Grammar: Word Order

Grammar in EAP

Word order



Syntax is a traditional term for the study of the rules governing the way words are combined to form groupsclauses and sentences in a language. In contrasts with morphology, which studies the structure of words.

The main syntactic elements of clauses are: Subject, Predicator, Complement (Direct Object, Indirect Object, Subject Complement, Object Complement)  and Adjunct.

Clauses are made up of groups, which are made up of words. Words combine to form groups. Therefore, a group consists of one or more words; it can be thought of as an expanded word. A typical structure of a group would be mhq – modifierheadqualifierGroups combine to form clauses. Typical groups are nominal groups, verbal groups, adjectival groups, adverbial groups.

Syntax studies the rules of these combinations.

For example, in a sentence such as:

Neural connections between the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN) and most other regions of the brain have been cut and yet the SCN has continued to be rhythmic.

we may be interested in how the words combine to form a meaningful sentence. This is syntax.

However we might also be interested in how the words “connections, continued, rhythmic” can be divided into parts: “connect + ion + s“, “continued + d” and “rhythm + ic“, or how “suprachiasmatic” is formed. This is morphology.


Try these exercises: Syntax Exercises

Many syntactical mistakes are simply avoided by proofreading.

Whenever you learn a new word, it is useful to learn typical situations in which it occurs. You need to know in which subjects it is used, what kinds of texts it is used in, and which other words it typically occurs with. Look at the example sentences in your dictionary and find examples of the uses of the word in your text-books.

You can use the Internet to help you with this.

Try the SkELL or WebCorp web-sites to help you with this.

Type any word or phrase  to search. You will often find hundreds of examples of the use of the word or phrase. You need to look at the examples carefully to see what kind of writing they are from. There are, though, many examples of academic, business and government texts on the Internet and examples from these sources should be useful.

Try these exercises.


Law Verbs a-b

Law Verbs c-d

Law Verbs e-f

Law Verbs g-i

Law Verbs l-o

Law Verbs p-q

Law Verbs r-s

Law Verbs t-w


Business Verbs a-b

Business Verbs c-d

Business Verbs e-f

Business Verbs g-i

Business Verbs l-o

Business Verbs p-q

Business Verbs r-s

Business Verbs t-w

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