How do I learn word order in English sentences?

Last Updated on February 13, 2022 by Estrella

How do I learn to use the correct word order in English writing?

Each language has its own word order in a sentence.  Is there an easy way to learn word order in English?  Yes.  And once you are familiar with word order, you will see fewer corrections in your writing assignments from your professors.  Your co-workers will understand your writing even more easily.

Different languages arrange the order of words differently.  For example, in Spanish, the sentence “I don’t have any books” would have the order “No have none books.”  If you are new to Spanish or any language, how could you possibly know the correct word order?

Here are some ways to learn this easily and naturally.

How to imitate patterns in English sentences

1.  After you read a paragraph, go back and observe the order of words.  Develop the habit of looking for patterns.   Are there any sentence that look a lot like another in structure?  Can you identify the same structure in other books you’ve read?

As you do this more and more, you will gradually increase your familiarity with word order.  In addition, you will also increase your repertoire of sentence patterns to use in your own writing.

2.  Go back to the same paragraph.  Substitute the nouns with different nouns, and the verbs with different verbs.  Try applying words from topics that you actually use in your daily life.  Now you are making the word order a part of your natural speaking.

3.  Then substitute the adjectives and adverbs in the same sentences.

4.  Not all sentences begin with the subject.  Can you imitate them too?   Using a variety of sentence patterns will make your writing more interesting.

5.  If you like using grammar books, find ones that have natural sounding sentences.  If you don’t know which ones are natural, show the book to a native speaker and ask if the sentences sound natural.  If so, imitate the sentences, changing the noun, the verb, etc. so the sentence becomes your own.

How to learn word order by listening

6.  You can practice this while driving too.  If you are listening to the radio or listening to an audio book, focus your attention on the word order instead of the content.  Listen for the repeat patterns.  This is a good exercise because you are training another sense to observe similarities.  It is one thing to watch for patterns with your eyes, and another to listen for it with your ears.  The more senses we use, the more our learning sinks in.  This makes learning more effective.

7.  There are plenty of opportunities to learn about word order through listening.   We hear native English speakers talking to each other on the bus, in a coffee shop, standing in line at the supermarket.  Use this as a learning time.  Listen for the word order.  And when you are comfortable with this skill, listen also for inflection and enunciation.  Can you hear the beginning of a syllable clearly?  Can you hear the ending “d” and “t”?

You can combine this practice with my other suggestions in an article I wrote on how you can sound like a native English speaker.

An effective learning attitude

8.  Play with this.  Allow yourself time to observe, absorb, and try out the various patterns.  You will become more familiar with them each time you use them.

Please do not worry about being perfect when you practice.  Learning is a process.   It’s ALWAYS a process.   There is no chef that would not want to improve her recipe.   I know some educational training expects you to be correct even if you’ve just been doing this for a short time.   Don’t give yourself this pressure.  Pressure is stressful.   It is counter-effective for learning.

At your most relaxed state, you’ll be able to absorb far more than when you are stressed. If you take the attitude of play, you’ll enjoy this process much more.

Practice these tips and see which ones you like best.  Develop your own.  Soon, you’ll be very good in identifying word order in English sentences and using them yourself!

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If there’s a topic you would like me to address, please email me at estrellachan@gmail.com.

If you would like to increase your English fluency, presentation skills, interview skills, and career advancement strategies, please email estrellachan@gmail.com

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email estrellachan@gmail.com

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