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English Grammar: Word Order
For the most part, the sentences and clauses of the English language follow the word order SVO, where the subject (S) comes before the verb (V), which comes before the object(s) (O).
I (s) washed (v) my car (o).
Alice (s) can't understand (v) Korean (o).
When did he (s) arrive (v) at school (o)?
The subject tells: what or who the sentence is about
The verb indicates: what the subject does
There are two types of objects:
- direct objects "receive" the action of the verb
- indirect objects "receive" the direct object
Tom moves the furniture for his mother.
In this sentence:
The Subject is "Tom". This sentence is about "Tom".
The Verb is "moves". The subject (Tom) "moves".
The direct object is "furniture". The "furniture" receives the action "moves".
The indirect object is "his mother". The indirect object (his mother) receives the direct object (the furniture).
Identify the subject, verb, and objects of the first set of examples above. Email us at ONLINE TUTORING for the answers.
Sometimes, word order can differ from sentence to sentence if a sentence or clause contains an indirect object (I).
With the Preposition 'to'
The preposition 'to' is used to indicate the direction of the direct object 'to' the indirect object (think of 'to' as an arrow, --->, pointing from the direct object to the indirect object).
When the preposition 'to' is used the word order is: Subject - Verb - Object - Indirect Object (SVOI) pattern.
He gave the ring to his girlfriend. (The direct object is a 'regular' noun and the indirect object is a 'regular' noun)
He gave it to her. (The direct object is a pronoun and the indirect object is a pronoun)
He gave it to his girlfriend. (direct object is a pronoun and the indirect object is a 'regular' noun)
We sang a song to the guests. (The direct object is a 'regular' noun and the indirect object is a 'regular' noun)
We sang it to them.
We sang it to the guests.
Without the Preposition 'to'
When the sentence does not use 'to' indicate the direction of the direct object, the word order follows the pattern Subject - Verb - Indirect Object - Object (SVIO)
I cooked my friends dinner.(two nouns)
I cooked them it. (two pronouns)
I cooked them dinner (direct object pronoun/indirect noun)
Many English sentences also contain adverbials, which are two or more words that form a phrase that acts as an adverb. Adverbs are single words. Adverbial phrases are phrases made up of two or more words. Even though adverbs can be placed in different positions throughout the sentence, adverbials can only be placed in certain spots.
For example, it is correct to say both:
I quickly washed my face.
I washed my face quickly.
However, when we use an adverbial phrase:
I washed my face in a hurry. (This sentence is grammatically correct. 'In a hurry' is the adverbial phrase). :)
I in a hurry did my homework. (This sentence is grammatically incorrect) X
But, it is grammatically correct if we use commas to separate the adverbial phrases from the main clause:
I, in a hurry, washed my face. :)