Word order in an English sentence: basic rules and examples

Word order is one of the most important and complex grammatical features of the English language. This rule refers to the placement of words in a sentence and their interaction with each other. According to the correct order of words in a sentence, people can understand not only the content of the sentence, but also its nuances, the relationship between ideas and people.

Knowing the correct word order is important for learning English because it helps you create smart and logical sentences. In this topic, we will consider the basic rules for placing words in an English sentence and give examples that will help you understand these rules in practice.

How to correctly place words in an English sentence: tips and examples

  1. Basic word order

The main word order in English is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). This means that the subject (the person, animal, or object that performs the action) appears at the beginning of the sentence, followed by the verb, and then the object (the person, animal, or object to which the action is directed). For example: “John eats an apple”.

  1. Word order in negative and interrogative sentences

У заперечних реченнях, до дієслова додається допоміжне слово “do” або “does” (для Present Simple), “did” (для Past Simple) та частка “not“. При цьому порядок слів залишається незмінним. Наприклад: “John does not eat an apple” (Джон не їсть яблуко).

In negative sentences, the auxiliary word “do” or “does” (for Present Simple), “did” (for Past Simple) and the particle “not” are added to the verb. At the same time, the word order remains unchanged. For example: “John does not eat an apple”.

  1. Word order in complex sentences

In complex sentences that contain two or more simple clauses, the word order can change depending on what type of conjunction is used between the clauses. Example:

  • The connection “and“: in this case, the word order remains unchanged, since both sentences are equal. For example: “John ate an apple and Mary drank some water”
  • Conjunction “but“: in this case, the second sentence indicates the opposite of the first. Usually, “but” is followed by a negation or a word with the opposite meaning. For example: “John ate an apple, but he did not like it”
  • Connection “or“: in this case, depending on the situation, the order of words changes. If both sentences have the same subject, the word order remains unchanged. For example: “John can eat an apple or a banana”. If the subjects are different, the word order changes. For example: “Mary will come to the party, or John will come instead”
  • Connection “because“: in this case, the word order changes. First comes the cause (the second sentence), and then the effect (the first sentence). For example: “John ate an apple because he was hungry”

How to create logical sentences with the correct word order

If it is very simplified to consider how most sentences are formed in the English language, then the word order can be represented as in the table below.

Position in sentenceType of wordExample
1SubjectI, she, he, they
2Verbam, is, are, eat, run
3Objectthe ball, a book, to the store
4Adverb of mannerquickly, slowly, carefully
5Adverb of frequencyalways, often, never
6Adverb of timeyesterday, today, tomorrow, at 3pm
7Adverb of placehere, there, on the table, in the park
8Adverb of degreevery, quite, extremely

Please note that this is just a basic chart and there may be exceptions to this order depending on the sentence structure, the type of sentence, and the emphasis that you want to put on certain words or phrases. However, this chart can serve as a useful guide to understanding the basic word order in English sentences.

Let’s look at examples of word order in a sentence in English and start with the basic order presented above SVO [Subject] + [Verb] + [Object].

where:

  • [Subject] – the subject, that is, the person, thing, or creature that is being discussed in the sentence
  • [Verb] – a verb, that is, an action performed by the subject
  • [Object] – an object, i.e. a thing or being, to which the action is directed

Here are some examples of sentences with this word order:

  • She eats an apple every day. (Subject: She, Verb: eats, Object: an apple, Adverb of frequency: every day)
  • John is running quickly in the park. (Subject: John, Verb: is running, Adverb of manner: quickly, Adverb of place: in the park)
  • They have never been to Europe before. (Subject: They, Verb: have been, Adverb of frequency: never, Object: to Europe, Adverb of time: before)
  • I will carefully read this book tomorrow. (Subject: I, Verb: will read, Adverb of manner: carefully, Object: this book, Adverb of time: tomorrow)
  • He is quite tall for his age. (Subject: He, Verb: is, Adverb of degree: quite, Adjective: tall, Prepositional phrase: for his age)

However, this order can change depending on the type of sentence we want to make or the words we use. Here are some examples:

  1. Objection:

[Subject] + do not/does not + [Verb] + [Object]

Example: She does not like coffee.

