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Advanced Grammar For IELTS: Word Order And Verb Patterns

Advanced Grammar for IELTS: Word order and verb patterns – Diagnose Test, Grammar Explanation & Practice Exercises

A  DIAGNOSTIC TEST: Word order and verb patterns

For each sentence below, you are given three possible ways of completing it. Only two are correct. Tick (✓) the correct ones.


Although the girl was clearly in her teens, she appeared ……………

a the child’s mother.

b to be the child’s mother. 

c fond of the child. 

1          During an interview the Minister told …………

a the nation that she would be resigning,

b to the nation that she would be resigning.

c the interviewer a lie about his resignation.

2          Passengers stumbled and luggage flew from the racks as the driver suddenly ……….

a stopped.

b stopped the train.

c stopped to the train.

3          The low turnout of townspeople at the meeting made the new councillor ………….

a to get angry.

b angry.

c chairman of the committee.

4          Surely you don’t always want to remain ………………….

a a shop worker?

b to be a shop worker?

c in his shadow?

5          When Jean-Paul Gaultier arrived on the scene, he appeared ……………..

a the natural successor to Westwood.

b to be the natural successor to Westwood.

c refreshingly new and different.

6          As part of their launch, the new travel company offered …………………….

a their first customer a free holiday.

b a free holiday to their first customer.

c to their first customer a free holiday.

7          The girl’s passion for the man made her ……………….

a sign the confession.

b to sign the confession.

c blind to his faults.

8          The never-ending care and devotion of the nurses in the hospital helped ……………….

a to overcome cancer my father.

b my father overcome cancer.

c my father to overcome cancer.

The words in brackets are in the wrong order. Rewrite them in the correct order.


When we won the lottery last year, [new/we/our/house/parents/bought/a].

=> we bought our parents a new house.

  1. In the play, [the/Princess/Duke/really/the/loves], but unfortunately his love isn’t reciprocated
  2. [quote/you/could/provide/a/formal]? If you put it in writing, we’ll accept it.
  3. [secret/kept/Duncan/to/her/Katharine/ marriage/a] for several months before she dared to tell her parents
  4. [Bettina/yacht/named/John/the] after his wife, who had recently passed away.
  5. The arrival of the Shakespearean actor (amount/company/of/the/brought/certain/class/a]
  6. The Millers are just leaving, [will/show/motorway/them/the/you/way/to/the]? You go past the slip road, don’t you?
  7. The children at the party were delighted when [rabbit/hat/from/a/the/magician/pulled/his]
  8. The warden told [that/want/see/visitors/prisoner/the/didn’t/them/the/to].
  9. [machine/me/use/show/can/you/how/to/this]? I’m useless with anything mechanical.
  10. We have to take on the third applicant; [enough/she/well-qualified/had/experience/ and/was/she]
  11. The new design of the magazine [brighter/is/the/one/previous/much/than].
  12. The play was a total disaster! (left/first/act/we/as soon as/over/the/was].

B       GRAMMAR EXPLANATION: Word order and verb patterns

Word order in English is very important in signalling the relationships between the different elements within a sentence. Although the subject usually precedes the verb in English, there are many different ways of ordering the other elements in the sentence. This unit examines word order in sentences, as well as the most common verb patterns in English and the way we link clauses to make complex sentences.


1A. Sentence word order

Word order shows us which element of the sentence is the subject and which is the object. In affirmative sentences, the subject is usually first, followed by the verb:

Sarah really enjoys a hot dog (for tea occasionally).

Subject            verb     object

Note: This is not the same as: A hot dog really enjoys Sarah (for tea occasionally).

The main part of the example above shows subject-verb-object word order (SVO). There are, however, occasions when we change this word order. In questions, we usually place a verb ( main or auxiliary) before the subject:

Is                         the Prime Minister        discussing   the issue of debt with the Cabinet?

Auxiliary verb              subject                   main verb           object

We also change the order when we place adverbs such as never, seldom, rarely at the beginning of the sentence for stylistic reasons:

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.’

1B. Variations

Apart from the variations mentioned, a number of patterns can follow verbs in English. Note that even verbs with similar meanings can take different patterns:

I said that you could go. (verb + clause)

I told you that you could go. (verb + indirect object + clause)

She told me a lie. (verb + indirect object + direct object)

Note: The indirect object is often a person who receives something (a lie, in the example above) and it is often introduced by a preposition.


2A. Verb only ( intransitive verbs)

Some verbs do not have an object. These are intransitive verbs:

They’ve arrived!          The cup shattered.

