Clause Components

Table of Contents

Clauses (simple sentences) are made of five components: Finite verbsSubjectsObjectsComplements, and Adjuncts.  In order to understand sentences correctly and make sentences of your own, you need to know what sentences are made of (components) and how words fall in a sentence (structure).

 1. Finite Verb

Some verbs have tense and they follow the number and person of their subject. They are called finite verbs. 

  • Birds fly.
  • A bird flies.

The finite verb is the most compulsory component of a sentence. Every sentence must have a finite verb. Sometimes only a finite verb can form a sentence.

  • Stop!
  • Don't move. 

But you cannot form any sentence without a finite verb. The following two have verbs, but they are not finite. So, they are not sentences.

  • Birds flying. 
  • Birds to fly.

A finite verb determines what other components will be present in the sentence. For example, consider the two verbs 'sleep' and 'like'. 

  • Cats sleep
  • Cats like milk. 

The first verb 'sleep' needs only a subject, but the second verb 'like' needs both a subject and an object. 

Formation of Finite Verbs

Complex finite verbs begin with any one of the 24 auxiliary verbs. Simple finite verbs are in the present form, in the -s/-es form or in the past form.

Finite Verbs with Auxiliary

  • I shall help you.
  • You may go. 
  • She is sleening. 
  • They have come. 

Finite Verbs in Present Form

  • We love her. 
  • They go to market. 
  • People like to be entertained. 

Finite Verbs in -S/-ES Form

  • She likes to go out alone. 
  • It looks beautiful. 

Finite Verbs in Past Form

  • They went to see the patient. 
  • Mark stopped the car.

How to Identify Finite Verbs

Finite verbs have subjects and they show tense. So, you need to do two things to identify a finite verb. First, identify the subject and see it the verb agrees with it. Then, identify the tense of the verb. If it shows tense, it is surely a finite verb. To be extra sure, you can do one more thing. Just eliminate the non-finite verbs (Infinitives, participles & gerunds). Let us see an example:

  • He waters his plants to save them from dying

The above sentence has three verbs. The first verb (waters) has a subject (He) and it follows it. It is in the simple present tense. So, the first one is a finite verb. 

The second verb (to save) is an infinitive which is a non-finite verb. The third verb (dying) is a gerund which is also non-finite. 

Exercise (i): Find out the verbs in the following sentences and say whether they are Finite or Nonfinite. In case of the nonfinite, say whether they are Infinitives, Participles and Gerunds. In the case of the Gerund, state whether it is subject, object, complement, or used after a preposition. 

  1. I heard her sing. 
  2. Men must work and women must weep. 
  3. He is slow to forgive. 
  4. Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride. 
  5. Full many a flower is born to blush unseen. 
  6. Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast. 
  7. To retreat was difficult; to advance was impossible. 
  8. My desire is to see you again. 
  9. My right there is none to dispute. 
  10. The ability to laugh is peculiar to mankind. 
  11. Better dwell in the midst of alarms. 
  12. To toil is the lot of mankind.
  13. There was nothing for it to fight. 
  14. The order to advance was given. 
  15. He was found fighting desperately for his life. 
  16. He has ruined his sight by reading small print. 
  17. Hearing the noise, he ran to the window. 
  18. Asking questions is easier than answering them. 
  19. Waving their hats and handkerchiefs, the people cheered the king. 
  20. The miser spends his time in hoarding money. 
  21. Amassing wealth often ruins health. 
  22. We spent the afternoon in playing cards. 
  23. Praising all alike is praising none. 
  24. I determined to increase my salary by managing a little farm. 
  25. And fools who came to scoff remained to pray. 
  26. The year was spent in visiting our rich neighbours. 
  27. Singing to herself was her chief delight. 
  28. The mango is fit to eat. 
  29. He preferred playing football to studying his lessons. 
  30. Let us pray. 
  31. I thank thee, Jew, for teaching me that word. 
  32. I cannot go on doing nothing. Click here to see the answers. 

 2. Subject of Verb

Subject is the doer or agent of the action and it precedes the finite verb. It is the second important element of the sentence. Subjects are made of nouns, pronouns, noun phrases, & noun clauses

  • We are sorry. (Subject is a Pronoun)
  • Cats like milk. (Subject is a Noun)
  • An old lady has called us. (Subject is a Noun Phrase)
  • What he told you is not true. (Subject is a Noun Clause)


Subject controls the number and person of the finite verb.