  1. Question:

Do/Does + [Subject] + [Verb] + [Object] + ?

Example: Do you speak English?

  1. Adjective before noun:

[Article] + [Adjective] + [Noun]

Example: The red car.

  1. An adverb in the middle of a sentence:

[Subject] + [Verb] + [Adverb] + [Object]

Example: He sings beautifully.

  1. Use of phrasal verbs:

[Subject] + [Phrasal Verb] + [Object]

Example: I look forward to seeing you.

  1. A complex sentence:

[Independent Clause] + [Conjunction] + [Independent Clause]

Example: She went to the store, but she forgot her wallet.

With the help of these different constructions, you can create more complex sentences that convey a more precise content of information. These examples can help you better understand how to use word order in a sentence in English.

 

Order of adjectives in a sentence

The order of adjectives in a sentence is also important in the English language, as misplacing adjectives can cause confusion and misinterpretation of information.

In general, in English, the order of adjectives usually follows a certain sequence. For example, a noun is first preceded by an adjective that expresses its general characteristic (for example, “big“, “small“, “old“), and then – adjectives that express its specific features (for example, “red“, “round“, “wooden“).

So, in general, the order of adjectives can be as follows:

  • Descriptive adjective (example, “big”, “small”, “old”)
  • A descriptive adjective that expresses a general characteristic (example, “beautiful”, “ugly”, “useful”)
  • An adjective indicating origin (example, “French”, “American”, “Asian”)
  • An adjective that indicates a material (example, “wooden”, “metallic”, “plastic”)
  • Adjective that indicates purpose (example, “cooking”, “swimming”, “reading”)
  • A descriptive adjective that expresses a feeling or mood  (example, “happy”, “sad”, “angry”)

Of course, these are not hard and fast rules, and there are cases where the order of adjectives can be changed depending on the context and the tone of meaning the author wants to convey. For example, “a small, green plant” and “a green, small plant” are both correct expressions, but may have slightly different shades of meaning.

Examples

Negative sentences and positive sentences in English have different forms. Here are some example sentences with different forms to demonstrate the difference between them:

Positive sentence:

  • I like to read books. (Subject: I, Verb: like, Infinitive phrase: to read books)

Negative sentence:

  • I do not like to read books. (Subject: I, Auxiliary verb: do, Negation: not, Verb: like, Infinitive phrase: to read books)

Positive sentence:

  • She eats fish for dinner. (Subject: She, Verb: eats, Object: fish, Prepositional phrase: for dinner)

Negative sentence:

  • She does not eat fish for dinner. (Subject: She, Auxiliary verb: does, Negation: not, Verb: eat, Object: fish, Prepositional phrase: for dinner)

Positive sentence:

  • We are going to the movies tonight. (Subject: We, Verb: are going, Infinitive phrase: to the movies tonight)

Negative sentence:

  • We are not going to the movies tonight. (Subject: We, Verb: are not going, Infinitive phrase: to the movies tonight)

As you can see from these examples, negative sentences use auxiliary verbs such as “do” or “does” and put the word “not” after them, before the main verb. The examples can help you better understand how to use these forms in positive and negative sentences in English.

So, here are some examples of interrogative sentences in English:

  • Do you like pizza? (Subject: You, Auxiliary verb: do, Verb: like, Object: pizza)
  • What time is the meeting? (Interrogative word: What, Verb: is, Subject: the meeting)
  • Have you seen that movie before? (Auxiliary verb: Have, Subject: You, Verb: seen, Object: that movie before)
  • Where is the nearest gas station? (Interrogative word: Where, Verb: is, Subject: the nearest gas station)
  • Why did you leave the party early? (Interrogative word: Why, Auxiliary verb: did, Subject: You, Verb: leave, Object: the party early)

As you can see, interrogative words (which are usually placed at the beginning of the sentence) or auxiliary verbs, which are placed at the beginning of the sentence, before the subject, are used in interrogative sentences. In addition, interrogative sentences often change the word order so that auxiliary verbs are placed before the subject and not after it, as in ordinary affirmative and negative sentences.

Video – Word Order / Sentence Structure – English Grammar Lesson (Part 1)

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