The three basic components of a sentence or clause are the subject, verb and object, and that is their most common order in English sentences. In a number of cases, however, verbs do precede nouns in English sentences.


Direct and indirect objects are typically nouns or pronouns; these usually follow the verb. In the sentence, “I gave the hamster a sunflower seed,” for instance, “seed” is the direct object (what the speaker gave), and “hamster” is the indirect object (to whom the speaker gave the seed).


Subjects, on the other hand, very rarely follow verbs, when the verb is the predicate -- the main action -- of a sentence or clause. One common exception is questions: “Did you give a seed to the hamster?” The subject, “you,” follows the helping verb, “did.” Imperative sentences often use a similar structure. In “Romeo and Juliet,” Capulet instructs his wife, “Go you to Juliet ere you go to bed.” Shakespeare’s placement of the subject, “you,” emphasizes the imperative and tweaks the rhythm.


One way in which verbs often precede nouns is when they function as adjectives. Such verbs, known as participles, usually end in “ed” or “ing.” The verb “to starve” becomes a participle when it describes “hamster,” and “to wilt” becomes one when it modifies “lettuce”: “My starving hamster would even have eaten wilted lettuce.”

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