Word Order

Word order refers to the order or arrangement of words in a phrase, clause, or sentence. In order to study them in more detail, take a look at this article!

"Word Order" in the English Grammar

What Is Word Order?

The way words are arranged in a sentence is called 'word order.' Word order is important in English because it can affect the meaning of what we are trying to say.

Word Order: Basics

The basic word order of an English sentence is subject + predicate.
The predicate always contains a verb that tells something about the subject.

Subject + Predicate word order can be something like the examples below:

Mary stood up.

Sam drinks tea in the morning.

He bought her a lovely ring.

Remember, in English sentences, word order is very strict. The subject always comes before the verb.

Word Order: Questions

In direct questions, we use inverted word order which means the main verb or an auxiliary verb comes before the subject.

Yes/No Questions

In yes/no questions with a verb other than 'be' as the main verb (when there is no auxiliary or modal as part of a verb phrase), we use the auxiliary verb 'do.'

Do you like this dress?

Are you OK?


Questions that begin with a wh-question word like why, when, where, or how cannot be answered with a yes or no. That's why they are also called information questions.

Information Questions: Inverted order

Most information questions form with the same rules of inverted word order like yes/no questions.

Where are you going?

When can you meet with me?

Information Questions: Standard order

When wh-questions words of our questions are 'who' or 'what,' they function as the subject in a question. In this case, we should use the standard order.

Who locked the door?

What happened here?

subject + verb + objects + complements


When a question has more than one auxiliary verb, put the subject after the first auxiliary verb.

Where have you been staying these past couple of weeks?

Word Order: Negatives

Negative sentences have the basic word order of positive sentences. The difference is that negative sentences must contain 'not.'

John has moved to LA. → John has not moved to LA.

The kitten is cute. → The kitten isn't cute.

John drinks. → John doesn't drink.

Word Order: Commands

Commands are the types of sentences that are called imperative sentences. Word order in commands is the same as in declarative sentences, but the subject (you) is usually omitted.

Stop making a mess!

Commands can be affirmative or negative.

Don't call me.

Word Order: Adjectives

When we want to use more than one adjective before a noun, the adjectives normally come in a particular order. For example, subjective adjectives usually come first, before more neutral, objective ones.

fancy big old round brown German wooden musical clock

Word Order: Adverbs

When we want to use more than one adverb to describe a verb, there is Adverb Placement and Order in which the different types of adverbs should appear which is called the order of adverbs:

She walked slowly (manner) down the alley (place) every evening (frequency) at 7 o'clock (time) in order to walk her dog (purpose).

Word Order: Focusing

When we want to put emphasis and focus the attention of our listener or reader on a particular word or phrase, we can use specific word orders, such as:

  1. It-cleft sentences
  2. There-cleft sentences
  3. Wh-cleft sentences

It was Jane's car that got stolen

There's this orphan kid I'm trying to adopt.

What you need to do is rest for a while.


Word order in English is important because it can change the spirit, meaning, or fluency of a sentence. You must pay attention to the structure of each sentence and how words are placed.

questions the main verb or an auxiliary verb comes before the subject Are you tired?
who and what as the subject standard order Who ate my sandwich?
negatives negative sentences must contain not I do not love John.
commands the subject (you) is usually omitted Stop!
adjectives before a noun She had red hair.
adverbs after verbs manner→ place → frequency→ time→ purpose
focusing we use special word orders to emphasize It-cleft sentences/ There-cleft sentences/ Wh-cleft sentences


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