We can use adverbs or prepositional phrases with these verbs:

They’ve arrived there! The cup shattered into hundreds of tiny shards of glass

After admitting the charge, the politician apologised to all his constituents.

Some common intransitive verbs are: come, fall, go, happen, lie, sleep, swim, wait. Some verbs can be intransitive or transitive:

The door opened. (intransitive)           He opened the door. (transitive)

The meat burnt. (intransitive)              The cook burnt the meat. (transitive)

Some common verbs that can be transitive or intransitive are: begin, break, change, close, continue, dry, finish, hang, hurt, move, separate, stand, start, stop, tear, turn.

Note: Sometimes the two uses of a verb can have very different meanings:

He ran to catch the bus. (intransitive = moved quickly)

He ran the new software to show us how it worke. (transitive = operated)

In modern usage, some transitive verbs are used as intransitive verbs:

I don’t know why you’re bothering with those boots – they won’t sell.

And some intransitive verbs are used as transitive verbs:

In order to survive we need to grow the business by 100 per cent within two years.

2B. Verb + complement

Some verbs are followed by complements (not objects). A complement is usually a noun phrase or an adjective that identifies, describes or gives information about the subject:

George Carey has become  the new Archbishop of Canterbury.

My grandmother  has become  very forgetful recently.

subject              verb                        complement

Some common verbs which introduce complements are be, become, appear, keep (+ adjective), remain, taste, make:

You don’t want to remain a shop assistant all your life, do you?

A quiet afternoon at home would make a nice change.

Chris was very good – he kept quiet all through the boring sermon.

After seem, appear, look, feel and sound we can use an adjective to describe the subject:

The whole group seemed very keen. Marie’s new outfit looked fantastic!

We can also use a noun phrase to describe the subject after these verbs:

That sounds a wonderful idea! Your suggestion seems the best solution.

Note: However, when we use a noun phrase after seem or appear to identify (rather than describe) the subject, we have to use to be to introduce the noun phrase:

X  Surprisingly, the young fresh-faced boy seemed the boss.

✓ Surprisingly, the young fresh-faced boy seemed to be the boss

A complement can also describe the object of a verb. In this case, the object comes before the complement:

The committee named Frances President

The journey made the children  fractious .

subject           verb      object   complement

We often use verbs of naming, e.g. name, call, elect, with this pattern:

The President finally decided to call his new dog  Buddy.

We can use a noun or an adjective as the complement after verbs such as think, keep, consider, prove, call, find:

Although he was twenty, Katherine still considered him a child/childish

Many critics call Kevin Costner’s ‘The Postman’ his worst movie yet

We can use an adjective as a complement in the same pattern in a number of idiomatic phrases after verbs such as drivesend and turn:

The noise of the planes flying over us at night drive me crazy!

The new aftershave from Givenchy is guaranteed to send women wild.

Did you see his expression? It could turn  milk  sour!

2C. Verb + object(s)

Transitive verbs have a direct object, which can be a noun or a pronoun:

We          discussed the problem/it at great length.

subject      verb                object

The object can also be an -ing form (with or without a prepositional phrase):

The instructor suggested practising (on the nursery slopes first).

We can omit the object after some transitive verbs where the context is clear:

Geoff was mortified to find that he had failed (the test) again.

Some common transitive verbs which can omit the object are answer, ash, drink, eat, enter, fail, leave, pass, play, practise, sing, study, wash, win, write.

In English a number of verbs can take two objects, e.g. give, bring, buy, show. These verbs take a direct object and an indirect object and there are two possible patterns:

The judges   gave the enormous marrow/it  first prize

subject   verb         indirect object        direct object

The judges gave       first prize         to the enormous marrow.

subject  verb    direct object           indirect object

X   The judges gave to the enormous marrow first prize.

Note: If we put the direct object first, we introduce the indirect object with a preposition (either to or for). We do not vary from this.

If the indirect object is a pronoun, we prefer to put it before the direct object:

[ The Shakespearean actor brought a certain amount of class to us.]

✓  The Shakespearean actor brought us a certain amount of class.

Which pattern we use often depends on what information in the sentence is new. We prefer to put new information at the end of the sentence

2D. Verb + prepositional phrase

We can use a prepositional phrase after intransitive verbs:

The train departed      from platform 9 – but we were waiting on platform 5

subject       verb        prepositional phrase

We can also use prepositional phrases after transitive verbs:

He     carefully removed  the egg       from the nest.

subject                 verb        object     prepositional phrase

We do not usually change the order of object + prepositional phrase in this pattern, unless the object is very long:

X  He carefully removed from the nest the egg.

