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Word Order

The most common order of the different elements of a sentence in English are.
 
WhoWhatWhere When HowWhy
 
A sentence usually begins with who (a subject), followed by what (a verb)
  • Who called (peter called).
  • The taxi returned. (taxi is the subject and returned is the verb)
Some verbs require an object, the object is also part of the what element so make sure you keep the verb and its object together.
 
Verbs with a direct object.
  • Fred ate breakfast.
  • The truck hit the tree.
  • The car  collided with the tree.
After WhoWhat, we add the other elements in the following order.
 
Where When HowWhy
 
  • David called earlier (when) to cancel his appointment. (why)
  • Patricia drove to London (where) yesterday (when), for a meeting.(why)
  • The fire engine arrived at my house (where) to put the fire out. (why)
  • The tree fell over with a loud noise. (how)
If one these elements is composed of different parts, go from the smaller unit to the larger one.
 
Different elements of when.
  • The conference started at 10am on Tuesday last week.

Different elements of where.

  • They live in a flat in a big city in Thailand.
You may occasionally hear a sentence start with an element other than who.
 
This happens when you want to emphasise that element, and your voice should emphasise it as well. In written form, you should separate that element from the sentence with a comma.
  • On his way to work, Peter saw his wife with another man.
Make sure there is a good reason for emphasising the element that you are putting at the beginning of the beginning of the sentence, or you will sound unnatural.
  • William ate breakfast on the train this morning.
  • On the train, William ate breakfast this morning. (Unnatural)
  • On the train, William was fine, but at the office, he felt sick.
When at the beginning of the sentence.
  • Peter called earlier to cancel the meeting.
  • Earlier, Peter called to cancel the meeting. (Unnatural)
  • Earlier, Peter felt sick, but now, he is all right.
How at the beginning of the sentence.
  • The tree fell over with a loud noise. 
  • With loud noise, the tree fell over . (Unnatural)
  • The tree swayed, and with loud noise, the tree fell over.
Why at the beginning of the sentence.
  • The bus returned to the station to drop off the passengers.
  • To drop off the passengers, the bus returned to the station. (Unnatural)
  • To drop off the passengers safely, the bus returned to the station.

Common Mistakes.

Separating the Who from the verb, or the verb from the object
  • Jane ate slowly her meal.
  • Jane ate her meal slowly.
Mixing the order of  Where When HowWhy.
  • We drove at the weekend to the seaside.
  • We drove to the seaside at the weekend.
  • They contact everyone because it is easier by phone. 
  • They contact everyone by phone because it is easier.
  • She went to town to post her letters this morning.
  • She went to town this morning to post letter.
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