What Is Word Order?
The way words are arranged in a sentence is called 'word order'. Word order is a part of syntax because it determines how different kinds of sentences are formed. The wrong word order will result in confusion, unclear sentences, and incorrect meanings.
Why Is Word Order Important?
Word order affects the meaning of a sentence. It can show who acts and to whom the action is done. Many languages use inflection to show how different parts of a sentence function. However, English only has a few of them. So, the order of the words in a sentence is the determining feature. For example, you can almost be sure that the first noun you see is the subject of the sentence.
I read often books. → I often read books.
Working was I at home. → I was working at home.
Word Order: Declarative
Here are some examples of each structure:
1. Mary stood up.
As you can see, subject (Mary) + verb phrase (stood up). 'SV' is the simplest form of a sentence.
2. Sam drinks tea.
As you can see, the order is 'subject (Sam) + verb (drinks) + object (tea)'.
3. He bought her a lovely ring.
Here, we have 'subject (he) + verb (bought) + indirect object (her) + direct object ( a lovely ring)'.
4. The film was amazing.
Here, subject is 'the film'. the verb be is a linking verb and 'amazing' is our subject complement.
Remember, in English sentences, word order is very important. The subject always comes before the verb. A sentence must contain at least a subject and a verb. However, in the English language, we can also have sentences where the subject is omitted. For example:
Give me the book!
Here, the subject (you) is removed and the word order is 'verb + indirect object + direct object'.
Word Order: Interrogative
In direct questions, we use inverted word order which means the main verb or an auxiliary verb comes before the subject. There are different forms of this word order. Take a look at its types and examples:
The dogs were barking. →
I have been working. →
She can sing. →
I'm fine. →
When a sentence does not have modals or auxiliary verbs, we must add the supporting auxiliary verb do before the subject which is followed by the base form of the main verb. For example:
She likes her dress. →
I enjoy tennis. →
Information Questions: Inverted order
Most information questions are formed with the same rule of inverted word order as yes/no questions. Here are some examples:
Information Questions: Standard order
Wh-words like 'who' and 'what' can function as the subject pronoun in a question. It happens when no auxiliary or modal verb is needed. In this case, we should use the standard word order. Take a look at some examples:
When a question has more than one auxiliary verb, the subject comes after the first auxiliary verb. For example:
When the direct question starts with a wh-word, the indirect question also starts with that question word. However, the word order of the indirect question is like a statement, not like a question. For example:
She asked: "where are you going?" → She asked
Word Order: Negative
Negative sentences have the same basic word order as positive sentences. The difference is that negative sentences must contain '
John has moved to LA. → John has
The kitten is cute. → The kitten is
Here, we have a form of be as the main verb.
She is working. → She is
A negative sentence may have a modal verb and one or more auxiliary verbs. In this case, '
You should have talked to her. → You should
They should have been working. → They should
If a verb phrase only has a main verb without any modals or auxiliaries, the supporting auxiliary verb do must be added to make the sentence negative. However, 'be' as a main verb does not need a supporting auxiliary and can be made negative on its own. Remember that 'do' is followed by the base form of the main verb. For example:
He walks. → He
John drank tea.→ John
Word Order: Imperative
The word order of imperative sentences, also called command sentences, is similar to that of declarative sentences. However, in imperative sentences, the subject (you) is usually omitted. These sentences can be affirmative or negative. Take a look at some examples:
Stop making a mess!
Don't call me.
Do not stare at me!
When we want to add information to a noun, we can use adjectives. If more than one adjective is used before a noun, they must appear in a particular order. The order of adjectives is as follows:
determiner, quantity, opinion, size, age, color, shape, origin, material, and purpose.
Here are some examples:
It’s not that common to use more than three adjectives in a row. But it is possible and grammatically correct.
When we want to add information to verbs, we use adverbs. When more than one adverb is used to describe a verb, we have to follow the order of adverbs, which is as follows:
Manner, place, frequency, time, and purpose.
Here are some examples:
She walks slowly (manner) down the alley (place) every evening (frequency) at 7 o'clock (time) to walk her dog (purpose).
As you can see, It is uncommon to use all types of adverbs in the same sentence.
I read there (place) each day (frequency) to pass some time (purpose).
Cleft Sentences Order
When we want to put emphasis and focus the attention of our listener or reader on a particular word or phrase, we can use cleft sentences. In the following, different types of cleft structures are presented with examples:
- It-cleft sentences
- There-cleft sentences
- Wh-cleft sentences
- All-cleft sentence
- If-because sentence
Jane's car got stolen. →
I'm trying to adopt this orphan kid. →
You need to rest for a while. →
She wants a good job. →
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||
|who and what as the subject||standard order||
|negatives||negative sentences must contain not||
|imperative||the subject (you) is usually omitted||Stop!|
|adjectives||before a noun||
I drink tea
|cleft sentences||we use special word orders to emphasize||
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