The Standard English Sentence – Word Order – Post 20

 


ATTENTION PLEASE: if you are not reading this article in English, I highly recommend that you turn off the automatic translation on your browser. 


1 – Who – The subject (Who does perform the action?)

2 – What – Verb phrase + Direct and indirect objects (What does the subject do?)

3 – How – Adverb or adverb phrases (How does the subject perform the action?)

4 – Where – Place (Where does the action take place?)

5 – When – Time (When does the action take place?)

6 – Why – Reason/Purpose (Why does the action take place?)

These are the six questions that represent the basic parts of whatever English sentence. You should also take into account this word order when constructing a sentence in English: Subject – Verb – Adverb – Place – Time – Reason

Little example: “I – hurt myself – badly – in the courtyard – yesterday evening – because I didn’t see the doorstep.”

However, as we are going to see today, there are numerous exceptions.

ADVERB POSITION

1 – WHEN THE VERB “TO BE” IS THE MAIN VERB, YOU CAN PUT THE ADVERB BETWEEN THE MAIN VERB AND THE DIRECT OBJECT. NORMALLY YOU SHOULD NEVER SEPARATE THE MAIN VERB AND THE DIRECT OBJECT:

a) That is certainly the car we saw yesterday.

Instead of

b) That is the car we saw yesterday, certainly.

Note: You could also say “That certainly is the car we saw yesterday.” but it would sound a bit more emphatic.


2 – YOU CAN PUT THE ADVERB BETWEEN THE SUBJECT AND THE MAIN VERB:

a) She gleefully talked about her new project.

Instead of

b) She talked about her new project gleefully.


3 – IF THE MAIN VERB HAS AN AUXILIARY, THEN YOU CAN PUT THE ADVERB BETWEEN THE AUXILIARY VERB AND THE MAIN VERB:

a) They had actually done the best they could.

Instead of

b) They had done the best they could actually.


4 – IF THERE IS A MODAL VERB YOU CAN PUT THE ADVERB BETWEEN THE MODAL VERB AND THE MAIN VERB:

Example 1

a) I think you should thoroughly reflect about that.

Instead of

b) I think you should reflect about that thoroughly.

Example 2

a) I think it shouldn’t necessarily be defined as negative.

Instead of

b) I think it shouldn’t be defined as negative necessarily.


5 – YOU CAN ALSO PUT THE ADVERB OR THE ADVERBIAL PHRASE BETWEEN THE MAIN VERB AND THE PREPOSITION WHEN THE MAIN VERB IS INTRANSITIVE:

a) She talked proudly about her son.

Instead of

b) She talked about her son (very) proudly.

or

c) She proudly talked about her son.


6 – YOU SHOULD PUT THE ADVERB BETWEEN THE DIRECT AND INDIRECT OBJECTS:

a) She tried to empty her mind completely of all the concerns about her family.

Instead of

b) She tried to empty her mind of all the concerns about her family completely.


7 – YOU CAN PUT THE ADVERB AT THE BEGINNING IN ORDER TO EMPHASIZE THE MEANING OF THE SENTENCE:

a) Shorty you have to make a decision.

Instead of

b) You have to make a decision shortly.



EMPHASIZING THE PLACE, TIME, OR REASON/PURPOSE OF THE ACTION

8 – YOU CAN PUT “WHERE”, “WHEN”, AND “WHY” AT THE BEGINNING:

Example 1

a) Inside the house, there was a lot of people.

Instead of

b) There was a lot of people inside the house.

Example 2

a) In the morning, we are used to having a walk.

Instead of

b) We are used to having a walk in the morning.

Example 3

Because of hunger, she was trembling.

Instead of

She was trembling because of hunger.



EXPRESSING MOVEMENT

9 – WHEN EXPRESSING MOVEMENT, YOU HAVE TO PUT THE PLACE FIRST AND THE ADVERB OR ADVERB PHRASE AFTER:

Example 1

a) We came back home by bus at midnight.

Instead of

b) We came by bus back home at midnight.

Example 2

a) He walked to the station thoughtfully.

Instead of

b) He walked thoughtfully to the station.



SUBJECT-VERB INVERSIONS

ASKING QUESTIONS

10 – YOU MUST INVERT THE SUBJECT-VERB ORDER WHEN ASKING A QUESTION:

a) Are you ready?

Instead of

b) You are ready?


EMPHASIZING

11 – YOU SHOULD INVERT THE SUBJECT-VERB ORDER WHEN EXPRESSING AGREEMENT OR SIMILAR ACTIONS PERFORMED BY DIFFERENT SUBJECTS, USING THE WORDS “SO”, “NEITHER”, AND “NOR”:

Example 1

Statement: “I love horses.”

Answer: “So do I.” (instead of “So I do”)

Example 2

Statement: “Anna is not happy with her job.”

