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Word Order in English

Where to place adjectives, adverbs, verbs and objects

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Here is a basic guide to word order in English for intermediate learners. Follow these basic rules to make sure you place adjectives, adverbs, direct and indirect objects in the correct word order.

Adjectives

Adjectives are usually placed in two positions, before the noun an adjective modifies after linking verbs.

Place adjectives directly before the noun it modifies:

Jack spoke to the slim woman.
We visited an interesting town.

This is also true when using more than one adjective. Make sure to use correct adjective placement when using more than adjective.

Jack lives in a big, brown house.
He bought an interesting, metal box.

Place adjectives after using a linking verb. Linking verbs are often used in simple sentences with the adjective describing the subject of the sentence.

That steak looks very tasty!
The test seems difficult.

Linking verbs include:

be, seem, appear, look, taste, feel

The day is beautiful.
She seems a little nervous.
The boys appear happy.
The girls look satisfied.
The berries taste sweet.
John feels tired.

Verbs

Place verbs immediately after subjects. Remember that there are both helping verbs and main verbs. In positive and negative sentences the main verb follows the helping verb.

We are working on a project at the moment.
She didn't come home last night.

In most questions the main verb follows the subject

Where have they been this week?
How often does she drive that car?

The only type of word that is placed between the subject and the verb are adverbs of frequency such as usually, often, never.

She often visits her friends in Germany.
They sometimes have lunch in an Italian restaurant.

Adverbs

There are various types of adverbs in English. Adverbs are usually placed in three positions based on which type of adverb is used.

Adverbs at the Beginning

Connecting adverbs such as 'however', 'consequently' and 'firstly' are placed at the beginning of sentences. Make sure to follow a connecting adverb with a comma.

Therefore, the students chose Vancouver as a destination.
However, Henry felt he should speak to his cousin.

Time adverbs, and some adverbs of frequency are also sometimes used at the beginning of sentences as a form of stress.

Thursdays I play tennis with Greg.
Sometimes Alice spends her time at the mall.

Adverbs in the Middle

Adverbs of frequency such as 'often', and 'sometimes' are placed in the middle of sentences directly before the verb. Other adverbs used in the middle of sentences include adverbs of certainty such as 'probably'.

The biology class often meets in the lab.
Tome decided he probably wants to join the club.

Adverbs at the End

Adverbs of manner, place and time are usually placed at the end of sentences to illustrate how something is done, where something is done and when something is done.

She drives her new Mercedes very carefully.
We like to meet in the cafeteria downstairs.
I will come over and help you tomorrow afternoon.

Objects

Objects follow the verbs of which they are objects. They can be preceded by modifiers such as 'some', 'a lot of', etc. or prepositions.

She bought some ice-cream.
I travelled to Spain.

Indirect Object First

English has both direct objects and indirect objects. Direct objects refer to the object that is affected and indirect objects refer to whom or for whom something is done. When using both a direct and indirect object, the indirect object usually comes first.

I bought Tim a present last week. - 'Tim' is the indirect object, 'a present' is the direct object
Our friends wrote us a nice letter. - 'us' is the indirect object, 'a nice letter' is the direct object

Indirect Object Last

The indirect object is placed after the direct object when a preposition such as 'for' or 'to' is used.

I bought the roses for my daughter.
She lent two thousand dollars to her friend.

These two examples could also be expressed by placing the indirect object first by NOT using the preposition.

I bought my daughter the roses.
She lent her friend two thousand dollars.

When both direct and indirect object are pronouns, place the indirect object last generally preceded by the preposition 'to'.

She offered it to them.
They sent them to her.

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