verb element of clauses

The verb element is one of the five types of clause element. The others are: subjects, objects, complements and adverbials.

• The verb element is the most central of the clause elements. In other words, it does not normally appear either at the beginning of a clause or at its end.

• The verb element is normally obligatory. In other words, it is required in all seven basic clause patterns. [See the list in the entry on “clauses.”]

- “Verbless clauses” are an exception to this “rule.” For example, in the sentence, “ When at work, Harry never thinks about his family,” the marked segment is regarded as a “verbless clause” because it is interpretible as being a condensed version of a clause such as “when he is at work.” Here, as is often the case, the verbless clause is also subjectless. When a verbless clause does have a subject, as in With Harry in China, Sara had many opportunities to enjoy herself,” the subject is often “introduced” by the word, “with.”

• The verb element cannot normally be moved from one position in a clause to another; in other words, it is “immobile.” In this respect the verb element can be compared to the subject element which is also relatively immobile.

- By comparison, objects and complements are more mobile. For example, in certain contexts the object of, “Harry drinks beer at every opportunity,” can be moved to initial position as in Beer , Harry drinks at every opportunity.”  The only highly mobile clause element in English, however, is the adverbial; this element can often have several different possible positions in a single clause.

• The main verb of the verb phrase that “realizes” the verb element of the clause determines what elements will follow. It determines, in other words, which of the seven clause the clause will have.

- intransitive verbs , since they cannot be followed by an object, will appear only in clauses with the SV pattern; copular verbs will appear only in SVC and SVA patterns; transitive verbs will appear in clauses with SVO, SVOO, SVOC, or SVOA patterns; and, more specifically, monotransitive verbs will occur in SVO clauses, ditransitive verbs in SVOO and “complex transitive” verbs in SVOC patterns.

• the verb element and verb phrases
With the exception of the verb element, all the clause elements can be realized in more than one way: subjects and objects, as noun phrases or noun clauses; complements as noun phrases or adjective phrases; adverbials as adverb phrases or clauses and also as prepositional phrases. By contrast the verb element can only be realized by a verb phrase. Because of this it is natural — and indeed common — to speak of the verb element of a clause as its “verb phrase.” Strictly speaking, however this is not correct, at least in terms of the theoretical approach followed by the Grammar Glossary. According to that way of looking at things, clauses cannot “have” phrases but only “elements.”