Answer: “Nor is Carl.”

Alternative answer: “Neither is Carl.”


IN FORMAL ENGLISH

12 – ESPECIALLY IN FORMAL ENGLISH, YOU SHOULD INVERT THE SUBJECT-VERB ORDER WHEN NEGATIVE ADVERBIAL EXPRESSIONS OR FREQUENCY ADVERBS ARE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SENTENCE:

a) Under no circumstances are they obliged to do that.

b) In no way could she have succeeded.

c) At no time have we seen anything wrong.

d) Not until the dinner ends, will you be allowed to go.

e) Little had I known about that until they told me.

f) Seldom have I seen something like that.

g) Rarely does she make errors at work.

h) Never have I seen something similar.

K) Hardly ever does she drive her car.


13 – YOU SHOULD ALSO INVERT THE SUBJECT-VERB ORDER WITH ADVERBIAL EXPRESSIONS BEGINNING WITH “ONLY” OR “NOT ONLY”:

a) Only when they opened the bag, did they discover the fraud.

b) Not only did they cheat us, but they also disappeared.


14 – THE INVERSION SUBJECT-VERB IS ALSO COMMON IN AGREEMENT WITH THE ADVERBS “HARDLY” (+ WHEN), “SCARCELY” (+ WHEN), AND THE EXPRESSION “NO SOONER” (+ THAN):

a) Hardly had the sun risen* when** the alarm started blaring.

b) Scarcely had I arrived* when** they started asking me a lot of questions.

c) No sooner had they fixed* the tap than** a pipe started to leak.

* As you can see this type of subject-verb inversion requires the Past Perfect tens.

** “When ” and “than” in that case are conjunctions.


15 – YOU CAN USE THE SUBJECT-VERB INVERSION TO REPLACE “IF” IN CONDITIONAL SENTENCES:

– First conditional

a) Should you find any problem, please call me.

Instead of

b) If you find any problem, please call me.

– Second conditional

Were he to receive such amount of money, he would almost surely spend it on useless things.

Instead of

If he received such amount of money, he would almost surely spend it on useless things.

– Third Conditional

a) Had you followed my advice, you wouldn’t have been in that situation now.

Instead of

b) If you had followed my advice, you wouldn’t have been in that situation now.


16 – YOU CAN ALSO USE THE SUBJECT-VERB INVERSION WITH ADVERBIAL EXPRESSIONS AND PREPOSITIONS OF PLACE SUCH AS “HERE” AND “THERE”:

a) Here is the clock you lost. (Instead of “The clock you lost is here.”)

b) There play our children. (Instead of “Our children play there.”)

c) Beside the window hung a wonderful picture. (Instead of “A wonderful picture hung beside the window.)

d) Into the room came the police. (Instead of “The police came into the room.”)

This type of subject-verb inversion is only possible with nouns, never with pronouns.

You can express the same thing using a pronoun, but with no subject-verb inversion. For example: “They play there.” (There play them.” is incorrect).


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Punctuation – Introduction – Post 15


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Punctuation is a fundamental aspect of any language. The presence or the absence of a comma in a sentence could radically change its general meaning. Therefore, it is very important that you learn how to interpret and use punctuation in English.

Punctuation symbols:

“ . ” – Full stop or Full point – The “full stop” generally indicates the end of a sentence and it is also used to abbreviate nouns or expressions (for example: “adj.” = Adjective; “e.g.” = exempli gratia)

“ , ” – Comma – You should use the comma when listing nouns or adjectives, or when you want to emphasize a word or a clause by positioning them in a particular place within the sentence (for instance, at the beginning.).

“ ‘ ” – Apostrophe – The apostrophe is used in contractions (don’t, aren’t, shouldn’t, etc.), it is also used to express the “possessive case” (“My father’s car.”; “Carla’s best friend.”). It can also be used to express individual letters in the plural (Like in the following sentence: The word “appear” has two P’s.)

“ ? ” – Question mark – The question mark in English is normally associated with the subject-verb inversion, and it indicates that the sentence is in fact a question rather than a statement.

“ ! ” – Exclamation mark – The exclamation mark is used to express exclamations such as “wow!”, or “Oh, my goodness!”, etc. It is also used in imperative sentences like “Don’t do that!” or “Shut up!”.

“ : ” – Colon – You should use the colon to introduce a list, a summary, or an explanation.

“ ; ” – Semicolon – You can use the semicolon to separate independent clauses, or to separate the elements of a list when those elements also contains commas. When reading, the semicolon should be interpreted as a pause longer than a comma but shorter than a full stop.

“ – ” – Hyphen – The hyphen indicates that two words have been joined together in order to create a new word (for example: back-up; post-mortem; self-interest). The hyphen is also used to divide words at the end of a line when the whole word doesn’t fit on it.

