Among natural languages with a word order preference, SOV is the most common type (followed by subject–verb–object; the two types account for more than 75% of natural languages with a preferred order).[3]

Languages that have SOV structure include Ainu, Akkadian, Amharic, Armenian, Assamese, Assyrian, Aymara, Azerbaijani, Basque, Bengali, Burmese, Burushaski, Cherokee, Dakota, Dogon languages, Elamite, Ancient Greek, Gujarati, Hajong, Hindi, Hittite, Hopi, Ijoid languages, Itelmen, Japanese, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Korean, Kurdish, Classical Latin, Lakota, Manchu, Mande languages, Marathi, Mongolian, Navajo, Nepali, Newari, Nivkh, Nobiin, Pāli, Pashto, Persian, Punjabi, Quechua, Senufo languages, Seri, Sicilian, Sindhi, Sinhalese, Sunuwar and most other Indo-Iranian languages, Somali and virtually all other Cushitic languages, Sumerian, Tibetan and nearly all other Tibeto-Burman languages, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and all other Dravidian languages, Tigrinya, Turkish and other Turkic languages, Urdu, almost all Uto-Aztecan languages, Uzbek, Yukaghir, and virtually all Caucasian languages.

Standard Mandarin is SVO, but for simple sentences with a clear context, word order is flexible enough to allow for SOV or OSV. Some Romance languages are SVO, but when the object is an enclitic pronoun, word order allows for SOV (see the examples below). German and Dutch are considered SVO in conventional typology and SOV in generative grammar. They can be considered SOV but with V2 word order as an overriding rule for the finite verb in main clauses, which results in SVO in some cases and SOV in others. For example, in German, a basic sentence such as "Ich sage etwas über Karl" ("I say something about Karl") is in SVO word order. Non-finite verbs are placed at the end, however, since V2 only applies to the finite verb: "Ich will etwas über Karl sagen" ("I want to say something about Karl"). In a subordinate clause, the finite verb is not affected by V2, and also appears at the end of the sentence, resulting in full SOV order: "Ich sage, dass Karl einen Gürtel gekauft hat." (word-for-word "I say that Karl a belt bought has.")

A rare example of SOV word order in English is "I (subject) thee (object) wed (verb)" in the wedding vow "With this ring, I thee wed."[4]


SOV languages have a strong tendency to use postpositions rather than prepositions, to place auxiliary verbs after the action verb, to place genitive noun phrases before the possessed noun, to place a name before a title or honorific ("James Uncle" and "Johnson Doctor" rather than "Uncle James" and "Doctor Johnson") and to have subordinators appear at the end of subordinate clauses. They have a weaker but significant tendency to place demonstrative adjectives before the nouns they modify. Relative clauses preceding the nouns to which they refer usually signals SOV word order, but the reverse does not hold: SOV languages feature prenominal and postnominal relative clauses roughly equally. SOV languages also seem to exhibit a tendency towards using a time–manner–place ordering of adpositional phrases.

In linguistic typology one can usefully distinguish two types of SOV languages in terms of their type of marking:

  1. dependent-marking has case markers to distinguish the subject and the object, which allows it to use the variant OSV word order without ambiguity. This type usually places adjectives and numerals before the nouns they modify and is exclusively suffixing without prefixes. SOV languages of this first type include Japanese and Tamil.
  2. head-marking distinguishes subject and object by affixes on the verb rather than markers on the nouns. It also differs from the dependent-marking SOV language in using prefixes as well as suffixes, usually for tense and possession. Because adjectives in this type are much more verb-like than in dependent-marking SOV languages, they usually follow the nouns. In most SOV languages with a significant level of head-marking or verb-like adjectives, numerals and related quantifiers (like "all", "every") also follow the nouns they modify. Languages of this type include Navajo and Seri.

In practice, of course, the distinction between these two types is far from sharp. Many SOV languages are substantially double-marking and tend to exhibit properties intermediate between the two idealised types above.

Many languages that have shifted to SVO-word order from the original SOV retain (at least to an extent) the properties, for example the Finnish language (high usage of postpositions etc.)



Sentence Agimi librin e mori.
Words Agimilibrine mori
Gloss Agimithe booktook
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Agimi took the book. (It was Agimi who took the book)
  • This sequence (SOV) occurs only in the poetic language.


Sentence Ümid ağac əkəcək.
Words Ümidağacəkəcək
Gloss Umidtreewill plant
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Umid will plant a tree.


