The subject>verb>direct object structure is the bedrock of communication in English. This most basic sentence type is the hidden structure that shapes all other English sentence types.
The structure seems simple on the surface, but it’s still helpful to practice it. Many other languages don’t have a subject>verb>direct object structure in the same way as English does. In East Asian and Romance languages, for instance, it’s common to omit the subject from a sentence so that it’s only implied through context. And in the Altaic family of languages (Korean, Japanese, Turkish, Finnish, etc…) subject>direct object>verb is used instead of subject>verb>direct object.
The sentence structure habits from your first language are very hard to put aside when you start using a different structure in a second language. In this post, I’ll give you some simple comic strips that can help you learn subject>verb>direct object through repetition. (I originally created these comics for a beginner-level adult education class at the Eau Claire Hmong Mutual Assistance Association. But these are good exercises for grammatical fitness even if you’re a more advanced learner preparing for the TOEFL.)
Comic strip 1:
The sentences in this comic strip use only two verbs: get and stomp. And there are only three nouns: man, pig, and bug. As the situation between man, pig, and bug changes from panel to panel, the nouns playfully change from being subjects to being direct objects. Study these sentences carefully and notice how the pattern works even as the subjects, verbs, and direct objects change. Consider reading them out loud—really go over this structure again and again.
Comic strip 2:
One good way to really understand a grammar structure is to work with it. In the comic strip below, the subjects, verbs and objects have been written for you. But the sentences are missing their determiners (words like a, an, and the). Rewrite these subject>verb>object sentences so they include determiners and are grammatically complete.
Comic strip 3:
Now you’re ready to do an exercise where you play with subject, verb, and direct object completely on your own. In this third comic strip, no sentences have been completed— you write your own. I’ve given you some suggested verbs, subjects, and direct objects, but feel free to be creative!