“ – ” – En dash – (Alt + 0150) – The en dash is commonly used to express the span or range of numbers, dates, or time; and it is usually read as “to” (1982–87; 01:00a.m.–02:00a.m.) – Note: The en dash is longer than the hyphen.

“ — ” – Em dash – (Alt + 0151) – Em dashes can replace commas when emphasizing a particular clause which adds information in a sentence. They can also replace parentheses “( )”. In both cases a pair of em dashes are required. A single em dash is possible at the end of a sentence. For example: Clean air, fresh water, singing birds—it was a paradise.

Note: Em dashes are always more emphatic than commas, parentheses, or colons. Note: they are longer than en dashes.

“ ( ) ” – Parentheses – Parentheses are always used in pairs, and they usually enclose additional information.

“ “” ” / “ ‘’ ” – Quotation marks – You should use quotation marks when quoting somebody’s words, or sentences. – (‘ = Alt+0145; ’ = Alt+0146)

“ … ” – Ellipsis or Suspension points – Ellipsis indicates that part of the sentence is being omitted. They can also express hesitation, and in that case you can call them “suspension points”.


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“Less” vs “Fewer” – Post 14


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Both “fewer” and “less” mean “to a lower degree”, so what’s the difference between the two?

Well, the word “less” normally refers to uncountable nouns, whereas “fewer” agrees with countable nouns.

Look at the following examples:

“Nowadays there is considerable less vegetation than there was in 1990.” – (“vegetation” is an uncountable noun, so we use the word “less”)

“Nowadays there are considerable fewer trees than there were in 1990.” – (“tree” is a countable noun, so we use the word “fewer” instead.)


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Pronouns – Introduction – Complete List – Post 13


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The prefix “pro-” derives from Latin and signifies “in place of”. That means that pro-nouns are words which substitute nouns.

If pronouns didn’t exist, we would be forced to repeat nouns over and over again, resulting in a rather annoying communication.

There are different types of pronouns:

Personal pronouns:
Singular Subject Object
1st I Me
2nd You You
3rd He Him
3rd She Her
3rd It It
3rd One One
Plural
1st We Us
2nd You You
3rd They Them
Reflexive pronouns:
Singular
1st Myself
2nd Yourself
3rd Himself
3rd Herself
3rd Itself
3rd Oneself
Plural
1st Ourselves
2nd Yourselves
3rd Themselves
Reciprocal pronouns:

Each other

One another

Possessive pronouns:
Singular
1st Mine
2nd Yours
3rd His
3rd Hers
3rd Its (own)
3rd One’s (own)
Plural
1st Ours
2nd Yours
3rd Theirs
Demonstrative pronouns:
Singular Plural
This These
That Those
Indefinite pronouns:
Somebody Someone Something
Nobody No one Nothing
Anybody Anyone Anything
Everybody Everyone Everything
Relative pronouns:
Subject Object Possessive
Who Who(m) Whose
Which Which Whose
That That
Interrogative pronouns:

Who (Subject)

Whom (Object)

Whose (Object possessed by an unknown subject)

What (Subject)

Which (Subject)

When (Object)

This is a complete list of English pronouns, you don’t need to memorize them all out of context, they will become familiar to you through practice. Take that list as a reference. You can consult it whenever you want.


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Stative Verbs List – Post 12


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Stative verbs are verbs that you will not conjugate in the progressive tenses because they inherently express quiescence rather than movement.

Here is a rather complete list of common English Stative Verbs:

adore

agree

appear

appreciate

astonish

be

believe

belong

care for

concern

consist

contain

cost

deny

depend

deserve

desire

disagree

dislike

doubt

feel ( = have an opinion )

fit

forget

hate

have ( = possess )

hear

hope

hurt

imagine

impress

include

involve

itch

know

lack

like

look ( = seem )

love

matter

mean

measure ( = have length, etc. )

mind

need

owe

own

please

possess

prefer

promise

realize (= be/become aware)

recognize

remember

satisfy

see

seem

smell (To notice or recognize a particular smell)

sound 

Stand ( = bear “I can’t stand him.” dislike somebody/something)

suit 

suppose

surprise

taste

think ( = have an opinion )

understand

value

want

weigh ( = have weight )

wish

Note: Many of those verbs may be both stative or action verbs depending on the context.

This is a rather complete list of common English Stative Verbs, you don’t need to memorize all of them out of context, they will become familiar to you through practice. Take that list as a reference. You can consult it whenever you want.


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Prepositions – Introduction – Post 11


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While adverbs basically express the way actions manifest themselves, prepositions mostly (but not exclusively) give information about the place and time in which a particular action takes place.

There are many prepositions in English, and some of them may almost act as if they were adverbs at times, but unlike adverbs, prepositions always need an object.

