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 a part of syntax because it decides how to build different kinds of sentences. The wrong order of words will result in confusion, unclear sentences, and incorrect meanings.

Why Word Order Is Important?

Word order affects the meaning and fluency of a sentence. It can show you who acts and to whom the action is being performed. Many languages use inflection to show how different parts of a sentence function. However, the English language has a few of them. So the order of the words in a sentence is the most important feature in English. you can almost be sure that the first noun you see, will be the sentence’s subject.

I read often books. → I often read books.

Working was I at home. → I was working at home.

Basic Word Order: Statement

The basic word order of an English sentence is subject + predicate.The predicate always contains a verb that tells something about the subject. English sentences have a standard general order, that can be simply explained as:

  1. subject + verb phrase
  2. subject + verb phrase + object
  3. subject + verb phrase + indirect object + direct object
  4. subject + linking verb + subject complement

Here are some examples of each category:

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 strict. The subject always comes before the verb. A sentence must at least contain a subject and a verb. However, In the English language, we also have a form of sentence that 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'.

Interrogative Word Order

In direct questions, we use inverted word order which means the main verb or an auxiliary verb comes before the subject. We have different forms of this word order. Take a look at its types and examples:

Yes/No Questions

In yes/no questions the word order is 'modal/auxiliary verb + subject + main verb + object'. For example:

The dogs were barking. → Were the dogs barking?

I have been working. → Have you been working?

She can sing. → Can she sing?

I'm fine. → Are you 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. → Does she like her dress?

I enjoy tennis. → Do you enjoy tennis?


Questions that begin with a wh-word like why, when, where, which,what,whom ,whose and how cannot be answered with a yes or no. That's why they are called information questions. We have two different types that are mentioned below:

Information Questions: Inverted order

Most information questions form with the same rules of inverted word order like yes/no questions. Here are some examples:

Where are you going?

When can you meet me?

What have you done?

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 order. Take a look at some examples:

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. For example:

Where have you been staying these past couple of weeks?


When the direct question starts with a wh-word, the indirect question also will start with that question word. However, the word order is like a statement not like a question. For example:

She asked: "where are you going?" → She asked where you are going.

Negative Word Order

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

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

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

Here, we have a form of be as the main verb.

She is working. → She isn’t working.

A negative sentence may have a modal verb and one or more auxiliary verbs. In this case, 'not' comes right after the modal verb. For example:

You should have talked to her. → You should not have talked to her

They should have been working. → They should not (shouldn't) have been working.

When a verb phrase does not already have one of these verbs (just a main verb except for 'be'), then we must add the supporting auxiliary verb do. Remember that it is followed by the base form of the main verb. For example:

He walks. → He does not ( doesn't) walk.

John drank tea.→ John did not ( didn't) drink tea.

Imperative Word Order

Imperative sentences also called command sentences are the same as declarative sentences. In imperative sentences, the subject (you) is usually omitted. They can be affirmative or negative. Take a look at some examples:

Stop making a mess!

Don't call me.

Do not stare at me!

Adjectives Order

When we want to add information to nouns, we can use adjectives. In the case of using more than one adjective before a noun, the adjectives normally come 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 was a fancy big old round brown German wooden musical clock.

Here, it’s not that common to use more than three adjectives in a row. But it is possible and grammatically correct.

She was a beautiful, tall, thin, young, French girl.

The tired old man fell down the stairs.

Adverbs Order

When we want to add information to verbs, we use adverbs. When we have more than one adverb to describe a verb, we have to obey the order of adverbs as follows: Manner, place, frequency, time, and purpose. Here are some examples:

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

As you can see, It is uncommon to use all types of adverbs for describing the same word.

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. All types of it are mentioned below with their examples:

  1. It-cleft sentences
  2. There-cleft sentences
  3. Wh-cleft sentences
  4. All-cleft sentence
  5. If-because sentence

Jane's car got stolen. → It was Jane's car that got stolen

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

You need to rest for a while. → What you need to do is rest for a while.

She wants a good job. → All she wants is 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 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.
imperative the subject (you) is usually omitted Stop!
adjectives before a noun She had red hair.
adverbs after verbs I drink tea every morning.
cleft sentences we use special word orders to emphasize All I want for my birthday is you.


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