Summary of Patterns

The following diagram above is not a sentence diagram. It shows how the different subtypes of verb relate to one another.

verb-type hierarchy

Here is a summary list of the five patterns we have learned, with the elements presented in linear order. This list is deliberately abstract. To see examples of sentences of these types, see the preceding sections:

1.Intransitive: subject + VI
2.Linking: subject + VL + subject complement
3.Transitive: subject + VT + direct object
4.Ditransitive: subject + VD + indirect object + direct object
5.Complex Transitive: subject + VC + direct object + object complement

And here are diagrams of the same patterns, showing how they typically appear in a clause:

Instransitive: instransitive structure

Linking: linking structure
Note: to be can have subject complements of other phrase types, e.g., PP, etc.

Transitive: transitive structure

Ditransitive: distransitive structure

Complex Transitive: complex transitive structure

Looking at the list above, it becomes evident that the subject is the only complement that is found in every pattern. Subjects are also unusual in that they are not part of the verb phrase; they are known as external complements. All the other complements are internal complements; that is, they are part of the verb phrase and hence part of the predicate.

To analyze sentences fluidly, you need to learn these verb patterns thoroughly. You should be able to look at the constituents after a verb and say to yourself, "This pattern means that this verb is of type __". Note that if you consult a major reference grammar such as A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language or The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, you will find more subtypes of verbs. These other patterns, however, are minor variations on the basic ones we have presented. If you understand these five, the subtler variations will be relatively easy to understand.

Just as words can fall into several different parts of speech, verb can employ several different patterns. For this reason, you can't just assume that a particular verb will always fall into one subtype. You must look at the sentence in which that verb appears.