Prepositions connect different parts of the sentence adding information about time, place, direction, etc.

The majority of prepositions consist of a single word, but there are also prepositions which are the result of two or more words joined together to form sorts of idiomatic expressions like “apart from”, “according to”, “instead of”, etc.

Now, given that English prepositions are so many, for the moment, we are just going to see some of them, and give a couple of examples in order to observe how they actually work:

Prepositions of Time:

IN – “I’m going to take the exam in June.” – “She was born in 1985.”

ON – “I’ll see you on Sunday.” – “The earthquake happened on 15th June 2014.”

AT – “At Christmas, I will meet my uncles.” – “At New Year’s Day we are going to have a gorgeous party. Do you want to join us?”

UNTIL – “I will stay here until midnight.” – “Until now, our relationship has been pretty pleasurable.”

TO – “It’s twenty to midnight.”

FROM – “Today I’m going to work from 8a.m. to 13p.m.”

FOR – “I’ve known her for a very long time.”

BY – “By Friday, we must be able to begin.”

DURING – “He was suspended from school for persistently using his phone during a lesson.”

WITHIN – “She is going to give birth within a month.”

WHILE – “While I was waiting for the bus, something strange happened..”

SINCE – “I’ve known her since she was a child.”

ABOUT – “I’ll be there in about half an hour.”

 

Prepositions of Place

IN – “There was a fire in the room.”

ON – “I saw her on the bus yesterday.” – “Look, your glass is on the table.”

AT – “So, you are going to study at University, aren’t you?”

TO – “She was driving to the airport when the police stopped her.”

INTO – “She walked into the room and asked for John, she was so angry.”

FROM – “I’m from England.”

ABOUT – “Sheep were grazing about in the field.”

BY – “Look, there is a chair by the window.”

WITHIN – “Suddenly, we heard many gunshots from within the building. Everybody began to run—we immediately called the police.”

NEAR – “There is a bar near the beach.”

BESIDE – “There is an old watermill beside the river.”

ACROSS – “We walked across the village but there was no post office.”

UNDERNEATH – “There was a cozy loft underneath the sloping slated roof.”

BETWEEN – “Between the two houses there was a beautiful garden.”

AMONG – “There was a white dog among sheep.”

BENEATH – “We suddenly felt the ground moving beneath our feet, it took us a couple of seconds to realize it was an earthquake.”


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Adverbs – Introduction – Post 10


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Adverbs express the way actions take place. To some extent, they are similar to adjectives but they refer to verbs instead of nouns.

In the sentence “What a wonderfully coloured dress!”, the word “Wonderfully”, which is an adverb, expresses the way the dress is coloured.)

But if you say “Your dress is wonderful.”, then the word “wonderful” refers to the name “dress”, therefore it is an adjective, not an adverb.

Often adverbs end with the suffix “ly” (beautifully, extremely, wonderfully, etc.) but it is not a rule, in fact, there are many words that can be both  adverbs and adjectives.

For example the word “fast” can be both an adjective or an adverb:

“This car is very fast.” (adjective)

“The car was going very fast.” (adverb)

In the first sentence the word “fast” refers to the noun “car”. In the second sentence the word “fast” refers to the verb “to go”.

Adverbs may also refer to adjectives or other adverbs, as in the expression “very fast” in which the word “very” is an adverb and “fast” is an adjective.


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“Somebody did something” – Past Simple – Post 9


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Last week, I took the B2 exam.” – You should use the Past Simple when speaking about a completed action which took place in a specified time in the past.

Yesterday, I listened to a very interesting radio program.”

When I was young, I loved sweets.”

If you are talking about the past, and the time of the discourse is already known, you don’t need to specify it:

Last summer, we took a wonderful trip. We went to America and Asia. It took us an entire month to complete the journey.” – All three sentences express completed actions which took place last summer. So, we don’t need to point it out in each sentence.


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“Somebody has just done something” – Present perfect 2 – “Have just done” – Post 8


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Normally, the Present Perfect is used to express non-completed actions or completed actions that you may repeat in the future. However, there are exceptions.

In the following case the Present Perfect expresses a completed action which has happened recently and you can use “just” in order to emphasize that concept:

Q: “Are you having breakfast with us today?”

A: “No thanks, I’ve just had it.”


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“Somebody has done something” – Present Perfect 1 – “Have done” – Post 7


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I have visited France four times.” – That means that I have been to France four times during my entire life until now, and that there is the possibility that I go to France more times in the future.

The present perfect indicates that you have done something during a period of time, and that you may continue doing such thing.

“I have had three fruit infusions today.” (Present Perfect)- You would say that if it is 12 a.m. because you may have more fruit infusions throughout the rest of the day, maybe in the evening. But if the day is over and you are in bed, then you should say “I had three fruit infusions today.” (Past Simple)


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