Normally, sentences in the English language take a simple form. However, there are times it would be a little complex. In these cases, the basic rules for how words appear in a sentence can help you.
Word order typically refers to the way the words in a sentence are arranged. In the English language, the order of words is important if you wish to accurately and effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas.
Although there are some exceptions to these rules, this article aims to outline some basic sentence structures that can be used as templates. Also, the article provides the rules for the ordering of adverbs and adjectives in English sentences.
Basic Sentence Structure and word order rules in English
For English sentences, the simple rule of thumb is that the subject should always come before the verb followed by the object. This rule is usually referred to as the SVO word order, and then most sentences must conform to this. However, it is essential to know that this rule only applies to sentences that have a subject, verb, and object.
Subject + Verb + Object
He loves food
She killed the rat
Sentences are usually made of at least one clause. A clause is a string of words with a subject(noun) and a predicate (verb). A sentence with just one clause is referred to as a simple sentence, while those with more than one clause are referred to as compound sentences, complex sentences, or compound-complex sentences.
The following is an explanation and example of the most commonly used clause patterns in the English language.
The English word order is inverted in questions. The subject changes its place in a question. Also, English questions usually begin with a verb or a helping verb if the verb is complex.
Verb + Subject + object
Can you finish the assignment?
Did you go to work?
Some sentences use verbs that require no object or nothing else to follow them. These verbs are generally referred to as intransitive verbs. With intransitive verbs, you can form the most basic sentences since all that is required is a subject (made of one noun) and a predicate (made of one verb).
Subject + verb
Linking verbs are verbs that connect a subject to the quality of the subject. Sentences that use linking verbs usually contain a subject, the linking verb and a subject complement or predicate adjective in this order.
Subject + verb + Subject complement/Predicate adjective
The dress was beautiful
Her voice was amazing
Transitive verbs are verbs that tell what the subject did to something else. Sentences that use transitive verbs usually contain a subject, the transitive verb, and a direct object, usually in this order.
Subject + Verb + Direct object
The father slapped his son
The teacher questioned his students
Sentences with transitive verbs can have a mixture of direct and indirect objects. Indirect objects are usually the receiver of the action or the audience of the direct object.
Subject + Verb + IndirectObject + DirectObject
He gave the man a good job.
The singer gave the crowd a spectacular concert.
The order of direct and indirect objects can also be reversed. However, for the reversal of the order, there needs to be the inclusion of the preposition “to” before the indirect object. The addition of the preposition transforms the indirect object into what is called a prepositional phrase.
Subject + Verb + DirectObject + Preposition + IndirectObject
He gave a lot of money to the man
The singer gave a spectacular concert to the crowd.
Adverbs are phrases or words that modify or qualify a verb, adjective, or other adverbs. They typically provide information on the when, where, how, and why of an action. Adverbs are usually very difficult to place as they can be in different positions in a sentence. Changing the placement of an adverb in a sentence can change the meaning or emphasis of that sentence.
Therefore, adverbials should be placed as close as possible to the things they modify, generally before the verbs.
He hastily went to work.
He hurriedly ate his food.
However, if the verb is transitive, then the adverb should come after the transitive verb.
John sat uncomfortably in the examination exam.
She spoke quietly in the class
The adverb of place is usually placed before the adverb of time
John goes to work every morning
They arrived at school very late
The adverb of time can also be placed at the beginning of a sentence
On Sunday he is traveling home
Every evening James jogs around the block
When there is more than one verb in the sentence, the adverb should be placed after the first verb.
Peter will never forget his first dog
She has always loved eating rice.
Adjectives commonly refer to words that are used to describe someone or something. Adjectives can appear almost anywhere in the sentence.
Adjectives can sometimes appear after the verb to be
He is fat
She is big
Adjectives can also appear before a noun.
A big house
A fat boy
However, some sentences can contain more than one adjective to describe something or someone. These adjectives have an order in which they can appear before a now. The order is
Opinion – size – physical quality – shape – condition – age – color – pattern – origin – material – type – purpose
If more than one adjective is expected to come before a noun in a sentence, then it should follow this order. This order feels intuitive for native English speakers. However, it can be a little difficult to unpack for non-native English speakers.
The ugly old woman is back
The dirty red car parked outside your house
When more than one adjective comes after a verb, it is usually connected by and
The room is dark and cold
Having said that, Susan is tall and big