Did you answer last week’s million-dollar question or are you going to perish in the quicksand of confusion?

The answer to last week’s question is ORDER, yes simply order.

English has a very strict word order and that is Subject/Verb/Object. It is a SVO language yet did you realize that more than half of the world has a different word order than English?

Mastering this order is ingrained in every language skill. Test it with the simple exercise below and it is just as valuable with long samples which you students will inevitably have to handle…

Learn to ride a small wave before attempting a giant surf .

According to Brinton (2000), other world language orders include: OVS, OSV, SOV, VSO, VOS. Just for fun try the following practice. Let’s take a simple SVO sentence in English and rewrite it by changing the order according to the other world language options. We will start with the one in English which I have done for you:

SVO: I eat Apples

OVS: _______________________________

OSV: _______________________________

SOV: _______________________________

VSO: _______________________________

VOS: _______________________________

As you can see, the result is incomprehensibility! So if your students are to become comprehensible, and want to ‘think in English’ from the onset, they need to acquire SVO word order right away.

Word order is not as important in many languages because their verbs do a lot of work, but in English word order is particularly strict.

I like to accuse our verbs of being lazy loafers swinging on hammocks and not doing any of the hard work!

Our verbs don’t tell us who is doing or who did the action, so if we don’t establish the actor at the beginning, the listener will be confused.

We have three slots to fill:

1. Who or what are we talking about?

2. What is that who or what doing or being?

3. Who or what is the author doing it to?

Think about this! In next week’s blog I’ll tell you the amazing story of three brothers who are so tight knit they can hold up the biggest language in the world.


Brinton, L. J., (2000) The structure of modern English; A linguistic Introduction. Philadelphia, John Benjamins Publishing Company.