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Syntax for Advanced Learners


When the time comes and you begin a new topic in grammar sphere, the mess in your head may evoke. We all know how difficult it is to learn grammar but learning grammar of a language you are mastering as a foreign one can really be a challenge to rise to. So, if you contend to surmount the difficulty of comprehending the basics of English syntax, do not feel upset and take a look at our article that has been created especially for your needs.

Simple Sentence

First of all, we will start with a simple sentence and its construction so that you have a clear image of syntax (a sentence structure) and common sentence issues in a written language. A sentence consists of one or more words that are linked grammatically. A sentence can be simple or composite. The difference between a simple and composite sentence lies in the fact that the former contains only one subject-predicate connection and the latter has more than one.

The simple sentence has one subject-predicate unit that has two main positions: those of the subject and of the predicate. It can also be extended and not extended. Extended simple sentence contains optional elements (other syntactic elements) and unextended one contains only two main positions that are subject and predicate. Let’s take a closer look at the elements of a sentence.

The Subject

The subject is a noun phrase. The subject is a core part of a sentence, it actually tells us the primary information of a sentence meaning. Subject can be expressed with:

  1. A noun in the common case or two or more coordinated nouns which make up – Me and my sister have decided to visit out grandma on Saturday.
  2. Personal pronoun in the nominative case – She was at school.
  3. Any other pronoun – I saw a dog running around. It was quite excited today.
  4. A numeral – The five were about to leave.
  5. An infinitive phrase – to go away means to stand up and get out, Jack.
  6. A gerund or gerundial phrase – Reading is a very pleasant activity in the evening.
  7. An infinitive or a gerundial complex – your doing nothing will only be for the worse.
  8. Any word or words used as quotations – “Better late than never” was her slogan.


A predicative is a second important element of each sentence as denotes the action or a state of the subject. It can be simple or compound.

Simple predicates are expressed by verbal state and nominal state. Verbal state contains:

  • A verb in a synthetic or analytical form;
  • A verbal phrase;
  • A phrasal verb;
  • An idiom;

Nominal state of simple predicate is:

  • A noun;
  • An adjective;
  • An infinitive;
  • Participle I.

Compound predicate can also be of a verbal or nominal state. To the verbal state belong phasal and modal aspects as well as of double orientation, to the nominal one belong proper and double predicate aspects.

Adjective Phrase


Adjectives modify a noun. Ways of expressing an adjective phrase:

  • Quantifiers;
  • Adverbs;
  • Prepositional phrases;
  • Clauses.

A function of an attribute. Attribute is placed before a noun and may be expressed by:

  • adverbial adjectives (afraid, alike etc.);
  • attributive clauses;
  • qualifying adjectives;
  • relative or denominal adjectives;
  • verbal adjectives (adjectives derived from – ing or-ed participles)

A function of a predicative. As a predicative it is situated after a verb (She was happy and excited).

Adverbial Phrase

Adverbial modifier is a secondary part of the sentence, which is expressed by a verb, adjective, stative or an adverb. Where? When? How? How often? To what extent? It may refer to:

  • Predicate verb or a verbal phrase;
  • The whole sentence;
  • Adverb in its main function as an adverbial.

Ways of expressing adverbial modifiers:

  • Adverb;
  • Adverbial phrase;
  • Noun, pronoun or numeral with a preposition;
  • A noun without a preposition;
  • A non-finite verb form;
  • Predicative complex;
  • Adjective, participle, noun, prepositional phrase, infinitive or a phrase, introduced by a conjunction;
  • A clause.

Types of adverbial modifiers in semantic classification:

  • Adverbial Modifiers of Place and Direction. E.g. Last summer I was in Austria;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Time and Frequency. E.g. Last summer I was in Austria;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Manner. The determining questions are “how?” and “in what manner?”, also, “by what means?”. E.g. She was dancing beautifully;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Concession. The question will be “in spite of what?” and the words to help you recognize this type are “even if, though, although, despite something, ever, with all etc.”. E.g. Despite our loyal attitude, he refused to be helped;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Cause or Reason. The question is “due to what?” and “why?” and the type is recognized with adding “because …as, since etc.”. E.g. Hiding in the bush, he was not able to come out;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Purpose. Question “what for?” and determiners are “to, in order to, so as to”. E.g. He stood aside for her to pass;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Result or Consequence. “too, enough, sufficiently, so… (as)”. E.g. The weather is too cold to go out;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Condition. The questions are “in what case?” “on what condition?” and the words to recognize it in a sentence are “but for, except for, without, if, unless”. E.g. But for you I would not be here at all;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Exception – but, except, but for, apart from, aside from, with the exception of – the words to help you define the sentence with this type of adverbial modifier. E.g. I was looking everywhere except in the kitchen;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Comparison with the words “than, as, as if, as though, like” to describe the act of comparing things. E.g. The boy is now as tall as his father;
  • Adverbial Modifiers of Measure and Degree. The questions are “how much? To what extent? “. E.g. The story is extremely long.

Mastering syntax may seem a daunting task at first but once you understand the agreement in a sentence and get to grips with determining the elements of it, applying them in everyday conversation will no more be a struggle for you.

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