Clause Components

Clauses (simple sentences) are made of five components like verbs, subjects, objects, complements, 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). 

Table of Contents


    Sentence Components

    Sentences are made of small blocks of words. Each block is called a component of the sentence. There are five components of sentences: verbssubjectsobjects, complements, and adjuncts. The first four are central elements and the last one is a peripheral element. For example, the following sentence has three components: a subject, a verb, and an object

    • Burn owls hate bright lights


      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. 


        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. 


          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 elect, select, 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. 


              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.