Basic Sentence Transformation:
- Indirect objects
- Passive constructions
- Negative constructions
- interrogative constructions
When we combine the simple sentence types we’ve already looked at – sentence type I, II, III, IV, and V – into more complex sentence, we do this through a process that grammarians call “sentence transformation.”
We’ve talked about this a bit already, when we discussed how relative clauses are combined or subordinated into other sentences.
I was born on a street.
The street is in Renton, Washington.
The street where I was born is in Renton, Washington.
We also use other sentence transformations to create interesting and more complex sentences.
Indirect object transformation
In the section on Type V sentences, we discussed, briefly, sentences with indirect objects. The indirect object is created by the transformation of a sentence with a prepositional phrase acting as an adverbial modifier.
Ivy bought a new shirt for Elvis.
Ivy bought Elvis a new shirt.
The prepositional phrase transforms into the indirect object.
The teachers read a story to the toddlers
The teacher read the toddlers a story.
The library sent an overdue notice to me.
The library sent me an overdue notice.
If you have a direct object, and you can add a to or for to the other noun phrase in the sentence and move it to the end of the sentence, you probably have an indirect object construction.
Dr. Skull fixed me dinner. (…for me)
I gave my dog a biscuit. (…to my dog)
Don’t confuse indirect objects with object complements. Remember that an object complement has an understood or elided “to be” between the two noun phrases.
They named the new child Charles.
This isn’t an indirect object construction – we can’t put a to or a for before “the new child” and move it after Charles.
They named Charles to the new child ßNo
They named Charles for the new child ß NO
But we can put a “to be” between child and Charles – so it’s an object complement construction.
They named the new child < to be > Charles.
Exercise: Which of these are indirect object constructions?
(a) Mick loaned us his old truck.
(b) Someone saw me cutting class.
(c) I wrote my kid a note.
(d) We elected Polly Captain.
(Answer key: a: yes; b: no; c: yes d: no)
Type V sentences – that is, sentences with the construction
Subject (NP1) + MVP (Transitive verb) + Direct Object (NP2)
are in the active voice. These sentences can be transformed into the passive voice. Type V sentences are the only sentences that can be made passive.
They are made passive by making the direct object (NP2) into the subject, moving the subject (NP1) into an adverbial phrase (or omitting it), and then adding a Be-auxiliary to the verb.
So take this sentence, which is a Type V sentence:
My cat chased the green Skittle.
To transform it into the passive voice, we make the direct object (the green skittle) the subject, the subject (my cat) an adverbial phrase (in the form of a prepositional phrase), and then add a Be-auxiliary to the verb.
The green Skittle was chased by my cat.
Similarly, we can transform these active sentences into passive sentences:
Ellen saw a great blue heron.
Ivy is teaching all the bears.
No one will remember their books.
Sarah gave him five dollars.
A great blue heron was seen by Ellen.
All the bears are being taught.
The books will be remembered by no one.
He was given five dollars.
Five dollars was given to him.
The last example shows us something interesting happens in Type V sentences that have both an indirect and a direct object, which is that when these sentences become passive, either the direct or the indirect object may become the subject of the new sentence.
So far we’ve been looking at positive sentences. But every positive sentence can be transformed into a negative sentence. In English, this transformation is fairly simple.
If the verb phrase has an auxiliary, we insert not after the first auxiliary:
Lee will have finished the laundry.
Lee will not finished the laundry.
Lee won’t have finished the laundry.
Polly is planning to graduate this year.
Polly isn’t planning to graduate this year.
Dave has been wearing that hat.
Dave hasn’t been wearing that hat.
What if a verb phrase has no auxiliary? In these cases we add what is called a dummy do, or a dummy auxiliary do. (It is called a dummy because it adds no meaning to the sentence.)
Fiona loves pie.
Fiona does not love pie.
Mick answered his phone.
Mick didn’t answer his phone.
Note what happens to the tense in these sentences – it shifts from the main verb to the auxiliary verb.
(See page 274 in your text for how to diagram negatives)
When we turn declarative sentences into interrogative sentences, their word order is rearranged, and (sometimes) interrogative words are used to signal that a question is being asked.
With questions that expect a yes/no answer, an auxiliary word is moved in front of the subject:
The dog got out last night.
Did the dog get out last night?
Elvis is coming to our party.
Is Elvis coming to our party?
You can find the subject of this sentence.
Can you find the subject of this sentence?
But with questions that ask for more information, an interrogative word is inserted at the start of the sentence.
What did Elvis make for the party?
Where did my little dog go?
Why are we studying grammar?
How can this be happening?
Imperatives are sentences that give commands. In English, the imperative form of the verb is its base, or lexical form – the form of the verb as it exists without tense or any other marker.
So the imperative of go is go; of leave is leave, and so on.
When we use the imperative, we don’t have a stated subject – the subject is implied.
Eat that pie!
Find me a clean plate.
Just leave now.
Ellie, read the next paragraph.
In all of these, the subject is an understood “you,” although in some of them, the “you” could be plural or singular. (The sentence with Ellie might confuse you, but even there, the subject is you – it’s just that this you is named Ellie.)
Cat. Catter. Cattest.