English word order: Subject-Verb-Object (SVO)

Words form meaningful sentences, only if they are placed in a particular order. Sentences comprise of a Subject and a Predicate (verb, object). Different languages follow different word order to make sentences.

Word order

English equivalent

Proportion of languages

Example languages

SOVShe him loves.”45%Sanskrit (and all Indian languages), Ancient Greek, Latin, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Urdu
SVOShe loves him.”42%English, Chinese, French, Hausa, Italian, Malay, Russian, Spanish, Thai
VSOLoves she him.”9%Biblical Hebrew, Arabic, Irish, Filipino, Tuareg-Berber, Welsh
VOSLoves him she.”3%Malagasy, Baure, Car
OVSHim loves she.”1%Apalaí, Hixkaryana, Klingon
OSVHim she loves.”0%Warao
Frequency distribution of word order in languages surveyed by Russell S. Tomlin in 1980s.

SVO is the second-most common order by number of known languages, after SOV. Together, SVO and SOV account for more than 75% of the world’s languages.

English language follows the SVO word order. In linguistic typology, subject–verb–object (SVO) is a sentence structure where the subject comes first, the verb second, and the object third.

Subject shows the doer of the action.
Verb shows the action.
Object shows the receiver of the action.


Susan plays basketball.
(Susan=subject; plays=verb; basketball=object)

Richard plays football.
(Richard=subject; plays=verb; football=object)

They play outdoor games.
(They=subject; play=verb; outdoor games=object)

Words denoting place and time are generally placed at the end or at the beginning of a sentence.

Example (place=at home): He plays computer games at home.
Example (time=after lunch): After lunch he plays computer games.

If place and time DO COME one after another in a single sentence, then place comes first and time comes second.

Correct: He plays computer games at home, after lunch.
Incorrect: He plays computer games after lunch, at home.

If place and time DO NOT COME one after another in a single sentence, then either place or time can come first.

Correct: After lunch, he plays computer games at home.
Correct: At home, he plays computer games after lunch.

1. Crystal, David (1997). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55967-7.
2. Tomlin, Russell S. (1986). Basic Word Order: Functional Principles. London: Croom Helm. p. 22. ISBN 9780709924999. OCLC 13423631.
3. Wikipedia.org
4. Meyer, Charles F. (2010). Introducing English Linguistics International (Student ed.). Cambridge University Press.

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