  • He lives in Italy. (Singular subject & singular verb)
  • They live in Italy. (Plural subject & plural verb)

A sentence always begins with a subject unless it is not an imperative mood. 

  • Tom is a cute dog. (not: is a cute dog.)
  • It looks after our house. (not: looks after our house.)


Imperatives don't begin with subjects. The subject of an imperative sentence is 'you' which is not mentioned. It is understood. 

  • Come to the board.
  • Draw a cat.

Dummy Subject: 

'There' and 'It' can work as dummy subjects. Dummy subjects are not real subjects. The real subject appears after the verb.


We use 'there' to tell where something is, or when something happens. 

  • There is a large tree in our village. 
  • There are large trees in our village.


'It' becomes the subjects of impersonal verbs. We use 'it' to talk about the weather.

  • It is windy today.
  • It will rain soon. 

We use 'it' to talk about time and date.

  • It is 10 O' clock.
  • It was 1971. 

Exercise (ii): Underline the subject in the following sentences: 

  1. The cackling of geese saved Rome. 
  2. The boy stood on the burning deck. 
  3. Tubal Cain was a man of might. 
  4. Stone walls do not make a prison. 
  5. The singing of the birds delights us. 
  6. Miss Kitty was rude at the table one day 
  7. He has a good memory. 
  8. Bad habits grow unconsciously. 
  9. The earth revolves round the sun. 
  10. Nature is the best physician. 
  11. Edison invented the phonograph. 
  12. The sea hath many thousand sands. 
  13. We cannot pump the ocean dry. 
  14. Borrowed garments never fit well. 
  15. The early bird catches the worm. 
  16. All matter is indestructible. 
  17. Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan. 
  18. We should profit by experience. 
  19. All roads lead to Rome. 
  20. A guilty conscience needs no excuse. 
  21. The beautiful rainbow soon faded away. 
  22. No man can serve two masters. 
  23. A sick room should be well aired. 
  24. The dewdrops glitter in the sunshine. 
  25. I shot an arrow into the air. 
  26. A barking sound the shepherd hears. 
  27. On the top of the hill lives a hermit. Click here to see the answer.

 3. Object of Verb

An object is a noun phrase that receives the action of the verb. Objects appear just after the transitive verb. There are two types of objects: direct objects and indirect objects.  

Direct Object

A mono-transitive verb has only one object. It is called direct object.  Direct objects appear just after the transitive verbs. Direct objects receive the action of the verb. 

  • Ricky kicks football to Micky.
  • I read a book.

Indirect Object 

A di-transitive verbs have two objects. The first object is a person and it is called Indirect Object. The second object is Direct Object. Indirect Object receives the Direct Object.  

  • Ricky gives Micky a bat.
  • Grandma told Jessica a story.  

Structures of Indirect Object

If a verb has two objects, we put the indirect object before the direct object. But we can write the objects in another way also. We can put the indirect object (the person receiving the direct object) after the direct object. Then we have to use to or for before the person receiving the direct object. The structures are: 

Structure 1. Subject + Transitive Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object

  • I'll send you a post card. 
  • She bought her husband a car. 

Structure 2. Subject + Transitive Verb + Direct Object + to/for + Indirect Object

  • I'll send a post card to you. 
  • She bought a car for her husband. 

To or for?

We can use to with these verbs: bring, feed, give, hand, lend, offer, owe, pass, pay, post, promise, read, sell, send, show, take, teach, tell, throw, write

We can use for with these verbs: book, bring, build, buy, choose, cook, fetch, find, get, leave, make, order, pick, reserve, save

 4. Complements 

A complement is a noun or an adjective that is used after linking verbs like be or become or after the object of certain verbs like electselect, etc. and renames the preceding noun or describes it. There are two main types of complements - subject complements and object complements

Subject Complements

A subject complement is an adjective or a noun that is used after linking verbs like be and become. A subject complement modifies the subject or renames it. If the subject complement is a noun, it is called predicate nominative. If it is an adjective, it is called predicative adjective.

  • Tigers are animals. (predicate nominative)
  • Tigers are ferocious. (predicative adjective)

Remember: Subject complements are used after the following verbs:

  • Be verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be & been
  • Sense verbs: feel, look, taste, smell, & sound
  • Verbs of perception: seem & appear
  • Change-of-state verbs: become, get, grow, go, & turn 

Note that all the verbs can be replaced with a be verb

Pronoun Subject Complements

Pronoun subject complements after be verbs can be in object form or in subject form. Object form is informal and very popular. Subject form is formal.