Sentence Իմ անունը Շուշանիկ է։
Words ԻմանունըՇուշանիկէ
Romanization ImanunȳŠušanikē
Gloss MynameShushanikis
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation My name is Shushanik.


Basque in short sentences, usually, subject or agent–object–verb; in long sentences, usually, subject or agent-verb-objects):

Sentence Enekok sagarra ekarri du.
Words Enekoksagarraekarridu
Gloss Eneko (+ERGative)the applebrought (to bring)AUX has
Parts Agent Object Verb
Translation Eneko has brought the apple
Sentence Eneritzek eskatu du inork irakurri nahi ez zuen liburua
Words Eneritzekeskatudu+ + +
Gloss Eneritz (+ERGative)asked forAUX has+ + +
Parts Agent Verb Objects
Translation Eneritz requested the book nobody wanted to read


Sentence আমি ভাত খাই
Words আমি ভাত খাই
IPA ami
Gloss I (subj)rice(obj)eat(pres)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I eat rice.


Burmese is an analytic language.

Sentence ငါက စက္ကူဘူးကို ဖွင့်တယ်။
Words ငါကစက္ကူဘူးကိုဖွင့်တယ်
IPA ŋà
seʔkù bú
se'ku bu:

Gloss I (subj)box(obj)open(pres)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I open the box.


Generally, Chinese varieties all feature SVO word order. However, especially in Standard Mandarin, SOV is tolerated as well. There is even a special structure to form an SOV sentence.

SOV structure is also widely used in railway contact in order to clarify the objective of the order.[5]

The following example that uses 把 is controversially labelled as SOV. 把 may be interpreted as a verb, meaning "to hold". However, it does not mean to hold something literally or physically. Rather, the object is held mentally, and then another verb is acted on the object.

Sentence 我把苹果吃了.
Words 苹果吃了.
Transliteration píngguǒchīle
Gloss Isign for moving object before the verbappleate
Parts Subject Sign Object Verb
Translation I ate the apple. (The apple we were talking about earlier)


Dutch is SOV combined with V2 word order. The non-finite verb (infinitive or participle) remains in final position, but the finite (i.e. inflected) verb is moved to the second position. Simple verbs look like SVO, non-finite verbs (participles, infinitives) and compound verbs follow this pattern:

Sentence Ik wil je helpen.
Parts Ikwiljehelpen
Gloss Iwant toyouhelp
Parts subjectfin.verbobjectnonfin.verb
Translation I want to help you.

Pure SOV order is found in subordinate clauses:

Sentence Ik zei dat ik je wil helpen.
Parts Ikzeidatikjewilhelpen
Gloss IsaidthatIyouwantto help
Parts subjectfin.verbsubord. conj.subjectobjectfin.verbnonfin.verb
Translation I said that I want to help you.


The French language usually uses a subject–verb–object structure but places proclitics before the verb when using most pronouns, which is sometimes mistaken for SOV word order.

Sentence Nous les avons.
Parts Nousles-avons.
Gloss Wethem/those-have
Parts Subject Object-Verb
Translation We have those/them


The Georgian language isn't extremely rigid with regards to word order, but is typically either SOV or SVO.

Sentence მე ქართველი ვარ.
Transliteration me kartveli var
Parts მექართველივარ.
Gloss IGeorgian[I] am
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I am (a) Georgian.


German is SOV combined with V2 word order. The non-finite verb (infinitive or participle) remains in final position, but the finite (i.e. inflected) verb is moved to the second position. Simple verbs look like SVO, compound verbs follow this pattern:

Sentence Er hat einen Apfel gegessen.
Words Erhateinen Apfelgegessen.
Gloss Hehasan appleeaten.
Parts SubjectAuxiliaryObjectVerb
Translation He has eaten an apple.

The word order changes also depending on whether the phrase is a main clause or a dependent clause. In dependent clauses, the word order is always entirely SOV (cf. also Inversion):

Subordinate Clause Weil Horst einen Apfel gegessen hat.
Words WeilHorsteinen Apfelgegessenhat.
Gloss BecauseHorstan appleeatenhas.
Parts ConjunctionSubjectObjectVerbAuxiliary
Translation Because Horst has eaten an apple.

Greek (Classical)

Sentence ὁ ἀνὴρ τòν παĩδα φιλεῖ.
Words ὁ ανήρ (ho anḗr)τòν παĩδα (tòn paîda)φιλεῖ (phileî).
Gloss The manthe childloves.
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation The man loves the child.


