English Review of Word Order


This module offers a review of word order in sentences for learners who have previously learned about this grammar in a previous English course.

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Regular Word Order
English follows Subject-Verb-Object word order, generally speaking. However, there are a few rules to keep in mind. First, adverbs and adverbial phrases can be placed at the beginning of sentences to add emphasis, and then come the subject, followed by a verb and then object and/or rest of the sentence (e.g. time, manner, and place elements).

We drive to New York every summer.
Every summer, we drive to New York.

When an adverb comes first, it is set apart from the rest of the sentence by a comma. 

Word order in English can get complicated as more elements and clauses are added, but, luckily, very lengthy sentences are not common in spoken or written English. This is not to say that nothing said or written is complex, but rather there is an emphasis on avoiding meandering and run-on sentences. 

Direct & Indirect Objects
Normally, indirect objects come before direct objects in a sentence:

I gave him the ball.

Sometimes, the direct object will come first, but this requires a prepositional complement:

I gave the ball to him.

It is very uncommon and formal-sounding to place the prepositional complement containing the indirect object first in a sentence, but these constructions are seen in literature:

To his friends, he bid a final farewell.

Cleft Sentences
It-cleft and wh-cleft sentences combine two clauses that convey old and new information about something. 

Eric, did you buy that new truck you were looking at? 
-No, it was the Jeep Rubicon that I was considering. I bought it over the weekend.

In the example, the old information is that Eric was thinking about buying a new vehicle. The Jeep in the it-clause is the new information, and it is connected to the old information by “that.”

Wh-cleft sentences are similar to it-cleft sentences, except they begin with a “wh” word.


What I meant to say is I agree with you.

The old information is that something was said (wh-clause) and the new information is that the speaker agrees with someone.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.