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Basic Elements Of Sentences

The immense variety of all the sentences in English language is resulted from the variety in the combination of five basic elements of the sentence. They are subject, verb, object, complement and adverbial. I will define them in layman’s terms so that you feel comfortable with the discussion that follows. The italicized words or phrases in the examples are the elements of sentences under discussion.


Subject is what the sentence is about. It is a noun, noun phrase or noun clause about which something is stated.

  • Most Protozoan species are found in aquatic habitat.
  • Guerrilla warfare usually follows tactics of harassment.

The above sentences are intended to express something about most protozoan species and Guerrilla warfare respectively.The very existence of any sentence is for telling something about its subject


The word or word group that expresses the action/condition/position of the subject.

  • The stipulations have created a controversy.
  • Johann Bach is one of the most creative geniuses of western music.

In the above sentences, the verbs have created and is describe the action/condition of the subjects respectively.


The noun or noun phrase that receives the action or effect of the action expressed by the verb.

  • Guarino designed the Church of San Lorenzo in 1668.
  • Camouflage helps the pray animals to hide themselves from predators and the predators to hide themselves from the pray animals.


A noun/adjective phrase that adds infomation to the subject/object completing the sentence. If it is adds infomation to subject, it is a subject complement, and if it adds infomation to the object, it is object complement.

  • The situation is tricky. (The complement adds infomation to the subject, thus, is a subject complement.)
  • I have found the situation tricky. (The complement adds infomation to the object the situation, and thus, is an object complement.)


A word or word group that usually gives infomation about some aspect of the verb.

  • She reacted in a quite unexpected way.
  • On behalf of the company, we welcome you all to the seminar.

In the above examples, the prepositional phrases, 
acting as adverbials, give infomation about different aspects of action expressed by the verb. First adverbial describes the manner of the action whereas the adverbials in the second example they give further infomation about in what capacity we welcome you and to where we welcome you.

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