Word Order in the Sentence and Emphasis

Writing Man

If English language is your second one, then this article will come in handy to you. As we all know, there are many niceties that determine whether one sounds like a native speaker or not. Surely, it is impossible to reach the ideal, however, we can make a try.

One of such fine points to note is a proper structure of your text, spoken or written. What distinguishes the structure of the text of native speaker from that who is just learning English is the deep understanding of what should be emphasized and how; while the text of a non-native speaker strikes one’s eye with a dry and routine approach. Therefore, what you should know about “live” text is written below.

General Understanding

Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant with a friend eating meat when one of you makes this comment.

This meat tastes delicious.

This statement begins with the subject (This meat) and the verb (tastes). This is the normal word order in a statement. Here, a complement (delicious) follows the verb.

We can also look at the sentence from the point of view of the information it communicates. The first phrase (This meat) is the topic, what the sentence is about. The last phrase (delicious) is the important information about the topic. This meat is an “old information” because it is naturally in our thoughts in the situation. Delicious is “new information,” the point of the message. The sentence starts with old information and then tells us something new about it. This is a typical way of communication information, although it is certainly not an absolute rule.

Sometimes there are different ways of saying the same thing. Compare these pairs of sentence.

The Ritz Restaurant cooks better meat than this. This meat is not as good as at the Ritz Restaurant.
My friends and I went to the Ritz Restaurant yesterday. Yesterday my friends and I went to the Ritz Restaurant.
I like people in this place. What I like about this place is people.

Each pair of sentences orders the information in a different way. The choice of one or the other will depend on the context and what information is old or new. The rest of this article is about how we make such choices.

Cohesion in the Discourse

It is widely believed that our universe was born due to a colossal explosion called the Big Bang. As a result of this explosion, all matter was created. The discoveries in different sciences have enabled the researchers to trace the Universe’s history to its first fraction of a second. They believe it was a watershed when the Universe was squashed into a tiny volume. The Big Bang Theory is one of the most believed today. Now, however, there are other theories regarding the Universe’s birth.

Usually, when we are writing a text we try to start each sentence with something that is already known or even expected by reader in the context. As a rule, it relates to the information mentioned before. The new information comes later in the sentence. For example, in the sentence The Big Bang Theory is one of the most believed today, the theory are already in our thoughts as it has been just mentioned. The new and important information is that scientists no longer believe it.

Here are some ways in which the starting point of a sentence can link to something mentioned in the previous sentence.

Type of a link Just mentioned in the previous sentence Starting point of the new sentence
Repeating a word In a colossal explosion As a result of this explosion
Using a pronoun Have enabled the researchers They believe …
Expressing something in different words the Universe was squashed into a tiny volume. The Big Bang theory
Making a contrast is one of the most believed today Now, however …

Most of the sentences in the above text take as their starting point an idea which is already familiar or which links to something earlier in the text. This helps the reader to see how one sentence follows on from another.

TIP: When writing a composition, try to link your sentences by starting each one with known information and then saying something new about it. Then, your text will have cohesion.

Front Position

As it was already mentioned all old information comes at the beginning of a clause and all new information goes to the end position. However, this is not only one possible way to compose the text. Sometimes, it is more logically and convenient to put another phrase in the beginning before the subject. As a rule, it is made to make an emphasis on the important information. The whole sentence as well as certain text part will sound better.

An Adverbial in the Beginning

Most kinds of adverbial can go in the front position, for example, truth, comment, and linking adverbs.

Why are we staying? Maybe there is a traffic jam.

I left the iron on. Luckily everything was fine when I got back.

His rude friend Tom has come. Despite that, we had a good party.

Inversion After an Adverbial

This sentence has the normal word order: subject + verb + adverbial.

The car was parked before the house.

Now look at this same information in a written context where the adverbial of place (before the house) is in front position to link with the information (number seventeen) in the previous sentence.

Jane was going along the street and found number seventeen very quickly. Before the house was parked the car.

After the adverbial of place, there is the inversion of the subject. The car is the new information and goes, therefore, at the end of the sentence. We can do the same with other verbs of place and movement.

The main rule is that all important information comes at the end of the clause or sentence.

Emphatic Stress

When we put emphatic stress on a word, it sounds with a greater force than other parts of a sentence or clause. The reason to make it is to point out the word and its meaning contrasting it with the others.

I ordered a LARGE portion of salad, not small.

Also, we can stress the auxiliary or the ordinary verb be.

You have not eaten my dinner surely! – Yes, I HAVE. I was starving.

In a simple tense, we use the auxiliary do to emphasize the verb.

I do sorry for my behavior!

What is more, there is such emphatic construction as it + be + phrase + relative clause. The phrase that we want to emphasize comes after be.

It was me who dared to express protest.

Furthermore, it is already quite conventional to use another structure what-clause +be to emphasize the part of a sentence.

A technical fault caused the delay

What caused the delay was a technical fault.

As you can see, the devil is not so black as he is painted! A little drop of practice and trust to your feelings, and you will surely write the most prominent compositions using unusual emphatic constructions.

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