5 most important basic rules of word order in English
Everyone knows how much important is the order of words in English. It can be hard to describe it, but experts of our paper writing service will try to do it in several simple rules presented in this essay on the order of words in English. What kind of rules are these? Let’s see. It is necessary to know the language order of words because it helps to build and understand the simplest and the most complex sentence in English. This seemingly simple but extremely important issue is the starting point in the study of English grammar.
1. Subject + predicate + direct object
In an ordinary affirmative sentence, the subject is placed directly before a word that defines its action, so-called predicate or verb. Direct object, if in general an object is present in a sentence, follows the verb directly, i.e. it is placed rights after it. For example: “They bought a car”; “We can not do that”; “The girl in a blue dress was watching TV” and so on.
Notice that a notion “subject” here implies not only the main noun or pronoun, but also adjectives and entire descriptive phrases, which have relation to the subject. The rest unity of sentence members is called “predicate”, since it does not have relation to the subject. For example: “The girl in a blue dress was playing the piano” – the part “The girl in a blue dress” is subject and “was playing the piano” is predicate. Visit our essay corrector service and contact our team if you need more information or any other kind of help or assistance on this issue.
3. Indirect object
If there are any other elements in a sentence, such as indirect objects or adverbials, then they usually take strictly defined position.
Indirect object position. Indirect object is placed after direct object if it contains preposition “to”. Indirect object is placed before direct object if preposition “to” misses. For example: “The teacher gave dictionaries to the pupils”, but “The teacher gave them dictionaries”.
4. Adverbial position
An adverbial may have three positions:
1) before subject (usually this is adverbial of time). For example: “In the morning he was reading a book”;
2) after object (here almost any adverb can be placed or adverbial phrase). For example: “He was reading a book at the library”;
3) between auxiliary and main verb. For example: “He has already read this book”.
5. Irregular word order in the English
Usually in regular English there are no other words between subject and its verb (predicate) or verb and its object. Of course, some exceptions exist, and we will consider the most important of them:
a) Use of objects (indirect) without “to” and use of adverbs (usually of frequency). For example: “I sometimes drink coffee in the morning”, “She showed the policeman her driving license”. All you need is to follow the simple rules presented above and you will manage to avoid word order mistakes in an English sentence. The examples given here are purposely very simple. However, the same rules can be applied to more complicated sentences with subordinate structures. For example: “The woman, (who often felt lonely), never left her house before (she had locked all the doors)”.
b) Stylistic change of word order. Of course, each rule has its exception (and sometimes a lot of them), and many people, especially writers and speakers, often use irregular word order to achieve special effect. But if now we focus attention on the exceptions, we will be distracted from the basic principles and consequently the order of words problem may seem to much complicated.
That is why here are some other examples. You should know that suchlike sentences exist, but use them only when you feel you can not avoid it, i.e. if it is inevitably and absolutely necessary, and especially try not to use them before you learn the principles of ordinary word order. Remember that it is necessary to learn to work first and only then to run. For example: “Never before had he felt so miserable”. If a sentence begins with “never” or “never before” the subject and predicate often undergo inversion, i.e. they have changed their positions. But do not use inversion in the sentences, in which when the subject is followed by “never”.
Another example: “Hardly had I finished cleaning the house, my friend called”. Subject and predicated must be always inverted if “hardly” is placed in a sentence beginning.
Inversion is also used in the structures of hypothetical condition when “if” is missed. For example: “Had they know, they would never have done that”.
In a sentence “Whatever you can tell me, I know already” the complex object “Whatever you can tell me” is placed in the beginning of the sentence for artistic reasons. Such a structure of a sentence is not obligatory; we are just talking about a way of a thought expression or a stylistic device.
Now having learnt the rules for simple sentences constructing you may proceed to more complex sentences that contain subordinate structures. By the way, if there are some doubts or you are not sure about your knowledge of grammar, you may use our online essay editor website; our professional writers, editors and other experts are always there to help you.
Word order in English: tips for the grammar knowledge improvement
1. As we have already said word order in English has a great importance. There are no cases in English (except the genitive or possessive case that defines belonging to a subject or a person) or their forms are very similar. So due to this fact it is very important to keep the word order. It is not difficult and even quite easy:
- subject is put first
- verb (predicate) follows the subject
- object (direct or indirect) is on the third place.
Sometimes if position of words is changed, then the whole meaning of a sentence may change. For example: “Irene saw Jon” or “Jon saw Irene”.
2. Sometimes a verb is placed on the first place and a subject is on the second. For example: “Did Irene see Jon?”. It means that this is an interrogative sentence. There are also other cases, in which the change of subject and verb places may be possible. The most common among them are the following:
a) “Let us go” – this is imperative mood.
b) “Had he used better means and tools, he would probably have been achieved much better result” – this is a conjunctionless conditional mood.
3. It may seem that this rule is simple, but still usually it can be hard to recognize it. First of all, subject is not always expressed with a noun. It may be expressed with a verb with “to” (infinitive), as in the following sentence, for example: “To be a good person, is to have not only a pure soul, but a clear mind as well”. Or it may be expressed with a whole sentence: “What mother means to us is the essence and sense of our life”.
Second of all, subject can be expressed with not just one word, but it can have a lot of clarifying words and even sentences, which create a subject group. For example: “The man I met yesterday was a magician”. The subject “the man” is extended by a subordinate clause. Before subordinate clause there should be conjunction “which / whom”, but in such short sentences conjunction is usually missed.
4. Very often, despite the rule and breaking it, adverbs and adverbial phrases of place and time are put in the sentence beginning. For example: “In spring nature begins to come back to life again”. There is usually a comma that separates the adverbs from the other parts of a sentence: “As always, she has to stay at home at night”. However, sometimes a comma is missed as a rule in newspapers and blogs: “In the meantime he made four films”. Additionally, they often place introductory words and phrases on the first place: “For the rest, he wanted them to know that if they have any trouble they can always call him and ask for any kind of help”.
All these examples are simple and do not cause difficulties. However, it is too early to sigh with a relief. The British, especially people with literary and scientific inclination, sometimes use their own word order, so that it can be hard to find subject, predicative or other sentence parts: “In spite of what they had told us, and they really believed their words to be an absolute truth, they were not ready to discuss or accept any other mind or opinion, so we did not even try to persuade them”. Such a breaking of regular word order usually happened due to emotional rise of an author.
5. Not only cases, but also parts of speech in English often have similar look and forms. For example, a word “captain” may be a noun, a verb and even other part of speech. Now this is obvious that it is important to look at what place a word in a sentence has. We have already talked about the positions of the main sentence parts, i.e. an object and a predicate. However, there is another interesting rule, and here it is: if after an article there are a lot of words, in this case only the last word in a subject, the rest is adjectives. For example: “I have some recording from the broken last year record player”. However, in a set of different adjectives one adjective may define not a noun but other adjective. Puns and jokes are offer occur because of that: “For the next several days she led a simple and even happy life her big aunt’s house (it means that the house was big, not the aunt)”.
What about objects, the rule is quite simple: direct object goes right after a verb, and then an indirect object follows. For example: “Her aunt bought her a new pretty dress and a necklace”.
So the word order in English gives clear Ariadne's thread in translating the most complicated texts. However, exceptions and difficulties always remain.