Word Order in English Sentences

Introduction

Word order, also known as syntax, refers to the way nouns, verbs and other words are placed in a sentence. The general word order in English sentences is subject-verb/predicate-object.

Learn about word order 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

Positive and negative sentences

In English, the usual order of sentence components is:

subject – predicate – object – place – time.

subjectpredicateobjectplacetime
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.

*If the sentence has more than one object, we normally put the indirect object before the direct object.

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

However, If we use the indirect object with a preposition, we put the indirect object after the direkt object.

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

Dependent clauses

This order is also maintained in dependent clauses, but we usually add an introductory word called a conjunction before the subject. (see also Conjunctions)

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

To Note

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, we sometimes put the time or the dependent clause at the beginning of the sentence instead.

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