of sentences, but we will discuss some of the most common and basic patterns.

Basic parts of the sentence patterns

  • In English, if you want to write a sentence, you have to use to important parts which are subjects and verbs. When putting together, they will express your thoughts in an understandable sentence. Here, a subject is used either a noun or pronoun form and says what or who is doing an action. And the verb represents the action or a state what is happening, for example, “drink” is an action while “depend” can be said a state verb.
  • A good example ofa simple sentence containing a subject and a verb is “Smith walked.” In this example, Smith is a subject who is doing an action, i.e. “walked”.
  • In actual use, we don’t speak or write such short sentences. Because we would want to explain the idea in a more clear manner or emphasis on a particular subject or an action. For example, when we see a sentence like “Smith walked.”, we would have questions like “to where?”, “how much?”, “with how much intensity?”, “with whom?” etc.
  • To answer these question, we generally use more words like modifiers, comparative words, phrases etc. For example, the new sentence with an adverb would be “Smith walked swiftly”.

What is a clause?

Take the example from the previous paragraph, i.e. “Smith walked swiftly”. This collection of words delivers a meaning or a thought and is collectively called a clause.

  • Understanding the parts and clause will further help you understand the sentence patterns. We have already discussed the parts, i.e. the subject and the verb, along with appropriate examples in the previous section. In this section, we have discussed the clause.
  • A combination of a subject and a verb means a clause. There are particularly two types of clauses. i.e. Independent clause and Dependent clause.

Independent clause

  • Independent clause means a sentence containing a subject and verb that provides a complete meaning or a thought on its own. No further words or support is needed to explain it.

Dependent clause

  • This type of clause is made of a sentence that is not a complete one and needs a support of an independent clause.

What is a compound?

  • Whilst in a sentence you can use many words and phrases, it will mainly have two parts, i.e. a subject and a verb. But what if they are used twice? i.e. two subjects or two words or both used twice?
  • Yes, this happens in many sentences and is called a compound. This is not only useful in making a clear and correctly conveying sentence but helpful in avoiding unnecessary repetitions of the words.  To understand this better, check below examples.

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Compound subject

  • Example:John Smith and his team collaborated in the project
  • In this example, there are two subjects, i.e. “John Smith” and “team” and one verb, i.e. “collaborated”. Thereby in a sentencelike this, you can see that the action is related to the subjects.

Compound verb

  • Example:John Smith created the documents and presented them at the project meeting.
  • In this example, you can see that there only one subject, i.e. “John Smith”, but he has performed two different actions, i.e. “created” and “presented”. So these are two verbs related to one subject.

Compound subject with compound verb

Example: John Smith and his team created the documents and presented them at the project meeting.

You can see that there are two subjects and two verbs, and both of them are related to each other. You can also say that this is one clause even if there are double subjects and verbs. This is because they are not overlapping each other. All the subjects are written before the verbs. So it’s a single clause.

Basic sentence patterns

There are basically four patterns. Different ways are used to combine clauses in a different pattern. You may have written different patterns without knowing about it. Read your writing assignments and try to identify them. You would note that you have different patterns. If you use only one pattern throughout the content, it will become boring. But practically, this not possible and you would be using different patterns in your writings.

Each pattern is described with an example below. The subject is represented by S and Verb by V in the examples.

Pattern 1: Simple sentence

This pattern contains one independent clause, i.e. one subject and one verb.

Example: Justin plays football

Note the subject and verb. You may have written this type of sentences in your assignments. This pattern has a subject and a verb and makes a complete sentence, so it can be considered as a single clause.

Pattern 2: Compound sentence

This pattern uses two or more independent clauses connected with a comma and connector. It is written as SV, [connector,] SV.

Connectors with comma: for, nor, or, and, but, so, yet

  • Example: David runs daily in the morning, and doctors see it as a good habit.

Connectors with semicolon and comma: moreover, however, therefore, nonetheless, nevertheless

  • Example: Working beyond the office hours seems more productive; however, it’s harmful in a long time.

To identify this pattern in your writing assignment, read the sentences carefully and find out the connectors. Note the subjects and verbs used on both sides of the connector in the above-mentioned example of compound sentences. Each side has one subject and one verb, so you can say that each side has one clause.

Pattern 3: Complex sentence

A complex sentence comprises of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. Here, the connectors must be used at the beginning of the dependent clause. This way, you can define the relationship of the dependent with the independent clause. It is written as;

  • SV [connector] SV
  • [Connector] SV, SV
  • S, [connector] SV, V.

Connectors for this pattern: because, although, even though, however, wherever, how, where, whether, unless, that, which, who, whom, after, if, as, before, whereas, while, since, when, so that, whenever etc.

See below 5 examples of the complex sentence are as below:

  • We should do exercise daily because it makes us fit and healthy.
  • Although packed food tastes delicious, I like fresh and organic food.
  • Smith, because of his expertise in project management, offered help in preparing a presentation for the new project.
  • You can drink it whenever you want
  • Although you are fit and healthy, you should avoid junk food for a healthy future.

Observe your writings in your assignment and see which sentence falls in this pattern. The subjects and verbs are used in different places depending on where the connector is. Also, note how punctuation helps in structuring a meaningful sentence.

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Pattern 4: Compound-complex sentence

The sentences in this pattern comprise two or more independent clauses and also contains one or more dependent clauses. This pattern uses the same connectors mentioned in the patterns 2 and 3. They are written as;

SV, [connector] SV [connector] SV

[connector] SV, SV, [connector] SV

  • Example:John Smith said that he would help us prepare the presentation; however, if he does, his current project will suffer, but there will be no issue if I help him in the current project.

You can observe that this is a very complex and longer sentence and is a good example of a compound-complex sentence. Note the subjects and verbs used on both the sides of the connectors and observe how punctuation helps in separating the clauses. Though this type of sentence connects multiple thoughts or situations, they can become difficult to understand if not written tactfully. The example above can also be written in two or three sentences in a simple to compound patterns.

However, we can’t ignore the importance of any sentence pattern and all of them have their place in the writing assignments. You have to use them wisely in your content to define and convey your thoughts and ideas effectively.

If you are a beginner, you would better be using simple and compound patterns. As you go ahead and have more experience, you would be more comfortable in using complex and compound-complex patterns.

There are also more patterns in which you can write sentences, but the four basic patterns discussed in this article will make other patterns easier to learn for you.