I am using the word “canonical” to refer to the most basic form of the English sentence.
“The dog chases the cat” is a canonical sentence.
Non-canonical forms of “The dog chases the cat” include:
The cat is chased by the dog.
It is the cat that is chased by the dog.
All three sentences are grammatically correct, but only “The dog chases the cat” is “canonical.”
The chart below appears in John Seely’s short, clear, and extremely useful book Grammar for Teachers, a 170-page distillation of Quirk and Greenbaum’s 1779-page A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language.
The 7 canonical sentence patterns:
|SUBJECT||VERB||(INDIRECT) OBJECT||(DIRECT) OBJECT|
In these patterns, all of the “sentence slots” — S, V, O, C, and A — must be filled. If a slot is not filled, the sentence becomes “grammatically incomplete.”
I’ve written “5+2” in the title of this post because the final two patterns – SVA and SVOA – are, in Seely’s words, “much less common.”
As Seely puts it: “They only occur with a very small number of verbs, but they are important.”
NOTE: The basic patterns can be carved up in a few different ways. For a 10-sentence scheme, see this post on Martha Kolln’s 10 basic sentence patterns.
• SVO v. SVC
• 5 + 2: the 7 ‘canonical’ English sentences
• Class notes X-1-2-3
• 3 ways to combine the 7 sentence patterns
• 10 basic sentence patterns in the English language
• SM’s sophisticated SVOO sentence
• DT’s astute observation (reflexive pronouns)
• A short overview of English syntax by Rodney Huddleston