Unconventional Sentence Structures (Part Two)

We mentioned a few unconventional sentence structures in part one of this English grammar lesson.This week we’re going to look at some additional unconventional sentence structures. As a general rule, English is a SVO (subject-verb-object) language. However, there are several sentence structures that deviate (or appear to deviate) from the SVO “rule.”

Participle Clauses

This type of clause contains a present participle (–ing verb) that expresses an additional action related to the subject or object of the main clause:

Grabbing [verb] her coat [object], the employee [subject] left [verb] work [object].

Robert [subject] paused [verb] the movie [object], intending [verb] to finish [verb] it [object] after dinner.

Note that a present participle cannot be the main verb of a sentence unless it is preceded by an auxiliary “to be” verb (is, was, etc.). To be + present participle is how we form the progressive tenses in English:

Jamie is taking classes at the English Island in Atlanta.

Gerund Clauses

Like present participles, gerunds also end in –ing. When using a gerund clause, however, the entire clause functions as the subject or the object of the sentence:

Mike [subject] regretted [verb] leaving the party [object].

The gerund clause “leaving the party” is the object of the verb “regretted.” Here is an example of the gerund clause functioning as the subject:

Taking those classes [subject] improved [verb] Mary’s English skills [object].

Noun Clauses

While noun clauses do not actually break SVO order, they can sometimes have the appearance of doing so:

That Ben forgot to record the Hawks game [subject] upset [verb] him [object].

This sentence looks “off” because the entire noun clause “that Ben forgot to record the Hawks game” is functioning as the subject of the sentence. You will rarely see this sort of structure in modern English. A native speaker is far more likely to express the same idea in a more straightforward way:

Ben was upset because he forgot to record the Hawks game.