Sentence Moi hugre'mre' khasei.
Words Moihugre'mre'khasei.
Gloss Iguava(accusative)eat(past tense, indicative)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I ate the guava.

're is a particle that indicates the accusative case and 'sei' indicates past tense declarative. Here, 'e is pronounced as the 'i' in 'girl' and 'ei' is pronounced as the 'ay' in 'say'.


Sentence मैं सेब खाता हूँ।
Words मैं सेब खाता हूँ
Romanization main seb khaataa hun
Gloss I an apple eat (simple present. m.)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I eat an apple.


Hungarian word order is free, although the meaning slightly changes. Almost all permutations of the following sample are valid, but with stress on different parts of the meaning.

Sentence Pista kenyeret szeletel.
Words Pistakenyeretszeletel
Gloss Pistabreadslices
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation  Pista slices bread.


The Italian language usually uses a subject–verb–object structure, but when an enclitic pronoun is used, this comes before the verb and the auxiliary.

Sentence Io la sto mangiando
Parts Iolastomangiando
Gloss Iitameating
Parts SubjectObjectAuxiliaryVerb
Translation I am eating it


Sentence 開けます。
Words 開けます。
Romanization watashigahako(w)oakemasu.
Gloss I(sub)box(obj)open(polite)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I (am the one who) open(s) the box.

The markers が (ga) and を ((w)o) are, respectively, subject and object markers for the words that precede them. Technically, the sentence could be translated a number of ways ("I open a box", "It is I who open the boxes", etc.), but this does not affect the SOV analysis.

Japanese has some flexibility in word order, so an OSV is also possible. (開けます。)


Sentence ನಾನು ಮನೆ ಕಟ್ಟಿದೆನು .
Words ನಾನುಮನೆಕಟ್ಟಿದೆನು
Transliteration NaanumanekaTTidenu
Gloss Ithe housebuilt
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I built the house.


Like German and Dutch the Indo-Aryan language Kashmiri is SOV combined with V2 word order. The non-finite verb (infinitive or participle) remains in final position, but the finite (i.e. inflected) part of the verb appears in second position. Simple verbs look like SVO, whereas auxiliated verbs are discontinuous and adhere to this pattern:

Sentence کور چہے ثونٹہ کہیوان
Transcription kuurchhitsũũţhkhyevaan
Gloss girlisappleseating
Parts SubjectAuxiliaryObjectVerb
Translation The girl is eating apples.

Since Kashmiri is a V2 language if the word tsũũţh 'apple' comes first then the subject kuur 'girl' must follow the auxiliary chhi 'is': tsũũţh chhi kuur khyevaan [Lit. "Apples is girl eating."]

The word order changes also depending on whether the phrase is in a main clause or in certain kinds of dependent clause. For instance, in relative clauses, the word order is SOVAux:

Main clause + Subordinate Clause میے ان سوہ کور یوس ثونٹہ کہیوان چہے
Transcription =>myeenyswa kuur=>ywastsũũţhkhyevaanchhi
Gloss =>Ibroughtthat girl=>whoappleseatingis
Parts Main clause =>SubjectVerbObjectRelative clause =>SubjectObjectVerbAuxiliary
Translation I brought the girl who is eating apples.


Sentence Дастан кітап оқыды.
Words Дастанкітапоқыды
Transliteration Dastankitapoqıdı
Gloss Dastana bookread
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Dastan read a book.

Like in Japanese, OSV is possible too. (Кітапті Дастан оқыды.)


Sentence 상자다.
Words 상자여(ㄹ)다.
Romanization naegasangjareulyeo(l)nda.
Gloss I(subject)box(object)open(present)(indicative)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I open the box.

'가 (Ga)/이 (i)' is a particle that indicates the subject. '를 (Reul)/을 (eul)' is a particle that indicates the object. The consonant 'ㄹ (l)' in the verb stem (열-) is dropped before the suffix.

※ Here, '나 (na, I (pronoun))' is changed to '내 (nae)' before '가 (ga)'.


Sentence Биз алма жедик
Words Бизалмажедик
Transliteration Bizalmajedik
Gloss Wean appleate
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation We ate an apple


Classical Latin was an inflected language and had a very flexible word order and sentence structure, but the most usual word order in formal prose was SOV.

