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Word Order

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Word Order in Positive Sentences

For the beginning, remember this simple rule:

subject verb(s) object
I speak English
I can speak English

Exercise on word order in positive sentences 1

If you are a more advanced learner, remember the following rule:

subject verb(s) indirect object direct object place time
I will tell you the story at school tomorrow.

Exercise on word order in positive sentences 2

 

Word Order in Negative Sentences

The word order in negative sentences is the same as in affirmative sentences. Note, however, that in negative sentences we usually need an auxiliary verb:

subject verbs indirect object direct object place time
I will not tell you the story at school tomorrow.

Exercise on word order in negative sentences

 

Word Order in Subordinate Clauses

In subordinate clauses, the word order is the same as in simple affirmative sentences. (Conjunctions are often used between two clauses):

conjunction subject verb(s) indirect object direct object place time
I will tell you the story at school tomorrow …
because I don’t have time now.

Exercise on word order in subordinate clauses

 

Position of Time Expressions

(e.g.: recently, now, then, yesterday)

Adverbs of time are usually put at the end of the sentence.

subject verb(s) indirect object direct object time
I will tell you the story tomorrow.

If you don’t want to put emphasis on the time, you can also put the adverb of time at the beginning of the sentence.

time subject verb(s) indirect object direct object
Tomorrow I will tell you the story.

Note that some time expressions are adverbs of frequency (always, never, usually usw.). These are usually put before the main verb (except for ‘be’ as a main verb). (see also Position of Adverbs)

subject auxiliary/be adverb main verb object, place or time
I often go swimming in the evenings.
He doesn’t always play tennis.
We are usually here in summer.
I have never been abroad.

Exercise on position of time expressions

 

Position of Adverbs

Adverb of Manner

(e.g.: slowly, carefully, awfully)

These adverbs are put behind the direct object (or behind the verb if there’s no direct object).

subject verb(s) direct object adverb
He drove the car carefully.
He drove carefully.

Exercise on adverbs of manner

Adverbs of Place

(e.g.: here, there, behind, above)

Like adverbs of manner, these adverbs are put behind the direct object or the verb.

subject verb(s) direct object adverb
I didn’t see him here.
He stayed behind.

Exercise on adverbs of place

Adverbs of Time

(e.g.: recently, now, then, yesterday)

Adverbs of time are usually put at the end of the sentence.

subject verb(s) indirect object direct object time
I will tell you the story tomorrow.

If you don’t want to put emphasis on the time, you can also put the adverb of time at the beginning of the sentence.

time subject verb(s) indirect object direct object
Tomorrow I will tell you the story.

Exercise on adverbs of time

Adverbs of Frequency

(e.g.: always, never, seldom, usually)

Adverbs of frequency are put directly before the main verb. If ‘be’ is the main verb and there is no auxiliary verb, adverbs of frequency are put behind ‘be’. Is there an auxiliary verb, however, adverbs of frequency are put before ‘be’.

subject auxiliary/be adverb main verb object, place or time
I often go swimming in the evenings.
He doesn’t always play tennis.
We are usually here in summer.
I have never been abroad.

Exercise on adverbs of frequency

Exercise on adverbs (mix)

 

Word Order in Questions

In questions, the word order subject-verbs-object is the same as in affirmative sentences. The only thing that’s different is that you usually have to put the auxiliary verb (or the main verb “be”) before the subject. Interrogatives are put at the beginning of the sentences:

interrogative auxiliary verb subject other verb(s) indirect object direct object place time
What would you like to tell me
Did you have a party in your flat yesterday?
When were you here?

Exercise on word order in questions 1

You don’t use an auxiliary verb if you ask for the subject. In this case the interrogative simply takes the place of the subject.

interrogative verb(s) object
Who asked you?

Exercise on word order in questions 2

 

 

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