  • It was I who helped you first. 
  • It was me who helped you first. 

More Examples of Subject Complements

SubjectVerbSubject ComplementType
Heisa boy.Noun
Youaremy friend.Noun
Youbecameour captain.Noun

Subject Complement vs Object

Both the subject complement and the object are used after verbs. But a subject complement and an object are not same. Compare the following sentences:

  • Ricky is a doctor
  • Ricky married a doctor.

In the first sentence, Ricky and a doctor are same person. Here, a doctor is a subject complement. But in the second sentence, Ricky and a doctor are different persons. Here, a doctor is an object. 

Object Complements

An object complement is an adjective or a noun that appears after the object and modifies or renames it. 

  • We elected James our captain. (Noun)
  • His conduct made them angry. (Adjective) 

RememberObject complements appear after the following verbs: elect, select, nominate, appoint, make, & call. 

More Examples of Object Complements

SubjectVerbObjectObject ComplementType

Object vs Object Complement

If a verb has two nouns after it, the second one may be an object or an object complement. How will you know? Remember that the object and object complement are same person or thing. But direct object and the indirect object are different. Look at the following two sentences.

  • The class elected Ricky their captain. 
  • They gave Ricky a gift.

In the first sentence, Ricky and their captain are same person.Here, 'their captain' is an object complement. In the second sentence, Ricky and a gift are different. Here, 'a gift' is an object. 

Exercise (iv): Write whether the Verbs in the following sentences are Transitive or Intransitive, name the Object of each Transitive Verb, and the Complement of each Verb of Incomplete Predication:- 

  1. The hungry lion roars. 
  2. The report proved false. 
  3. The boy stood on the burning deck. 
  4. The child had fallen sick. 
  5. The ass continued braying. 
  6. The wind is cold. 
  7. The results are out. 
  8. He tried again and again. 
  9. We see with our eyes. 
  10. The child fell asleep. 
  11. The weather is hot. 
  12. They are Europeans. 
  13. The rumour seems true. 
  14. Owls hide in the daytime. 
  15. Bad boys hide their faults. 
  16. The poor woman went mad. 
  17. We waited patiently at the station. 
  18. He told a lie. 
  19. They elected him president. 
  20. I found her weeping. 
  21. He struck the man dead. 
  22. The crow flew down and stole the cheese. 
  23. The sky looks threatening. 
  24. They made him general. 
  25. He waited an hour. 
  26. New brooms sweep clean. Click here to see the answer. 

 5. Adjuncts

Adjuncts are the fifth component of a sentence and they are optional (not obligatory). A sentence can express meaning even if you omit them from the sentence. Adverbials (adverb, adverb phrase, and adverb clause) function as adjuncts.  There are three types of adjuncts: adverb, adverbial phrase, and adverbial clause

  • Tigers can run fast. (Phrase)
  • They hunt for food at night. (Adverbial Phrase)
  • You can't see when you are sleeping. (Adverbial Clause)

Position of Adjuncts

There are three places in the sentence where adjuncts are used. They are before the subject (front position), between the subject and the verb (mid position) and after the object or complement (end position).  

Front Position

Front position means that adjuncts are the first item of the sentence. 

  • Last year I visited New York. 
  • In the morning I found the thief. 
  • Then he was free.

Mid Position

Mid position means between the subject and the verb. If the verb phrase has a principal verb and a main verb, the adjunct may go between them. 

  • He usually comes home at night.
  • This will gradually stop bleeding. 

End Position

End position means after the intransitive verb, or after the object or complement.

  • He finished the job well
  • It hardly rains in winter


Adjuncts do not have any fixed position. You can use the same adjunct in any of the three positions.

  • He eats oats in the morning
  • In the morning, he eats oats. 

Exercise (v): Find out the objects and the adjuncts in the following sentences.  

