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Learn to Write English Clearly and Correctly

Set 3 - Lesson 8  ( Go to the Answer Key )

Lesson 8,  Word Order in Sentences:

English sentences follow a set of rules which governs the position of each of the elements of the sentence between the capital letter at the beginning and the punctuation mark at the end.  These rules allow for some variation of position in order to emphasize particular elements within the sentence.  Here is an example, growing from the most basic N+TV+N form.

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1. Dogs chase rabbits.
(subject noun + transitive verb + object noun)
2. The dogs chase the rabbits.
(article + sub. noun + trans. verb + article + obj. noun)
3. The large dogs chase the tiny rabbits.
 (art. + adjective + SN + TV + art. + adjective + ON)
4. The large black dogs chase the tiny brown rabbits.
(art + adj + adj + SN + TV + art + adj + adj + ON)
5. The large black dogs hungrily chase the tiny brown rabbits.
 (art + adj + adj + SN + adverb + TV + art + adj + adj + ON)
6. In the morning, the large black dogs hungrily chase the tiny brown rabbits.
(prepositional phrase + art + adj + adj + SN + adv + TV + art + adj + adj + ON)
7. In the morning, the large black dogs hungrily chase the tiny brown rabbits into the woods.
(prep. phrase + art + adj + adj + SN + adv + TV + art + adj + adj + ON + prep.phrase)

That is a lot to absorb.   As you can see, this sentence could grow larger and larger by adding more descriptions of the dogs, the rabbits or the chase.  Look at it carefully.  Do you see the pattern in the sentences above? 

  • Articles [art.] (words that point out nouns - the, a, an, this, that) are always placed before a noun. 
  • Adjectives [adj.] , words that describe a noun (what kind, what size, what color, how many) are also placed before the noun they tell about, but always between the article and the noun.
  • Adverbs [adv.] , words that describe the action ( where, when, how, in what manner) most of the time will be immediately before or after the verb they are telling about.  Their exact location depends on which adverb it is and which idea in the sentence is being stressed or emphasized.
  • Prepositional Phrases can be found anywhere in a sentence.  We will deal with them in another lesson.  In the sentence above, the prepositional phrases are doing the job of adverbs.  'In the morning' tells us when the chase takes place and 'into the woods' tells us where.  Most of the time, expressions of time will come before the verb and expressions of location will come after, but there are enough exceptions to this to keep us from saying it is a rule.

Exercise A: Write the sentence below five times on the numbered lines, but each time you write it, add one more descriptive word or phrase, similar to the earlier example.

1._________________________________________________________________

2. _________________________________________________________________

3. __________________________________________________________________

4. _________________________________________________________________

5. _________________________________________________________________

Exercise B: Unscramble each of the sentences below and rewrite them correctly on the lines.  Put the capital letters and periods where they belong.  (Example:  new drove man a old volkswagon the = The old man drove a new Volkswagon.)

1. taking difficult were nurses the test forty

__________________________________________________________________

2. cards John received Mary Christmas beautiful and

__________________________________________________________________

3. telephone the car my shiny night last new pole hit

___________________________________________________________________

4. slot dollars I fifty the night dropped into deposit

___________________________________________________________________

5. death valley the hundred rode six into of the

___________________________________________________________________

Exercise C: On the numbered lines below, write each of the unscrambled sentences from Exercise B.  On the line beneath each sentence, write the Part of Speech of each word or phrase.  Use these abbreviations:  N = noun; V = verb; Adj = adjective; Adv + adverb; Art = article; PP=prepositional phrase;  DO = direct object (same as object noun); SN = subject noun; TV = transitive verb.  This will help you to see there is a system of sorts in English word order.

 

1. _________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________

2. _________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________

3. __________________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________________

4. __________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

5. ___________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________

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Examination: The numbered lines below contain the grammatical plans for five sentences.  On the line beneath each Plan, write words of your own that match the parts of speech on the line above.  There is no one correct answer, and you may have to change words if they do not make sense at first.  The important thing is to use words that match the parts of speech in the Plan.  Look at this example carefully.  There are a limited number of 'sentence plans' in English, but there are millions of sentences made from those plans.

noun + adverb + verb + article + noun + prepositional phrase
Mr. Smith slowly drove the  car down the street.
Harry angrily punched the  door with his fist.

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1. prepositional phrase + noun + adverb + verb + adjective + noun + prepositional phrase

______________________________________________________________________

2. art + adj + adj + noun + prepositional phrase + verb + art + adj + noun

_______________________________________________________________________

3. noun + verb + article + adjective + noun + adverb

______________________________________________________________________

4. article + adj + adj + noun + verb + adj + adj + noun + prepositional phrase

______________________________________________________________________

5. noun + verb + article + noun + prepositional phrase

_____________________________________________________________________

-The End-

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