Exercises on English Word Order

The right arrangement of words in a sentence is very important, for the whole meaning of a sentence may suffer if the words composing it are not arranged properly.

Study the following groups of words

  1. sing the tried crow to foolish
  2. bad tools quarrels workman with his a

Now these groups of words do not make any sense.

Why? Because the words are not placed in their right order.

Now put the same words in the right order.

  1. The foolish crow tried to sing.
  2. A bad workman quarrels with his tools.

Now these groups of words make sense. Each is a sentence, because in each the words are placed in the right order.

The following is the usual order of words in a sentence :

  1. The Subject usually comes before the Verb; as,
    The blind beggar cheated us.
    The people loudly cheered the Prime Minister.

Exceptions :

(i) When a sentence is introduced by there, the Subject generally comes after the Verb; as,
There has been a fall in prices.
There will be a holiday tomorrow.

(ii) When a sentence is introduced by it, the real Subject comes after the Verb; as,
It is good to be helpful to others.
It was nice to see her in good health.

  1. The Object usually comes after the Verb; as,
    The hunter shot the tiger.
    She sold all her ornaments.
  2. When the Verb has two Objects, one direct and the other indirect, the indirect object comes before the direct, as,
    We gave her (indirect) a prize (direct).
    The Headmaster promised the children (indirect) a holiday (direct).
  3. The Complement usually comes after the Verb; as,
    They elected him captain.
    The President appointed him Governor.
    The committee appointed Advani secretary of the club.
  4. When the Adjective is used attributively, it usually comes before the Noun it qualifies; as,
    The old beggar thanked the kind lady.
    Few servants like cruel masters.
  5. When the Adjective is used predicatively (i.e., as part of the Predicate), it comes after its Norm; as,
    The poor beggar was very grateful.
    The children were thirsty and hungry.
  6. An Adjective Phrase comes immediately after its Noun; as,
    She was a woman of noble nature.
    The king wore a crown of gold.
    My father was a man of high character.
  7. An Adverb is usually placed close to the word it modifies; as,
    She always wears ornaments.
    Nothing ever happens by chance.
    He worked only three sums.
    He is rather slow but works steadily.
    NOTE: When an Adverb is intended to modify the sentence as a whole, it is placed at the beginning of a sentences; as,
    Certainly, he failed to prove his innocence.
    Fortunately all escaped unhurt.
    Possibly your opinion is correct.
  8. All qualifying clauses should be placed as close as possible to the words they qualify; as,
    The boy who works hard seldom fails.
    He who is healthy is happy.
    He that is down need fear no fall.
    All that glitters is not gold.
    He died in the village where he was bom.
  • The usual order of words in a sentence is sometimes altered for the sake of emphasis; as,

Blessed are the meek.

Fallen, fallen, is Babylon.

Silver and gold have I none.

Sweet are the uses of adversity.

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.

Clashed all their sabres bare.

Slowly and sadly we laid him down.

My right there is none to dispute.

A faulty arrangement of words sometimes turns a sentence into nonsense. For example :

  • He thought of marrying his cousin more than once.
  • Wanted a nurse for a baby seventy years old.
  • He killed a sparrow which was eating some crumbs with a gun.

The correct sentences are :

  1. More than once he thought of marrying his cousin.
  2. Wanted for a baby a nurse seventy years old.
  3. He killed with a gun a sparrow which was eating some crumbs.

It is, therefore necessary that all the qualifying words, phrases and clauses should be placed as close as possible to the words they refer to.

Exercise 1: Rearrange the groups of words given below to form meaningful sentences :

  1. together flock of a feather birds
  2. me advised he law to study
  3. pardon to him the judge prisoner the begged
  4. a joy ever for is beauty of a thing
  5. your watch by what time is the
  6. can tell me you the way nearest station to the
  7. prime the minister announced relief the people to all the of district
  8. why to see her could not you go personally
  9. policeman there stands the directing the traffic
  10. have these mangoes flavour what a delicious

Exercise 2: Rewrite these sentences, inverting the usual order of words, to make them more emphatic :

  1. Stone walls do not make a prison.
  2. The man who has a clear conscience is happy.
  3. The peacemakers are blessed.
  4. You shall have money.
  5. God’s way are just and true.
  6. The prayers we said were few and short.
  7. The piper stepped into the street.
  8. I detest a liar.
  9. He is happy who has found his work.
  10. I honour two men, and no third.
  11. The children ran hither and thither.
  12. The balloon went up.
  13. The wheels went round and round.
  14. Charity is the greatest of these.
  15. Isn’t it wonderful?

Exercise 3: Rearrange the words and phrases in the following sentences so as to make sense :

  1. Lost a cane by a gentleman with a carved head.
  2. Girl wanted a for telephone of decent manners and good looks.
  3. A swimming pool has been built by a rich man in the park twenty metres long.
  4. We left the hotel where we had been staying in a motor-car during the holidays.
  5. We went to see the Taj built by Shah Jahan in our own car.
  6. He tore up the affectionate letter which his mother had written to him in a fit of anger.
  7. He deposited the money in a bank which he had saved his whole life.
  8. The man should be brought before the magistrate who talks such nonsense.
  9. His uncle sent him a watch as a birthday present who was very rich.
  10. A correspondence clerk wanted for the office who knows shorthand and typewriting.
  11. He received the punishment which the Headmaster gave with great cheer­fulness.
  12. All the courtiers praised the queen how beautiful she was all the day long.
  13. There will be a meeting of all boys in the school hall who play football at 5 o’clock.
  14. Lost a ring by a girl having a diamond in it while bathing in the river.
  15. I spent all the holidays at Manali in the sweet company of my family which is a hill station.

Adverb Order

Order of Adverbs is very important in English, since Adverbs can be placed in different positions in a sentence in order to obtain proper emphasis. The following represents the normal position Adverbs.

  • (a) Adverbs of Manner, Place and Time.
    She spoke well (Manner) at the debate (Place) this evening (Time).
    The children played merrily (Manner) in the park (Place) all day j (Time).
    (b) With Verb of movement, the Adverb of Place comes immediately after the Verb.
    She went to the station by taxi.
    They go to school by bus.
    (c) The Adverb of Time is placed either at the beginning or at the end of a sentence, but not in the middle.
    1.She was born at 12 o’clock on Christmas morning in the year 1940.
    2.He died at 10 p.m. on August 14th in the year 1964.

Exercise 4: Put the adverbs in brackets in the correct places to make sensible sentences :

  1. She goes to school (by bus, every morning, at 8 o’clock).
  2. I told her (at once, in a loud voice, to go home).
  3. Our teacher spoke to us (in class, very angrily, this morning).
  4. I saw my uncle off (at 3 o’clock, at the station, this afternoon).
  5. She danced (at the Town Hall, last night, beautifully, in the concert).
  6. I shall meet you (tomorrow, outside your office, at 5 o’clock.)
  7. We are going (fof a fortnight, to Mussoorie, on Wednesday).
  8. They played (all day, noisily, in the park).
  9. We slept (the whole night, soundly, on the roofs of our houses).
  10. He drove (at full speed, immediately, down the road).

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