  1. He speaks like a born orator. 
  2. It grieved me to hear of your illness. 
  3. Beyond a doubt this man is honest. 
  4. He failed in spite of his best efforts. 
  5. He won the prize by means of trickery. 
  6. Do not talk like that. 
  7. I have forgotten how to play this game. 
  8. He gained their affection in spite of many faults. 
  9. I do not expect such treatment at your hands. 
  10. He speaks too fast to be understood. 
  11. I do not know what to do. 
  12. I do not understand how to solve this problem. 
  13. He persevered amidst many difficulties. 
  14. He succeeded in the long run. 
  15. Birds of a feather flock together. 
  16. This is a matter of no importance. 
  17. The train is behind time. 
  18. He is a man of means. 
  19. It lies near his heart, 
  20. He keeps the necklace under lock and key. 
  21. He is a person of no importance. 
  22. I want to go to the cinema to-day. 
  23. I love to hear the watch-dog's honest bark. 
  24. I did it of my own free will. 
  25. Show me how to do it, 
  26. His car ran over a dog. 
  27. Things are in a bad way. 
  28. She is a woman of wonderful patience. 
  29. I have found the key to his secret. 
  30. The plan has the virtue of committing us to nothing. 
  31. I don't see the point of the story. 
  32. How to find the way to the ruins is the question. 
  33. Tubal Cain was a man of might. 
  34. He did it against his will. 
  35. I have no time to waste on trifles. 
  36. Don't do things by halves. 
  37. I enjoy walking in the fields. Click here to see the answer.


1. Cambridge Grammar of English by Ronald Carter and Michael McCarthy

2. High English English Grammar & Composition by Wren & Martin

3. Oxford Advanced Learners' Dictionary by AS Hornby

Answer to Exercise (i)Find out the verbs in the following sentences and say whether they are Finite or Nonfinite. In case of the nonfinite, say whether they are InfinitivesParticiples and Gerunds. In the case of the Gerund, state whether it is subjectobjectcomplement, or used after a preposition. 

  1. heard (Finite) her sing (Bare Infinitive)
  2. Men must work (Finite) and women must weep (Finite)
  3. He is (Finite) slow to forgive (Infinitive).
  4. Thus to relieve (Infinitive) the wretched was (Finite) his pride. 
  5. Full many a flower is born (Finite) to blush (Infinitive) unseen (Participle)
  6. Music hath (Finite) charms to soothe (Infinitive) the savage beast. 
  7. To retreat (Infinitive) was (Finite) difficult; to advance (Infinitive) was (Finite) impossible. 
  8. My desire is (Finite) to see (Infinitive) you again. 
  9. My right there is (Finite) none to dispute (Infinitive)
  10. The ability to laugh (Infinitive) is (Finite) peculiar to mankind. 
  11. Better dwell (Finite) in the midst of alarms. 
  12. To toil (Infinitive) is (Finite) the lot of mankind.
  13. There was (Finite) nothing for it to fight (Infinitive)
  14. The order to advance (Infinitive) was given (Finite)
  15. He was found (Finite) fighting (Participle) desperately for his life. 
  16. He has ruined (Finite) his sight by reading (Gerund-Object) small print. 
  17. Hearing (Participle) the noise, he ran (Finite) to the window. 
  18. Asking (Gerund-Subject) questions is (Finite) easier than answering (Gerund-Object) them. 
  19. Waving (Participle) their hats and handkerchiefs, the people cheered (Finite) the king. 
  20. The miser spends (Finite) his time in hoarding (Gerund-Object) money. 
  21. Amassing (Gerund-Subject) wealth often ruins (Finite) health. 
  22. We spent (Finite) the afternoon in playing (Gerund-Object) cards. 
  23. Praising (Gerund-Subject) all alike is (Finite) praising (Gerund-Subject Complement) none. 
  24. determined (Finite) to increase (Infinitive) my salary by managing (Gerund-Object) a little farm. 
  25. And fools who came (Finite) to scoff remained (Finite) to pray (Infinitive)
  26. The year was spent (Finite) in visiting (Gerund-Object) our rich neighbours. 
  27. Singing (Gerund-Subject) to herself was (Finite) her chief delight. 
  28. The mango is (Finite) fit to eat (Infinitive)
  29. He preferred (Finite) playing (Gerund-Object) football to studying (Gerund-Object) his lessons. 
  30. Let (Finite) us pray (Infinitive)
  31. thank (Finite) thee, Jew, for teaching (Gerund-Object) me that word. 
  32. cannot go (Finite) on doing (Gerund-Object) nothing. 