✓ He carefully removed from the nest the three fragile blue-speckled eggs and the one chick that had already hatched.

2E. Verb + verb

Many verbs can be followed by another verb:

The consultant refused to take responsibility for the decision.

subject         verb         verb

We can use a direct object between the verbs:

We      require all students to   attend the pre-sessional English course.

subject verb     direct object    verb

With some verbs we do not need ‘to’, for example, modal verbs, auxiliary verbs, semi-modals (need and dare), and make and let:

He daren’t leave early without my permission.

Let the dish stand for at least a minute after removing it from the microwave.

We can use the verb help with or without ‘to’:

The volunteers helped (to) provide support and comfort to the refugees.

3F. Verb + clause

Verbs can be followed by that clauses or wh– clauses (those which start with a question word). We often use that clauses after verbs of speaking and thinking:

The staff   agree  that redundancies were the only course of action.

subject      verb                     clause

Note: We can omit that after the verbs mentioned above:

The warden told the visitors (that) the prisoner did not want to see them.

Examples of wh– clauses are indirect questions:

I couldn’t meet you. You     didn’t tell  me  when you were arriving.

subject   verb     object             clause

Note: Wh– words can be followed by to + infinitive after verbs such as show, explain, teach:

Is it common for people to teach their children how to drive here?


3A. Coordination

We can link clauses of equal value (i.e. both can stand on their own) with and, but or or. With these conjunctions we can often put either of the clauses first:

We can pay in one lump sum or we can pay in instalments.

We can pay in instalments or we can pay in one lump sum.

If the subject is the same in both clauses, we can omit it in the second clause:

He rang the doorbell and knocked on the door.

We can also use the ‘two-part’ conjunctions both … and, either … or, neither … nor and not only … but (also):

At the French Open Hewitt both proved his return to form and won the only Grand Slam title to have evaded him.

3B. Subordination

When we link a main clause with a subordinate clause (i.e. dependent on the main clause), we use conjunctions (when, if, although). With subordinate clauses we cannot usually change the order of the events in the clauses without changing the meaning:

  1. The flowers were delivered just after she left. (she left = first event)

main clause                               subordinate clause

  1. She left just after the flowers were delivered. (flower delivery = first event)

main clause             subordinate clause

It is, however, usually possible to change the order of the clauses themselves:

Just after she left the flowers were delivered. (= same as 1 above)

Just after the flowers were delivered, she left. (= same as 2 above)

Common types of subordination are:

  • that or wh– clauses: Didn’t the notice say when the water was going to be cut off?
  • Adverbial clauses, e.g. of condition or contrast:

There may well be more accidents in future if air traffic continues to grow.

Although the Aztecs were rich and powerful, the Spanish conquistadors overpowered them.

  • Relative clauses, introduced by pronouns, e.g. who, which, thatIt was surprisingly not their latest CD that went platinum, but the one before.
  • Comparative clauses: With the strength of the pound at present we paid less for our holiday this year than we did last year.


Q 1.

Choose the correct sentence, A or B, for each cartoon. In some cases both sentences are correct.



A The dog chased the cat down the garden.

B The cat chased the dog down the garden.


A John thought Harriet was wonderful.

B Harriet thought John was wonderful.


A Mary said Kevin was an idiot.

B ‘Kevin,’ said Mary, ‘was an idiot.’


A Our priceless Ming vase broke the picture of Uncle Albert when it fell on it.

B The picture of Uncle Albert broke our priceless Ming vase when it fell on it.


A Jerry has become a real little devil

B A real little devil has become Jerry

Q 2.

Each sentence below contains one mistake with word order. Rewrite the sentence correctly.

0          The military regime denied to the world’s press access.

==> …The military regime denied access to the world’s press…..

  1. When he made out his will, Mr Smithson refused to leave anything his estranged son.
  2. Geoff originally believed Susan when he told her he was having long business meetings after work.
  3. Please leave by the door your shoes before entering the temple.
  4. The Management recommends that you keep safe your valuables by handing them in at Reception.
  5. The invitation doesn’t tell what we should wear at the reception us.
  6. The new President of the United States has been elected George W Bush.
  7. It is said that our thinking power really improves studying philosophy.
  8. She carefully placed the 24-carat gold, diamond-encrusted engagement ring that her fiancé had just bought her onto her finger
  9. The course director insists on attending at least 80 per cent of classes the first-year students.
  10. Prizes can be claimed by sending the form and proof of purchase us, at the address below.

Q 3.

Read the newspaper article and then choose the best phrase (A-P) to complete each space. Write the letter of the chosen phrase in the space. Some of the answers do not fit at all. The exercise begins with an example (0).