Sentence Servus puellam amat
Words Servuspuellamamat
Gloss Slave (nom)girl (acc)loves
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation The slave loves the girl.

Again, there are multiple valid translations (such as "a slave") that do not affect the overall analysis.


Sentence ഞാൻ പുസ്തകത്തെ എടുത്തു.
Words ഞാൻ പുസ്തകം എടുത്തു
Transliteration ñān pustakam̥ (-e) (accusative)* eṭuttu
Gloss I (the) book took
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I took the book.
  • Pustakam̥ + -e = pustakatte (പുസ്തകത്തെ)


Sentence ᠪᡳ ᠪᡠᡩᠠ ᠪᡝ ᠵᡝᠮᠪᡳ
Words ᠪᡳ ᠪᡠᡩᠠ ᠪᡝ ᠵᡝᠮᠪᡳ
Transliteration bi buda be jembi
Gloss I meal (accusative) eat
Parts Subject Object Grammatical marker Verb
Translation I eat a meal.


Sentence तो बियाणे पेरतो.
Words तोबियाणेपेरतो
Transliteration biyāṇēpēratō
Gloss heseedssows
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation He sows seeds.


Sentence Би ном уншив.
Words Биномуншив
Transliteration Binomunshiv
Gloss Ia bookread
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I read a book.


Sentence म विद्यालय जान्छु ।
Words विद्यालयजान्छु
Transliteration Mavidyalayajānchhu
Gloss Ischoolgo (simple present)
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I go to school.


Sentence Алан чиныг кæсы.
Words Аланчиныгкæсы
Transliteration Alančinygkæsy
Gloss Alanbookreads
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Alan reads a book.


Sentence .زه کار کوم
Words زهکارکوم
Gloss زه (Subject Pronoun)کار (Noun)کوم (verb)
Transliteration kaarkawəm
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation I do the work.


Sentence .من سیب می‌خورم
Words منسیبمی‌خورم
Gloss Iappleeat (first person present tense)
Transliteration manseebmikhoram
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation I am eating an apple.


Portuguese is an SVO language, but it has some SOV constructs.

In case of proclisis:

Sentence Todos aqui te amam.
Word Todosaquiteamam
Gloss Everybodyhereyou (proclitic)love
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation Everybody here loves you.
Sentence Aquilo me entristeceu.
Word Aquilomeentristeceu
Gloss It/thatme (proclitic)saddened
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation It saddened me.

When using a temporal adverb, optionally with the negative:

Sentence Nós já [não] os temos.
Word Nósjá [não]ostemos
Gloss Wealready [not]them (masc.)have
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation (Positive) We already have them.
(Negative) We do not have them anymore.
Sentence Nós ainda [não] os temos.
Word Nósainda [não]ostemos
Gloss Westill [not]them (masc.)have
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation (Positive) We still have them.
(Negative) We have do not them yet.

There is an infix construction for the future and conditional tenses:

Sentence Eu fá-lo-ei amanhã.
Word Eufá-lo-eiamanhã
Gloss Ido-it-willtomorrow
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation I will do it tomorrow.

SVO form: Eu hei-de fazê-lo amanhã or eu farei o mesmo amanhã


Sentence ਮੈਨੂੰ ਇੱਕ ਸੇਬ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਹੈ।
Words ਮੈਨੂੰ ਇੱਕ ਸੇਬ ਚਾਹੀਦਾ ਹੈ
Romanization mainu ikk seb chaahida hai
Gloss I(dative) an apple want
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I want an apple.


Russian is an inflected language and very flexible in word order; it allows all possible word combinations. However, it is generally considered a SVO language.

Sentence Она его любит
Words Онаеголюбит
Transliteration anáyevólyúbit
Gloss she (nom)him (acc)loves
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation She loves him

for example: Она любит его, любит его oна, любит oна его, and virtually all re-orderings of Russian sentence order are correct although this is often used in different situations to emphasize particular constituents of a sentence. Who loves him? 'she' is the one who loves him (emphatic meaning). In this way any part of the sentence can be emphasized without changing basic meaning (a convenience created by Russian's noun case system)


Sanskrit, like its predecessor, Vedic, is an inflected language and very flexible in word order; it allows all possible word combinations. However, it is generally considered a SOV language.

Sentence tát t(ú)vam ási
Words tátt(ú)vamási
Gloss thatyouare
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation That you are.


Somali generally uses the subject–object–verb structure when speaking formally.

