Grammar and Writing

The Simple Sentence

In the English language, the basic structure of a sentence is subject, verb, and object or SVO.

This structure can be illustrated through the following sentence:

The cat sat on the mat.

And can further be broken down to look like:

Subject Verb Object
cat sat mat

Yet, in writing out this sentence and then separating it into its parts, there are words missing. The missing words are articles or words that help clarify the nouns and verbs or pronouns, adjective, and adverbs that are used in writing.

Articles, when used with a noun or verb become part of the noun or verb. Therefore, an altered table will look like:

Subject Verb Object
The cat sat on the mat

In other words, we aren’t simply dealing with single-word parts and are, instead, dealing with combinations of words that make up the SVO parts. Instead of saying simply cat sat mat, which isn’t all that clear, we make things clearer by indicating The cat sat on the mat. There is only one cat and one mat. In this sentence there is both only one cat and only one mat.

At the same time, we can take the basic sentence and make it more general:

A cat sat on the mat.

Now our table looks like:

Subject Verb Object
A cat sat on the mat

Where any single cat can be sitting on the mat, though there is still only one mat.

Or we can change the sentence to:

A cat sat on a mat.

Where any old cat is sitting on any old mat.

Expanding the Simple Sentence

If a simple sentence is:

The cat sat on the mat.

In the case of the simple sentence, we can expand it in a lot of directions. This is done by adding adjectives and adverbs.

So, “The cat sat on the mat” can become “The brown cat sat heavily on the orange mat.”

Subject Verb Object
The brown cat sat heavily on the orange mat

Or,

Adjective Subject Verb Adverb Adjective Object
brown cat sat heavily orange mat

Adding Clauses

Note:

I’m not going to go into any detail or any serious detail about the different clause types. While this may be important and can be explored in more detail at a future date, understanding specific nuance in use of clauses is not necessary. IMO.

As far as this lesson is concerned, a clause is any collection of words that form a part of a sentence and rely on a portion of the whole sentence for a noun or verb.

If “The cat a sat on the mat” is our basic sentence and by adding adjectives and adverbs into the sentence further enhances and clarifies the content, then adding clauses will do so even more.

(For a basic overview of clauses, check out this link or this link.)

Basically, a clause is used in place of a part of the sentence and can replace nearly anything. Right now, though, we’re going to focus on clauses that replace either adjectives or adverbs. Therefore,

The cat sat on the mat.

becomes

The cat that was covered in orange paint sat with a heavy heart on the orange welcome mat that had been purchased at one of the local big box stores.

The cat is still sitting on the mat, though now the cat “was covered in orange paint” and sat “with a heavy heart” on “the orange welcome mat” that “had been purchased at one of the local big box stores.”

Which is a lot to take in from a single sentence. As in, way too much.

We can simplify back (which is a pretty good thing) to

The orange cat sat on the brand new welcome mat purchased from a hardware store.

And have a (slightly) easier time with the sentence. It doesn’t have as much going for it; but then, what does?

In each of the two expanded sentences, we’re still dealing with a basic SVO structure that relies on partial sentence structure to make the whole. However, in the basic sentence, everything is about “the cat”, while in our expanded sentences, while everything is ultimately about the cat the clauses focus on different parts of the SVO structure to make sense.

Or,

The cat that was covered in orange paint sat with a heavy heart on the orange welcome mat that had been purchased at one of the local big box stores.

The cat is partially defined by it being covered in orange paint.

The cat’s action (of sitting) is partially defined by the quality or type of sitting (with heavy heart).

And the mat is now orange (defining characteristic) and is the subject of where it was purchased or “purchased at one of the local big box stores.”

In other words, by expanding the writing and adding adjectives and adverbs and various kinds of clauses we begin to add flavor and texture to the writing in a way that defines for the reader what they are meant to understand and the quality, texture, relationships, and so on of the parts of the simple sentence.

Basically, a simple sentence turns into something far more complex simply by adding to the sentence as a form of definition and clarification.

As such, we can now turn “The cat sat on the mat” into

Garfield the fat orange cat sat silently on the welcome mat waiting for Jon to feed him lasagna.

The cat is now Garfield.

Sitting is a silent act (and one of waiting)

The mat is still welcoming.

The silent waiting is for Jon to feed him lasagna.


The Noun

Or THE MIGHTY NOUN is a word or phrase that identifies a:

  • person
  • place
  • thing
  • idea

There are two different kinds of nouns:

  • Proper
  • Common

That can further be defined as:

  • Abstract
  • Collective
  • Common
  • Concrete

Regardless of type of noun, this is a thing or concept. It’s a group or individual. It’s something that is in some way tangible, identifiable, concrete, touchable, knowable, and clearly not some kind of weird abstraction (except for the abstract nouns) that are impossible to understand in any way.


The cat sat on the mat.

The dog ran in the yard.

The fish swam in the pond.

The beaver built a dam.

The boat floated on the water.

The bird flew in the air.

The child played in the sandbox.

The car drove on the road.

The movie played on the screen.

The writer typed on the typewriter.

The actor performed on the stage.

The shoes fell on the floor.

The leaves fell from the tree.

The tree fell in the forest.

Use of Identifiers in Writing