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Word order

Most English sentences (clauses) conform to the SVO word order. This means that the Subject comes before the Verb, which comes before the Object. Examples:

  1. I (S) bought (V) a new computer (O).
  2. She (S) doesn't like (V) dogs (O).
  3. Why did you (S) do (V) that (O)?

It is more complicated when an indirect object (I) is added to the sentence. In this case the word order depends a.) on whether the direct and indirect objects are nouns or pronouns, and b.) on whether the indirect object is preceded by the word to. Here are the basic rules:

Indirect object with to: SVOI

Two nouns

Two pronouns

Pronoun object/noun indirect object

I showed the computer to my friends.

I showed it to them.

I showed it to my friends.

She gave the present to her mother.

She gave it to her.

She gave it to her mother.

Indirect object without to: SVIO

Two nouns

Two pronouns

Noun object/pronoun indirect object

I showed my friends the computer.

I showed them it.

I showed them the computer

She gave her mother the present. She gave her it.

She gave her the present.

Many English sentences also contain adverbials. The problem for the English learner is that some adverbials can be located in different places within the sentence, while other adverbials must appear in one place only. For example, it is correct to say both: I very quickly did my homework .. and I did my homework very quickly .., but only I did my homework in a hurry ..is possible. I in a hurry did my homework .. is wrong.

Learners who want to get their English word order right should ask a native speaker. Alternatively, they can consult a good usage guide such as Swan's Modern English Usage or 'google' the sentence/clause.*

* For example, the learner might not know which of the following sentences contains the more normal word order: "a. I want to get this right .." or "b. I want to get right this ..". If he or she enters the words into Google, the results are: sentence a - 731 hits; sentence b - 0 hits. The correct choice is clear!

Example 1: Let's take up a sample problem and understand how solving Para-jumbles operates. Remember, we will learn some critical skills from this single problem. Go through the following set of sentences labeled A to F:

  • The book was Jonah Lehrer's how We Decide and the epiphany was that consciousness could reside in the brain.
  • He was a twenty-year-old philosophy major at Hamilton College.
  • In January 2010, while driving from Chicago to Minneapolis, Sam McNerney played an audio book and had an epiphany.
  • The quest for an empirical understanding of consciousness has long preoccupied neurobiologists.
  • The standard course work-ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophy-enthralled him.
  • But McNerney was no neurobiologist.

Which are these answer options?

  • DCAFBE
  • CAFDBE
  • CAFBED
  • CADFBE

Solution: In this case, the right answer is option 4. Let us look how?
The first observations we make for this question are:
Which are these answer options?

  • The pair 'BE' is present in every answer option. This is what option analysis is: picking out clues from the answer options. By not even reading the statements, we have managed to figure out one set of connected statements.
  • The second thing we learn from answer options is that the first sentence of the question is either D or C
  • All you need to do is read these two sentences and establish which forms the better opening for the given paragraph.

The next thing that you actually need to do is to establish connections between various statements. Look carefully at the highlighted sets of words in this case:

  • The book was Jonah Lehrer's how We Decide and the epiphany was that consciousness could reside in the brain.
  • He was a twenty-year-old philosophy major at Hamilton College.
  • In January 2010, while driving from Chicago to Minneapolis, Sam McNerney played an audio book and had an epiphany.
  • The quest for an empirical understanding of consciousness has long preoccupied neurobiologists.
  • The standard course work-ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophy-enthralled him.
  • But McNerney was no neurobiologist.
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FAQs on Rules & Examples: Ordering of Words - General Aptitude for GATE - Mechanical Engineering

1. What are the rules for ordering words in a sentence?
Ans. The rules for ordering words in a sentence vary depending on the language. In English, the typical word order is subject-verb-object (SVO), where the subject comes first, followed by the verb and then the object. However, there are exceptions to this rule, such as in questions or when using passive voice.
2. Can you provide an example of a different word order in a sentence?
Ans. Yes, in some languages like Latin, the word order can be different. For example, instead of the typical SVO order, Latin often uses a subject-object-verb (SOV) structure. An example sentence would be "Marcus rosam amat," where "Marcus" is the subject, "rosam" is the object, and "amat" is the verb.
3. How does word order affect the meaning of a sentence?
Ans. Word order plays a crucial role in determining the meaning of a sentence. Changing the order of words can alter the emphasis, focus, or even change the grammatical function of certain words within the sentence. It is important to follow the correct word order to convey the intended meaning accurately.
4. Are there any exceptions to the typical word order in English?
Ans. Yes, there are exceptions to the typical subject-verb-object (SVO) word order in English. For example, in questions, the word order is often inverted, with the verb coming before the subject. Also, when using passive voice, the object comes before the verb. It's essential to understand these exceptions to form grammatically correct sentences.
5. How can one improve their understanding of word order in a language?
Ans. Improving understanding of word order in a language requires practice and exposure to the language. Reading extensively in the target language, listening to native speakers, and practicing constructing sentences can help develop a natural sense of word order. Additionally, studying grammar rules and sentence structure can provide a solid foundation for understanding how words are ordered.
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