An Online Catalogue of English Grammar Exercises

Question: When is Word Order a problem?

Answer: Frequently!

1. with inverted questions such as when you use the verb 'to be' e.g. are you happy?

or when you use modal auxiliaries: e.g. Would you do me a favour, please?

2. With Adverbs of Frequency e.g. never, often, rarely, sometimes, always, where you have to put the adverb after the subject and before the main verb .

e.g. I sometimes eat crab. (Be careful if there is an auxiliary, then the adverb goes between the auxiliary and the main verb e.g. I have never eaten crab).

(n.b. There is something very strange you can do if you are Advanced - but usually with negative constructions!

e.g. Never have I seen such a terrible tragedy! or e.g. Hardly had the President finished speaking than the press started shouting questions.

You can also do this with 'rarely' and 'seldom'. You can also say: Had I known....)

3. Adverbs go in front of the verb they 'add meaning to' e.g. I really like raw fish (NOT 'I very like' - you need to say 'I very much like raw fish'. 'Very' does not go before a verb!)

4. Whole adverb phrases can go before the subject pronoun or noun:

e.g. A long time ago I went to Corsica.

5. Adjectives are organised in a very strict way - see  Adjectives!

6. You have to be very careful with Phrasal Verbs or Multi-Word Verbs. It is difficult to recognise them sometimes and even more difficult to use them!

e.g. My teacher told me to look the word up.

'Look it up', she said. I didn't know 'look up' was really one word, meaning 'find'.

Then I said 'I don't know how to look up it', and she told me this was wrong: I can't put 'it' after up, I must put 'it' before 'up'. I must say 'I don't know how to look it up!'

(See Phrasal Verbs for these problems!)

7. There are many Verb Patterns in English. You have to learn them e.g. You cannot say: 'say me' but you can say 'tell me'. You cannot say 'suggest me', you must say 'suggest to me'.

8. There are certain phrases in English which are always the same. You cannot change the Word Order e.g. men and women, red and blue, black and white, bread and butter, fish and chips.

9. 1. Who met Sally? (John did) v. 2. Who did Sally meet? (John)

'Who' = the subject of the sentence. In this case: 'who' = John in Question 1.

In 2. 'who' is the object, in this case,' John'. This change means a change in the word order.

Examples: 'What happened?' but 'What did you do?'

See The A - Z of English Grammar & Usage for the rules.

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