Answer to Exercise (ii): Underline the subject in the following sentences: 

  1. The cackling of geese saved Rome. 
  2. The boy stood on the burning deck. 
  3. Tubal Cain was a man of might. 
  4. Stone walls do not make a prison. 
  5. The singing of the birds delights us. 
  6. Miss Kitty was rude at the table one day 
  7. He has a good memory. 
  8. Bad habits grow unconsciously. 
  9. The earth revolves round the sun. 
  10. Nature is the best physician. 
  11. Edison invented the phonograph. 
  12. The sea hath many thousand sands. 
  13. We cannot pump the ocean dry. 
  14. Borrowed garments never fit well. 
  15. The early bird catches the worm. 
  16. All matter is indestructible. 
  17. Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan. 
  18. We should profit by experience. 
  19. All roads lead to Rome. 
  20. A guilty conscience needs no excuse. 
  21. The beautiful rainbow soon faded away. 
  22. No man can serve two masters. 
  23. A sick room should be well aired. 
  24. The dewdrops glitter in the sunshine. 
  25. I shot an arrow into the air. 
  26. A barking sound the shepherd hears. 
  27. On the top of the hill lives a hermit

Exercise (iv): Write whether the Verbs in the following sentences are Transitive or Intransitive, name the Object of each Transitive Verb, and the Complement of each Verb of Incomplete Predication:

  1. The hungry lion roars (Intransitive)
  2. The report proved false (Subject Complement)
  3. The boy stood (Intransitive) on the burning deck. 
  4. The child had fallen sick (Subject Complement)
  5. The ass continued (Transitive) braying (Object)
  6. The wind is cold (Subject Complement)
  7. The results are out (Subject Complement)
  8. He tried (Intransitive) again and again. 
  9. We see (Intransitive) with our eyes. 
  10. The child fell asleep (Subject Complement)
  11. The weather is hot (Subject Complement)
  12. They are Europeans (Subject Complement)
  13. The rumour seems true (Subject Complement)
  14. Owls hide (Intransitive) in the daytime. 
  15. Bad boys hide (Transitive) their faults (Object)
  16. The poor woman went mad (Subject Complement)
  17. We waited (Intransitive) patiently at the station. 
  18. He told (Transitive) a lie (Object)
  19. They elected him president (Object Complement)
  20. I found her weeping (Object Complement)
  21. He struck the man dead (Object Complement)
  22. The crow flew (Intransitive) down and stole (Transitive) the cheese (Object)
  23. The sky looks threatening (Subject Complement)
  24. They made him general (Object Complement)
  25. He waited (Intransitive) an hour. 
  26. New brooms sweep clean (Complement).

Answer to Exercise (v): Find out the objects and the adjuncts in the following sentences.

  1. He speaks like a born orator (Adjunct)
  2. It grieved me (Object) to hear of your illness (Object)
  3. Beyond a doubt (Adjunct) this man is honest. 
  4. He failed in spite of his best efforts (Adjunct)
  5. He won the prize by means of trickery (Adjunct)
  6. Do not talk like that (Adjunct)
  7. I have forgotten how to play this game.  (Object)
  8. He gained their affection in spite of many faults (Adjunct)
  9. I do not expect such treatment  (Object) at your hands. 
  10. He speaks too fast to be understood (Adjunct)
  11. I do not know what to do.  (Object)
  12. I do not understand how to solve this problem. (Object) 
  13. He persevered amidst many difficulties (Adjunct)
  14. He succeeded in the long run (Adjunct)
  15. Birds of a feather flock together. 
  16. This is a matter of no importance. 
  17. The train is behind time. 
  18. He is a man of means. 
  19. It lies near his heart. 
  20. He keeps the necklace under lock and key (Adjunct)
  21. He is a person of no importance. 
  22. I want to go to the cinema to-day. (Adjunct) 
  23. I love to hear the watch-dog's honest bark. (Object) 
  24. I did it of my own free will.  (Adjunct)
  25. Show me how to do it. (Object) 
  26. His car ran over a dog. (Object) 
  27. Things are in a bad way. 
  28. She is a woman of wonderful patience. 
  29. I have found the key to his secret.  (Adjunct)
  30. The plan has the virtue of committing us to nothing.  (Adjunct)
  31. I don't see the point of the story. (Object) 
  32. How to find the way to the ruins is the question. 
  33. Tubal Cain was a man of might. 
  34. He did it against his will.  (Adjunct)
  35. I have no time to waste on trifles. (Object) 
  36. Don't do things by halves. (Object)  
  37. I enjoy walking in the fields.  (Adjunct)