Children at risk from mental illness

A recent study has shown that levels of mental illness (0) ..G.. The study claims that mental problems such as depression and anxiety (1)…. One of the reasons given for this is the current obsessive preoccupation of parents with their children’s safety. Parents today consider the streets (2)…, so children are taken from home to school and back, and their parents rarely let them (3)…. This preoccupation has two causes: fear of traffic accidents and anxiety about child molesters and murderers on the streets. Parents’ fears make (4)… about the outside world and children in turn miss the normal adventures of everyday life. In addition, they don’t learn (5)… with other children. Over-anxious children often become (6)… and their fears are therefore realised and even increased. It is a vicious circle. It is a fact, however, that children could be experiencing (7)… . While parents may think a child molester lurks (8)…, this is not supported by statistics: very few children are attacked by people they don’t know. The fear of traffic accidents is certainly more real but is something that needs to be addressed by society in general. Some cities in The Netherlands, for example, have created (9)… and pedestrian-friendly zones, where cars, if allowed at all, must give priority to people and bicycles. Children can therefore play (10)….. There are, however, critics of this study. Many child psychologists believe that (11) … enough to cause mental problems. They consider the problems more likely (12) … family breakdown in modern society.

A their children anxiousB are affecting one in five youngsters

C this lack of independence not to be

D traffic-free zones

E how to form relationships

F this lack of independence is not

G in children are rising

H these fears unnecessarily

I to be a result ofJ more safely in these areas

K go out on their own

L their children to be anxious

M too dangerous for their children

N victims of bullies

O round every comer

P being too dangerous for children

Q 4.

Rewrite the jumbled phrases to make sentences with the correct word order.

  1. named/Samantha/their first daughter/the couple
  2. to stand/when he arrives/visitors/expects/His Excellency
  3. to stay/a legal assistant/l wouldn’t like/for long
  4. brought/to the team/Amanda/all her expertise
  5. brought/the team/Amanda/all her expertise
  6. has become/a very inexperienced salesman/the Sales Manager
  7. into the box/ sparkling, diamond encrusted/he placed/18-carat gold ring/carefully wrapped/the
  8. provided/all rubbish/please/in the bins/put
  9. let/to/your parents/all-night parties/do/go/you/?
  10. the grenade/removed/the paratrooper/the pin/from/carefully
  11. so her daughter/the bracelet/bought/for her/Susan liked/it
  12. all day long/their resistance/stand/the prisoners/they/to/made/reduce
  13. of destruction/all sick/the scenes/us/made/in the film
  14. an easy programme/trying/first/recommended/the trainer

Q 5.

Match the clauses in A and B to make sentences, using a linking word from the box to join them. Decide if each sentence contains co-ordinated clauses or a subordinate clause, and write C or S.

after     and      even though    if         or         so         than     that     when
0 Did the doctor say exactly1 It was the finest portrait

2 Some of the passengers were causing trouble

3 The holiday will be automatically cancelled

4 The policeman was rushed to hospital

5 We can either go camping

6 Maurice Greene won the gold medal

7 Our car broke down last week

8 The whole class would rather go to the cinema

a the pilot diverted the plane to the nearest airport.b stay in a cheap hotel.

c we only bought it two months ago.

d he smashed the world and olympic records.

e he had been stabbed in the park,

f the artist had ever painted,

g see a play at the theatre,

h you’ll be able to go back to work?

i we don’t receive the balance on the due date.

Example: 0 – when – h ( S)

Q 6.

Nine of these sentences contain mistakes. Tick (✓) the correct sentences and correct the mistakes.

  1. The wind knocked the vase off the table and it broke thousands of pieces.
  2. The attitude of some shopkeepers today makes me absolutely furious!
  3. The children seemed content to remain to be tenants in their parents’ house.
  4. I can’t understand what’s happened. There appears some mistake.
  5. The whole teaching staff found the new head teacher very inefficient and positively offensive.
  6. No wonder you can’t get a table for tonight – we recommended book the restaurant at least a week in advance.
  7. The winning team proudly showed to their gathered fans their trophy.
  8. The voice over the loudspeaker explained us the problem.
  9. I don’t know the way to the library. Can you tell me to go?
  10. The young boy looked around and gingerly placed back in its correct position the gold watch. He wouldn’t steal it after all.
  11. The neighbours very kindly helped move us our furniture into the new house.
  12. The smell of fish cooking drives absolutely wild my cats!

Q 7.

Fill each gap in this text with no more than three words.

