Word Order in English Sentences

Introduction

Declarative sentences make a statement or state a fact. They can be positive or negative. In English grammar, the usual word order in declarative sentences is subject – predicate – object.

Learn about order nouns, verbs and other sentence components in declarative sentences with Lingolia’a simple grammar rules. In the exercises, you can practise word order in English sentences.

Example

The dog is catching the ball.

There are some languages where word order doesn’t matter: the subject (the dog) or the object (the ball) can come first in the sentence.

In English, however, we can’t change the word order, because then it would mean that the ball is the one doing the catching.

The ball is catching the dog.
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Word Order in Declarative Sentences

Positive and negative sentences

The usual word order for declarative sentences is subject – predicate – object – place – time.

subject predicate object place time
positive sentence
Many people walk their dogs in the park on Sundays.
negative sentence
Many people do not walk* their dogs in the park on Sundays.

* See negation for more information about negating in different English tenses.

Verbs with two objects

When a sentence has more than one object, the indirect object usually goes before the direct object.

Example:
My dog has brought me the ball.
Jack gave his dog a present.

However, when the indirect object with has a preposition, it goes after the direkt object.

Example:
My dog has brought the ball to me.
Jack gave a present to his dog.

Dependent clauses

A dependent clause forms a complex sentence together with a main clause. The word order in dependent clauses is the same, except that the clause begins with a conjunction.

Example:
Many people walk their dogs in the park on Sundays because they don’t have the time during the week.

In theory, every English sentence should begin with a subject – but then lengthy texts would sound very boring. In order to make texts more varied and interesting, the time or dependent clause at the beginning of the sentence instead.

Example:
On Sundays, many people walk their dogs in the park.
Because they do not have to go to work at the weekend, many people walk their dogs in the park on Sundays.