1.2 English Word Order

The simplest level of English word order within a sentence is that subjects come first followed by verbs and then direct objects.

order of adjectives, determiner, opinion, physical descriptions, color, age, noun,commas, cactus
NNS 1.2.1 Hierarchical Order of Adjectives

When you have more complicated sentences, use the following general order.

much (noncount nouns) more most
many (count nouns) more most
little (size) littler littlest
little (number) less least
old (people and things) older oldest
old (family members) elder eldest

When an English sentence includes more than one adjective modifying a given noun, the adjectives have a hierarchy you should follow. The adjectives that modify the noun show that hierarchical order. You should, however, keep a string of adjectives to two or three. The example includes a longer string of adjectives simply to clarify the word order. 

Some languages, such as Spanish, insert “no” before a verb to create a negative sentence. In English, the negative is often indicated by placing “not” after the verb or in a contraction with the verb.


I can’t make it before 1:00 p.m.

Incorrect example: I no can make it before 1:00 p.m.

Adapted from Appendix A, “Writing for Nonnative English Speakers” in Writer’s Handbook v 1.0  used according to Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

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