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Clause arrangement

 

Techniques > Use of language > Syntax > Clause arrangement

Basic patterns | Switching objects | Poetic rearrangements  | Emphatic rearrangement | See also

 

Basic patterns

There are seven basic patterns of clauses, based on combinations of the Clause elements of Subject, Verb, Object, Complement, Adverbial (SVOCA):

S / V: The cat / scratched
S / V / O: The cat / scratched / the door
S / V / C: The cat / scratched / loudly
S / V / A: The cat / scratched / at six o'clock
S / V / O / O: The cat / gave / the door / a scratch
S / V / O / C: The cat / scratched / the door / loudly
S / V / O / C: The cat / scratched / the door / at six o'clock

Because people generally expect this order to occur, when the order is changed, it often causes use to pay additional attention, as the difference from the norm may signify something unusual that requires additional cognitive processing.

Switching objects

In the S / V / O / O pattern, the two objects can be switched. The grammatical meaning remains the same, but the difference in order makes 

The man gave me a dollar

The man gave a dollar to me

Notice here how in the first clause, the 'me' comes first, giving it a sense of primacy. In the second phrase, the dollar has subtly gained primacy. This effect can, in fact, be totally reversed, if emphasis is placed on the final word.

Poetic rearrangement

Poets sometimes deliberately rearrange this order, in order (sometimes using archaic forms) both to use this as an attention-getting device and to create deliberate other effects.

Wordsworth: Ten thousand saw I at a glance.

Keats: Round many western Isles I have been.

This type of rearrangement can be used to give a traditional or even mystical sense to a statement.

Yoda: Strong in the force, you are.

Emphatic rearrangement

The above seven combinations can be rearranged in limited ways. In particular, by moving the end element to the beginning, it can be given particular emphasis (especially when verbal intonation is added to it).

O / S / V: The door / was scratched / by the cat

Note here how the door, although now still the object that is scratched, is now made more important than the cat. Putting the object first has given it a sense of importance, using the primacy effect.

See also

Clause, Primacy effect, Sentences

 

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