Lesson Twenty-six

Sentence Patterns

There are four basic patterns that are used when putting together a sentence:

  1. Subject + Verb (S + V)
  2. Subject + Verb + Direct Object (S + V + DO)
  3. Subject + Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object (S + V + IO + DO)
  4. Subject + Verb + Subject Complement (S + V + SC)

A subject is usually a noun or a pronoun, but it may also be a gerund, an infinitive, a clause, or a phrase.

The verbs in these patterns are action verbs or linking verbs.

It’s important to consider that subjects or verbs are sometimes compound. That means there is more than one word serving as a subject or a verb in a sentence or question.

S + V

They live in Memphis.

subject: they

verb: live


S + V + DO

My brother bought a house.

subject: brother

verb: bought

direct object: house


S + V + IO + DO

She gave her friend some advice.

subject: she

verb: gave

direct object: advice

indirect object: friend


two young women talking

S + V + SC

The shoes are black.

subject: shoes

verb: are

subject complement: black



It’s useful to identify prepositional phrases before you decide which word is the subject, the verb, the direct object, etc. Many teachers tell students to draw parentheses around the prepositional phrases–if they exist–before determining the pattern of the sentence.

For example:

  • Bob works (at a shoe store) (in the mall).
  • (In the middle) (of the room) there is a table.
  • Most (of the students) like the class.

In the first sentence, the subject is "Bob" and the verb is "works."

In the second sentence, the subject is "there," the verb is "is" and the subject complement is "table."

In the third sentence, the subject is "most," the verb is "like" and the word "class" is the direct object.

It’s easier to identify these parts of the sentence if you find the prepositional phrases first.

The sentences that you learn about on this page are basic sentence patterns. There are many, many different ways to form a sentence; however, you should learn these four basic patterns first.


Next: Lesson Twenty-seven

Prepositional Phrases