Word Order


Hong Kong students often make errors with the word order regarding the position of adverbs. Here are some general guidelines.

1. We put many common adverbs, especially adverbs of frequency, between the subject and the verb.
You certainly annoyed him with your remark.
He surprisingly raised no objection.
You never remember a thing I say.        
The postman frequently comes late.

2. When there is an auxiliary verb and a main verb, adverbs come between the two parts of the verb.
I have always wanted to fly in a helicopter.
I can never find my tin opener.
If you have already paid him, don’t pay him again!

3. Adverbs go after the verb ‘to be’.
He is always late!
You are never on time!                  

4. Other adverbs that are longer and less common come after the object.  There is no exact rule about which can come before the verb and which cannot.  Some can come in either position and this depends on the usage.
Our helper does the housework conscientiously.
He ate his noodles noisily.           
I like coffee very much.
I very much like coffee.

5. In the case of adverbial phrases, place comes first after the verb and time and manner come later. When there is more than one adverbial phrase, the particular goes before the general.
He ran out of the building in a panic.
She was born at 5am on the morning of 2nd March.
He very often left the office late.

Exercise 1 - Ordering
Put the words and phrases in the correct order.

1. dancing/hardly ever/go/I
2. entirely/your plan/I /approve/of
3. the customer/an apology/angrily/demanded
4. listlessly/at the television/the children/gazed
5. kindly/would you/these boxes/carry/help me
6. ignored/the teacher/disrespectfully/the children
7. I/brandy/sometimes/drink
8. tirelessly/the walking group/up the mountain/climbed

Exercise 2 - Rewriting
Rewrite these sentences, adding the word in brackets in the correct place.

1. I can hear my mobile phone. (never)
I can never hear my mobile phone.
2. I have peeled the vegetables.  (already)
I have already peeled the vegetables.
3. Her husband is older than she is.   (three years)
Her husband is three years older than she is.
4. To complete the task on time, we’ll have to work.  (hard)
To complete the task on time, we’ll have to work hard.
5. We do food shopping every Saturday. (almost)
We do food shopping almost every Saturday.
6. He read the book.  (aloud)
He read the book aloud.
7. She refuses to believe a word I say.  (stubbornly)
She stubbornly refuses to believe a word I say.
8. I enjoyed the movie. (thoroughly)
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Exercise 3 Correct the mistakes
All the underlined words are in the wrong position. Put them in the correct position in the sentence.

1. We both were shocked when we heard the news.
We were both shocked when we heard the news.
2. I usually am very busy at weekends.
I am usually very busy at weekends.
3. Susie has always to run to catch the bus.
Susie always has to run to catch the bus.
4. Those keys probably are mine.
Those keys are probably mine.
5. He does conscientiously his homework.
He does his homework conscientiously.
6. You need badly a haircut.
You badly need a haircut.
7. I go into a pub never.
I never go into a pub.
8. Teenagers seldom are interested in history.
Teenagers are seldom interested in history.

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