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Meaning in an English sentence is conveyed not only by the words but also by the arrangement, or pattern, of the words.

There are five basic sentence patterns in English.

One of them consists of a subject followed by a verb and a subject complement

A word or group of words that follows a linking verb and renames or describes the subject.
. The complement may be a noun, as in the following examples:

Dr. Smith is our writing instructor.
        subject = Dr. Smith
        verb = is
        complement = our writing instructor
The Washington Monument is an obelisk.
Philadelphia was once the capital.

The complement may also be an adjective, as in these examples:

The performer seemed nervous.
The tourists became impatient.
The city streets appeared abandoned.

The meaning of a sentence in this pattern is that the subject is, was, or seemed to be something.

This pattern is most effective in defining. Most definitions begin with a statement in the subject-verb-complement pattern, as this example does:

An oasis is a fertile, wet place in the desert.

It is also useful in description:

As the sun set, the Hawaiian sky became an artist’s palette of vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows.

And it is useful in classifying:

The Nile, the Congo, the Niger, the Zambezi, the Orange, and the Limpopo are major rivers in Africa.


Quick Check  

Which of the following sentences is in the subject-verb-complement pattern?

The otters were floating on their backs among the kelp.
Coral reefs are a popular destination for scuba divers and snorkelers.

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