Sentence Aniga baa albaabka furay
Words Aniga baa albaab(ka) furay
Gloss I Focus (the) door opened
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I opened the door


The Spanish language usually uses a subject–verb–object structure, but when an enclitic pronoun is used, this comes before the verb and the auxiliary. Sometimes, in dual-verb constructions involving the infinitive and the gerund, the enclitic pronoun can be put before both verbs, or attached to the end of the second verb.

Sentence Yo lo como
Parts Yolocomo
Gloss Iiteat
Parts SubjectObjectVerb
Translation I eat it


Sentence Merd kitob handedə.
Words Merdkitobhandedə
Gloss Manbookreading
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation The man is reading a book.


Tamil being a strongly head-final language, the basic word-order is SOV. However, since it is highly inflected, word order is flexible and is used for pragmatic purposes. That is, fronting a word in a sentence adds emphasis on it; for instance, a VSO order would indicate greater emphasis on the verb, the action, than on the subject or the object. However, such word-orders are highly marked, and the basic order remains SOV.

Sentence நான் பெட்டியை திறப்பேன்.
Words நான்பெட்டியைதிறப்பேன்.
Romanization Nānpeṭṭi-yaitiṟa-pp-ēn.
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I will open the box.


Sentence నేను పార్టీకి వెళ్తున్నాను.
Words నేనుపార్టీకివెళ్తున్నాను.
Transliteration Nēnupārtīkiveḷtunnānu.
Gloss Ito partyam going.
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I am going to the party.


The Tigrinya language usually uses a subject–verb–object structure.

Sentence ዳኒኤል ኩዑሶ ቀሊዑ
Words ዳኒኤልኩዑሶቀሊዑ
Gloss Danielballkicked
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Daniel kicked the ball.


Sentence Yusuf elmayı yedi.
Words Yusufelmayıyedi
Gloss Josephthe appleate
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Joseph ate the apple.

Like all other Turkic languages, Turkish has flexibility in word order, so any order is possible. For example, in addition to the SOV order above, this sentence could also be constructed as OSV (Elmayı Yusuf yedi.), OVS (Elmayı yedi Yusuf.), VSO (Yedi Yusuf elmayı.), VOS (Yedi elmayı Yusuf.), or SVO (Yusuf yedi elmayı.), but these other orders carry a connotation of emphasis of importance on either the subject, object, or the verb. The SOV order is the "default" one that does not connote particular emphasis on any part of the sentence.


Sentence мoн книгa лыӟӥcькo.
Words мoнкнигaлыӟӥcькo.
Romanization monknigalyjis'ko
Gloss Ia bookto read
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I am reading a book.


Sentence .میں نے اسے دیکھا
Words میں نے اسے دیکھا
Romanization main ne use dekha
Gloss I(ergative) him/her saw
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I saw him/her.


Sentence Anvar Xivaga ketdi.
Words AnvarXivagaketdi.
Gloss Anvar (nom)to Khiva (dat)went
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation Anvar went to Khiva.

The marker "ga" is a dative case marker for the object that precedes it. Due to flexibility in word order in Uzbek, it is possible to transform the sentence into OSV as well ("Xivaga Anvar ketdi" / "It was Anvar who went to Khiva").


Sentence ꉢꌧꅪꋠ.
Words ꌧꅪꋠ .
Romaniz. ngasyp-hnizze.
Gloss I(an) apple(to) eat.
Parts Subject Object Verb
Translation I eat an apple.


Sentence Hama na mo ŋwa .
Words Hamanamoŋwa
Gloss Hama(completed aspect)riceeat
Parts Subject Grammatical marker Object Verb
Translation Hama ate rice.

See also


  1. Meyer, Charles F. (2010). Introducing English Linguistics International (Student ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. Tomlin, Russell S. (1986). Basic Word Order: Functional Principles. London: Croom Helm. p. 22. ISBN 9780709924999. OCLC 13423631.
  3. Crystal, David (1997). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55967-7.
  4. Andreas Fischer, "'With this ring I thee wed': The verbs to wed and to marry in the history of English". Language History and Linguistic Modelling: A Festschrift for Jacek Fisiak on his 60th Birthday. Ed. Raymond Hickey and Stanislaw Puppel. Trends in Linguistics, Studies and Monographs 101 (Berlin, New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1997), pp.467-81
  5. 车机联控语言——铁路行车领域“共同语言”的研究 (Thesis) (in Chinese).
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