Direct Word Order in English Sentences

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English is a language in which we form sentences in strict order. Each part of a sentence knows its place. Each part of a sentence has a role to play.

This is a very important topic because often English learners do not understand the importance of word order in English. Often students are guided by the word order of their native language. And that is a mistake!

In some languages, we can rearrange words in a sentence and it won’t make any difference. But in English, this is not possible.

We cannot say:

You I love.

Or:

Love I you.

We have to arrange the words in the correct order, then such a sentence will make sense:

I love you.

If you break the order, then your interlocutor may not understand you at all or misunderstand you.

This is my new book!

In this example, we have used Direct Word Order. Therefore, this sentence makes sense and will be understandable to anyone who understands English.

In order to build a solid house, you need a blueprint. In order to build an English sentence, you need to know the word order.

There are two main word orders in English:

  1. Direct word order.
  2. Inverted word order

In this lesson, we will talk about Direct Word Order in English grammar.

What does Direct Word Order Consist of?

Direct word order is based on the following formula:

  1. Subject.
  2. Predicate.
  3. Object.
  4. Adverbial Modifier (remember that Adverbial Modifier may appear at the end of a sentence, but in some cases, it may appear at the beginning of a sentence.)

In order to understand the direct order of words, you must first remember an important rule:

Each sentence in English must contain:

Subject. This is the main character in the sentence. (Who?)
Predicate. This is the action that the Subject performs (What to do?)

These are the two main bricks that help us build direct word order. In order not to be mistaken, you must understand exactly what it is.

Therefore, carefully study the following paragraphs.

Subject

A subject is a person, creature, or object that performs the action.

Anything listed below can be the subject in a sentence:

Human: Boy, John, My Brother, Best Friend, Angry Neighbor, Teacher, Mister Smith…

The boy goes to school.

Me and Mr. Smith are watching football.

Creature: Cat, Dog, Bird, Alien, Fly…

The dog barks at the cat.

Aliens flew to Earth.

Thing or concept: Book, Airplane, Wind, Life, Water…

Life goes by quickly.

The book is on the table.

If you look at these examples, you can see exactly who is performing an action.

The subject can also be a pronoun. That is some word that replaces a person or some object. For example:

  • I
  • He
  • They
  • This
  • Those
  • Some

Thus, instead of:

John loves Jessica.

We can say:

He loves Jessica.

The infographic shows the types of subjects in sentences. Examples of sentences with different subjects.
The subject in a sentence.

Predicate

You can easily see the predicate in a sentence. This is the action that is performed by the Subject.

The predicate conveys to us the main essence of a sentence showing what is happening (or happened in the past or will happen in the future).

The predicate is expressed by a verb, for example:

  • Think
  • Watch
  • Go
  • Buy
  • Read

If we combine the Subject and the Predicate, we get a sentence with meaning.

The boy sings.

Girl study.

The cat is jumping.

The plane is flying.

The book is on sale.

The teacher is angry.

The verb can describe an action from the past or the future. Then we add to the verb the appropriate ending or auxiliary verb that expresses the tense:

  • Worked
  • Talked
  • Has seen
  • Have run
  • Will do
  • Will be reading

If you are not sure where the predicate is in a sentence and where the subject is, remember the questions that you can always ask:

Subject: Who? What?
Predicate: What is it doing?

A boy is walking.

A plane is flying.

(Who?) A boy (What is he doing?) is walking.
(What?) A plane (What is it doing?) is flying.

Rule and example of using predicate in a sentence.
The Predicate.

Two Parts of Predicate in English

The English predicate has one nuance.

Look at the sentence:

The boy is running.

The boy is the subject. He performs an action.

running is an action.

But this example has one more element, and that is also a verb! is verb.

It turns out that we have one subject and two verbs?

In fact, in English, a predicate can consist of two verbs. In this example, these are:

is running

But only one of these verbs is the main verb. The second verb is an auxiliary verb. It is just a helper. In our example, the auxiliary is simply indicates that it is Present Continuous.

Main verb: Indicates the action that the subject performs. It shows what exactly is going on in the sentence.

Auxiliary Verb: Does not show action. This shows at what time the action takes place. This verb serves as a service function.

Therefore, if you see the main verb and an auxiliary verb in a sentence, they are both parts of the same predicate, which simply consists of these two parts.

I will be a writer!

In this example, both the main verb be and the auxiliary verb will are the two parts of the predicate in this sentence.

The Verb To Be as Predicate

As I wrote above, in English, a sentence must have the subject and predicate (yes, there are exceptions but let’s talk about how it is in most cases). A verb plays the role of the predicate. A verb is some kind of action.

John loves Jessica.

In this example, we can clearly see the action: Loves.

