English language: New Word Order

By Oli Pritchard August 31, 2017

English word orderIt’s not always what you say, but the order in which you say it that matters. We go back to basics with English language word order.

It’s the summer, so we are looking at basic language again! One of the big differences between English and Spanish is word order, which is the order that we say, or write words. Different languages have different ideas about this. This time we look at some of the basic points and problems to remember.

Subject-Verb-Object (S-V-O)

In English, we usually use the form Subject-Verb-Object (S-V-O). An example is: Jemima kicks the ball. Jemima is the subject: she does the action. Kick is the verb, the action. The ball is the object, the action happens to the object.

Subject Verb Object
Jemima kicks the ball
The dog smokes a cigarette
I love you


In Spanish, questions are statements with a question mark. In speech, the pronunciation rises at the end. In English, questions change the form and need an auxiliary verb. This is ‘do’ for basic verbs, but you can change for ‘can’, ‘will’, ‘must’ etc. The auxiliary verb must be at the start of the sentence. You (do) speak English is a statement. Do you speak English? is a question. He can play football. Can he play football?

The verb ‘to be’ is an auxiliary. So: “You are Colombian” (statement). The question is: “Are you Colombian?”

Auxiliary Subject Verb Object
Do you play football?
Can she speak Dutch?
Will they drink chicha?


In Spanish, the adjective normally comes after the noun, for example silla vacía. In English, the adjective is before the noun, for example a black dog.

Subject Verb Adjective/Adverb
He is strong
Pigs swim badly
Oliver writes a lot

When you have more than one adjective for a single noun, we put colour next to the verb, size before that and feeling before that. For example, Oliver has wonderful blue eyes and beautiful long blond hair.

Feeling Size Colour Proper Advective Object
Beautiful long blonde British hair
Amazing big red dog


Adverbs are the same as adjectives, except that adverbs affect verbs or adjectives, not nouns. When they affect adjectives, they come before the adjective: it was really loud or very quiet. However, when the adverb affects a verb, it normally comes after the verb. He speaks Spanish well. She sings beautifully.

Adverbs are not always like adjectives. Sometimes they tell us about frequency. In this case, they come before the verb. Look at the examples above. …it normally comes… …not always like…

Auxiliary Subject Verb Adjective/Adverb
Are you Sudanese?
Does Rigoberto cook well?
Can you speak slower?


We do not always use S-V-O. When we use the passive voice (voz pasiva) in English we change the word order. The order for the passive is O-V-S. The subject is often not necessary. This is the same as Spanish. The form is slightly different, but the word order changes in the same way as it does in Spanish.

Subject Verb Object Active
García Marquez wrote Cien años de soledad
People speak Spanish
Object Verb (Subject) Passive
Cien años de soledad was written (by García Marquez)
Spanish is spoken (by people)