Few things are more detested by drivers than the ‘Denver Boot’ – the wheel clamp. Motorists in many countries consider (1)…. one of the most odious inventions ever. Everyone dreads the consequences of finding one of these on their car – phoning the clamping company, waiting (2)… to arrive, paying the fine for removing the clamp, and then, on top of that, paying the original parking fine!

One inventive motorist recently found an ingenious way of releasing his car, however, (3)….. cause any damage at all to the clamp or his car. A local shopkeeper takes up the tale: ‘This motorist came back to his car and found a clamp on the wheel. He seemed (4)……a mild-mannered man, but this had obviously made him really (5)…… as he started muttering and swearing under his breath. Then he calmed down. He took out a mobile and phoned the clamping company and they told him (6)……. would be there in 45 minutes, which obviously didn’t please him. Then he had an idea. He took a match and started fiddling with the car tyre. I realised that he was (7)….. the air escape from the tyre. Then he got the jack out of the car boot and jacked up the car – the clamp then slid off the wheel with no problems! (8)….. he had carefully placed (9)….. on the pavement, he pumped his tyre back up, smiled at me, got in the car and drove off. Five minutes later the clampers arrived to find no car and an undamaged clamp. I explained to them (10)….. he had done it and they were absolutely furious! It was hilarious!’


1          a ✓     c ✓

2          a ✓     b ✓

3          b ✓     c ✓

4          a ✓     c ✓

5          b ✓     c ✓

6          a ✓     b ✓

7          a ✓     c ✓

8          b ✓     c ✓

9          the Duke really loves the Princess

10        Could you provide a formal quote?

11        Katharine kept her marriage to Duncan a secret

12        John named the yacht Bettina

13        brought the company a certain amount of class

14        Will you show them the way to the motorway?

15        the magician pulled a rabbit from his hat

16        the visitors that the prisoner didn’t want to see them

17        Can you show me how to use this machine?

18        She was well – qualified and had enough experience/ she had enough experience and was  well – qualified

19        is much brighter than the previous one

20        We left as soon as the first act was over.


Q 1.

1 B      2 A, B                         3 A, B                         4 B      5 A

Q 2.    

1 refused to leave his estranged son anything.

2 Susan originally believed Geoff

3 Please leave your shoes by the door

4 that you keep your valuables safe

5 doesn’t tell us what we should wear at the reception.

6 George W Bush has been elected the new President

7 that studying philosophy really improves our thinking power.

8 She carefully placed onto her finger the 24-carat gold, diamond-encrusted engagement ring that her fiancé had just bought her.

9 The course director insists on first-year students attending at least 80 per cent

10 by sending us the form and proof of purchase

Q 3.

1 B      2 M      3 K      4 A      5 E

6 N      7 H      8 O      9 D      10 J

11 F     12 I

Q 4.

1 The couple named their first daughter Samantha.

2 His Excellency expects visitors to stand when he arrives.

3 I wouldn’t like to stay a legal assistant for long.

4 Amanda brought all her expertise to the team.

5 Amanda brought the team all her expertise.

6 A very inexperienced salesman has become the Sales Manager.

7 He placed into the box the carefully wrapped, sparkling, diamond encrusted 18-carat gold ring.

8 Please put all rubbish in the bins provided.

9 Do your parents let you go to all-night parties?

10 The paratrooper carefully removed the pin from the grenade./removed the pin from the grenade carefully.

11 Susan liked the bracelet so her daughter bought it for her.

12 They made the prisoners stand all day long to reduce their resistance.

13 The scenes of destruction in the film made us all sick.

14 The trainer recommended trying an easy programme first./ recommended first trying an

easy programme.

Q 5.

1 – that – f (S)

2 – so – a (S)

3 – if – i (S)

4 – after – e (S)

5 – or – b (C)

6 – and – d (C)

7 – even though – c (S)

8 – than – g (S)

Q 6.

1 broke thousands  => broke into thousands

2 ✓

3 remain to be tenants => remain tenants

4 appears some mistake => appears to be some mistake

5 ✓

6 recommended book => recommended booking/ recommended that you book

7 showed to-their gathered fans their-trophy => showed their trophy to their gathered fans

8 explained us the problem => explained the problem to us

9 tell me to go? => tell me where to go?

10 placed-Pack in its correct position the-geld watch => placed the gold watch back in its correct position

11 ✓

12 drives absolutely wild my eats! => drives my cats absolutely wild!

Q 7.

1 it (to be)

2 for them/for someone

3 which didn’t

4 to be

5 angry/annoyed/ furious

6 (that) they

7 letting

8 After/When

9 it/the clamp

10 how

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