Clausal Elements


Clausal elements are linguistic items that make up the clause and allow for the breakdown of a clause into “syntactic elements”. The elements of the clause therefore include:

  1. Subject
  2. Predicator
  3. Subject Complement
  4. Object Complement
  5. Direct Object
  6. Indirect Object
  7. Adverbial/Adjunct

NB. While elements have to do with the above-mentioned, the grammatical units have to do with the grammatical rankscale.

A subject is usually the performer of an action in a sentence. The verbal group is often categorised as the predicator. The predicator could be simple, complex, dynamic or static.



a. Jesus (S) wept (P).
b. She (S) is cooking (P) in the room (A).
c. “Is” (S) is (P) a verb (C).
d. The book (S) is (P) on the table (A).
e. She (S) cooks (P) in the room (A).

The Predicator in Example E is simple while the one in B is complex. The Complement in Example C is a subject complement.

A complement gives us more information about the subject or the object. A complement gives a co-referential relationship between the subject or the object and a quality in the same statement. A sentence with a complement may have a linking verb (also copula verb or equative verb).


f. We (S) elected (P) Buhari (O) the president (Obj. C).
g. Buhari (S) is (P) the president (Subj. C).
h. We (S) consider (P) her (O) brilliant (Obj. C).
i. She (S) is (P) brilliant (Subj. C).

From the above examples, we can see that both nouns and adjectives can function as the subject complement or object complement in any sentence.

An object is usually the receiver of an action or upon whom an action is passed. Examples:

j. He (S) killed (P) the goat (O).
k. Kola (S) gives (P) her (Oi) a ring (Od).
l. Bisi (S) bought (P) her mother (Oi) a car (Od).

“Her mother” in Example J is an indirect object (Oi) while the item bought, “a car”, is the direct object (Od). To distinguish between the two object types, sentence J can be rephrased as:

m. Bisi (S) bought (P) a car (O) for her mother (A).

In an arrangement such as Example K, the indirect object will transform into an adjunct. In most cases, the indirect object comes before the direct object.

Adjunct is a group of words (or a word) that provides additional information to a sentence. They are movable and, once removed, they do not change the sentence but lessen the gravity of the sentence, or the extent of the meaning. There is however an exception to this assertion in a sentence like “He is here” where “here” as an adjunct is obligatory and cannot be removed.

Elements that function as adjunct include adverbs, adverbial group and adverbial clause. They often give circumstantial details about the actions expressed by the subject. These details could be the manner, time, frequency or place.


n. I (S) saw (P) her (O) when she was going out (A).

A predicator is the verbal group in a sentence while the predicate is anything other than the subject.

o. That I came out of OAU sane (S) is (P) amazing (SC).
p. He (S) did not look up (P) to God (A) for help (A).



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