Subject verb object word order

Hello lovely students! When it comes to speaking and writing sentences in the English language, some people need help. Do you?

If you do, don’t worry. There is no shame in it. And if you’d like to know more, why not read the article below? You’ll learn a lot about how to form sentences similarly to English speakers and the common word order.

Are you ready?

What is the dominant word order in English?

That would be the subject verb object order or the SVO word order, as it is more commonly known. We’re strict about using it for short sentences in English, and it is used in main clauses and subordinate clauses. Think of it like our natural word order. Look at this example.

Jenny eats cake.

Jenny is the subject, eats is the main verb, and cake is the object.

If our word order were changed to subject object verb (also known as the SOV order), the above examples sentence would be:

Jenny cake eats.

It doesn’t sound correct to English speakers, though this word order is used in many other languages around the world, such as in Korean (but more on other languages later).

An excellent way to know the difference between these two common word orders is to look at the definitions of subject, verbs and objects below. This will help you out even more.

Did you spot how the subject’s position is the same in the SVO and SOV word order?

1) Subject

If you look at the example sentences, in both the SVO word order and the SOV word order, you’ll see that the subject, Jenny, starts both. This shouldn’t be a surprise—subjects are essential in English.

In the Oxford Dictionary, subjects are nouns, noun phrases, or pronouns representing the person or thing that acts on the verb.

The subject can be people, animals or things. I, you, he, she, it, they and we are all examples of subject pronouns that are commonly used.

For example, They ran a marathon.

Here, they is the subject.

Running a marathon is tough

2) Verb

Verbs are different from subjects in that they express an action or state, such as sleep and believe, respectively.

There are many different types of verbs. In English grammar, we have auxiliary verbs, stative verbs, action verbs, transitive/intransitive verbs, irregular/regular verbs etc. The list goes on.

In the sentence, she reads a book, reads is the verb as it expresses an action.

Reading is fun!

3) Object

Objects are pronouns, nouns or noun phrases which are affected by the verb’s action (a direct object) or that the action is done to (an indirect object). Objects usually refer to a person, animal or thing.

The object pronouns in English are me, you, him, her, it, them and us.

Phillipa and Stefania are drawing a portrait.

Here, portrait is affected by the verb done by the subjects (Phillipa and Stefania).

Extra note: it might be worth me mentioning objects aren’t always needed in a sentence, but subjects and verbs are.

For more information on indirect and direct objects, read this article.

This painting is an object

Subject verb object examples in the tenses.

The SVO order is used in every tense, making it easier to remember. Let’s take a look at the present simple, past simple and future simple tenses.

1) Present tense

May designs cars.

Axel attends university.

Santa Claus feeds Rudolph.

I wonder what they’re learning?

2) Past tense

Petra stroked the dog.

Quinn ate her chocolate.

Harriet practised the violin.

It’s difficult to learn how to play the violin

3) Future tense

The teacher will read a story.

Samuele will sign a book.

Oscar will hate the suit.

This same general sentence structure applies to the perfect and continuous tenses too.

Suits aren’t for everyone

The exception to the rule

English is full of exceptions, and there is one here too. In this case, it is with passives.

Most sentences in the English language are either in active or passive voice. Active voice sentences usually follow the SVO order. Passive voice sentences don’t.

This is because the passive is more focused on the object than the subject in English. The object takes the subject’s place.

The structure is: object as subject + the verb to be + past participle.

If we take the first example sentence, Jenny eats cake, we would change it to the cake is eaten by Jenny in the passive voice.

Now that I’ve clarified that, shall we look at sentence structures in other languages?

Let’s look at some sentence structures from around the globe

Other sentence structures around the world

There are six known basic sentence structures.

1) SVO word order – cats drink milk

This word order is used in English, Italian, German, French, Dutch, Malay, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese.

2) SOV word order – cats milk drink

This word order is used in Hindi, Japanese, Latin, Korean, Tamil, Turkish etc.

3) Verb subject object word order (VSO) – drink cats milk

This word order is used in Irish, Welsh, Filippino, Maori etc.

4) Verb object subject word order (VOS) – drink milk cats

This word order is used in Car, Fijian, Malagasy, Q’eqchi’ and Terena.

5) Object verb subject word order (OVS) – milk drink cats

This word order is used in Hixkaryana and Urarina.

6) Object subject verb word order (OSV) – milk cats drink

This word order is used in Tobati and Warao.

It’s definitely ‘cats drink milk’ in English

Is that everything?

Absolutely not! For more engaging English content, head to my YouTube channel English with Lucy.