But there could be sentences in which we describe not an action but the state or location of an object. In such a sentence, we do not have a verb such as, for example, jump, run, love, sing, read.

In such cases, we use the verb to be.

This ball is round.

In this example, we used the verb to be to describe the state of the ball.

The boy is cheerful.

We are good friends.

The car is fast.

The house is big.

Don’t forget the verb to be. Many English learners make the mistake of describing the state of an object without the verb to be:

Incorrect: My mom a teacher.

Correct: My mom is a teacher.

Do not forget that the verb to be has different forms, which we must use correctly:

Present: This ball is green.

Past: This ball was green.

Future: This ball will be green.

All forms of the verb to be look like this:

Present:

  • I am
  • He is
  • She is
  • It is
  • We are
  • They are
  • You are

Future:

  • I will be
  • He will be
  • She will be
  • It will be
  • We will be
  • They will be
  • You will be

Past:

  • I was
  • He was
  • She was
  • It was
  • We were
  • They were
  • You were
Example of correct and incorrect sentence with the verb to be.
The verb to be.

Secondary Parts of the Sentence

The subject and predicate, although the most important, are not the only parts of the sentence. In addition to these, there are other Parts of the Sentence.

Object

The Object comes after the predicate. Most often, the order is:

  1. Direct object.
  2. Indirect object.

Examples:

I am reading (What?) a book (About?) about adventure.

I’m going (Where?) home (Why?) to my family.

The Attribute

The Attribute is a minor member of the sentence. The Attribute clarifies the meaning of a noun by answering questions:

  • what?
  • whose?
  • which?
  • how much?
  • how many?
  • what kind of?

See how the attribute looks with examples:

An old dog is running around. (What dog?) Old.

This is an interesting book! (What book?) Interesting.

Explanation and examples what is the attribute in an English sentence.
The attribute.

Adverbial Modifier

The Adverbial modifier can be at the beginning of a sentence or at the end of a sentence.

The Adverbial modifier tells where, when, how, why? something happens.

The boy runs in the park. (Where?) In the park.

A cute couple is kissing on the bench. (Where) On the bench.

Two children are playing merrily. (How?) Merrily.

Direct Word Order in Negative Sentences

In a negative sentence, we also use direct word order.

I don’t like it.

But in a negative sentence, two new elements appear in comparison with an affirmative sentence.

She does not want to speak with you.

The first element is the negative particle not. This particle is needed to express negation showing that the sentence is negative.

But we can’t just put not in a sentence. We have to attach not to something. To do this, we add a new element to the sentence, this is an auxiliary verb.

Each grammatical tense in English has its own auxiliary verb:

Present Simple – Do / Does, Am, Is, Are
Future Simple – Will, Will be
Past Simple – Did, Was, Were
Present Continuous – Am, Is, Are
Future Continuous – Will be
Past Continuous – Was, Were
Present Perfect – Have / Has, Have been / Has been
Past Perfect – Had, Had been
Future Perfect – Will have, Will have been
Present Perfect Continuous – Have been / Has been
Future Perfect Continuous – Will have been
Past Perfect Continuous – Had been

Thus, the auxiliary verb depends on the tense and the subject.

I will not ask you again.

She didnot know him.

I have not done the job you asked me to do.

John is not going to help you.

We were not there.

REMEMBER: In a negative sentence, the auxiliary verb does not convey any meaning. The role of the auxiliary verb is to show tense and negation.

Infographic shows list of auxiliary verbs of different English tenses.
Auxiliary verbs

All Parts of a Negative Sentence

All elements of a negative sentence come in this order:

1 – SUBJECT.

He doesn’t work here.

2 – AUXILIARY VERB + NOT

He doesn’t work here.

Note that when we use an auxiliary verb, this auxiliary verb shows not only the negation but also the tense of the verb. This means that the main verb in the sentence does not indicate the tense and is used in its usual form.

Correct: I did not tell him the truth.
Incorrect: I did not told him the truth.

We don’t need to change the tense of the main verb because we have an auxiliary verb that shows the tense.

3 – PREDICATE (Verb, Action, State).

He doesn’t work here.

Negative Sentence With The Verb To Be

When we form a negative sentence with the verb to be, we do not use any auxiliary verbs.

Correct: He is not bothering you.
Wrong: He is does not bothering you.

The verb to be acts as an auxiliary verb on its own. This means that we add the negative particle not simple to the verb to be.

I am not a writer.

Negative Sentence Without Auxiliary Verb

Please note that in English, a negative sentence may not have an auxiliary verb and a negative not.

Because such sentences contain negative words, for example:

  • No one
  • Nobody
  • Nothing
  • Never

Such a negative word is already enough to make a sentence negative even without the auxiliary verb and the negative particle not.

I have nothing to say.

I see nobody.

The rule about negative words in negative sentences, examples.
Negative words.

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