The Standard English Sentence – Word Order – Post 20

 


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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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