order and sentence
structure in English
to build correctly ordered sentences in English
colour-coded guide to English word-order
In the examples below, parts of the sentence are colour-coded: subjects
verbs in blue,
objects in maroon,
In a normal (declarative)
sentence, the subject
of a sentence
comes directly in front of the verb.
object (when there is one) comes directly after
People who live in glasshouses shouldn't
Note that by the
mean not just a single word, but the subject noun
or pronoun plus
phrases that go with it. The rest of the sentence - i.e. the part that
is not the subject - is called the
People who live in glasshouses
playing football with my friends in the park.
The child who had been sleeping all day woke up.
If a sentence has any other
it - indirect
phrases - these usually
come in specific places:
1.3.1 The position of the
The indirect object follows
when it is formed with the preposition
The indirect object comes in front of
the direct object if
to is omitted
doctor gave the
position of adverbs
(single words) and adverb
phrases (groups of words, usually formed starting with a
preposition) can come in three possible places:
the subject (Notably with
short common adverbs or adverb phrases, or sentence
- see below
At the end of March the
man has written
object (virtually any adverb or adverb phrase
can be placed here)
The man wrote a
in the train.
b2) or with intransitive
The child was sleeping on
a chair in the kitchen.
the middle of the verb group.
short common adverbs of time or frequency)
The new version of the book will completely replace
the old one.
order with "sentence
Sentence adverbs (like perhaps,
relate to a whole clause or sentence, not just a single word. In most
cases, they stand outside the clause they refer to, notably at the
start of the clause. However, they may be placed elsewhere in the
clause for reasons of stress or emphasis.
vegetables in his
Contrast this with:
which has a quite different meaning.
For more details, see sentence
In standard English, nothing usually
comes between the subject
and the verb, or between the verb and the object.
There are a few exceptions. The most important of these are adverbs
of frequency and indirect
without to. (Examples 1 and 2)
However, with adverbs
of frequency, it is more normal to
them in the middle of the verb group (Example 3)
sometimes have given my dog a
given my dog a
you always apply these few simple
rules, you will not make too many
word order mistakes in English. The examples above are deliberately
- but the rules can be applied even to complex sentences, with
and coordinated clauses.
director, [who often
work harder),] never left
android app download
Google Play Store
Of course, there are exceptions to many rules, and writers and speakers
sometimes use different or unusual word order for special effects. But
if we concentrate on the exceptions, we may forget the main principles,
and the question of word order may start to seem very complex!
are just a few examples: you should realise that they exist, but not
try to use them unless either they are essential in the context, or
else you have fully mastered normal word order patterns. (Don't try to
run before you can walk!)
very few adjectives can follow the noun; but when they do so they have
a special meaning. One common example is the adjective free....
order matters ! These two signs are meant to say the
same; but the first one actually says the opposite of what it means to
When free is added to the end of a noun, as in alcohol free or tax free, it means "free of" or
"without". So Wifi free zone
means a zone with no wifi
A point to remember !
Going further: other issues of
Specific word order issues are also considered on other pages: