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A colleague of mine asked me what is the importance of word order in phrase "In God We Trust"

And I could not answer. Is it a shame?

Update: Would it be correct English to write:

In God - we trust

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Updated question – Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Feb 17 '11 at 6:53
up vote 11 down vote accepted

You're correct that the more usual order in English is subject-verb-object, which would result in "We trust in God". However, although English sentence order is pretty restrictive compared to other languages (Latin, for example), there is some wiggle room that can be used to change the emphasis.

We trust in God.

This means that we, not someone else, trust in God.

In God we trust.

This means that we trust in God, not something else.

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In @Martha I trust! – Gennady Vanin Геннадий Ванин Feb 17 '11 at 6:44
The second one Martha mentioned extends nicely to the joke: "In God we trust, all others must pay cash." – horatio Feb 17 '11 at 15:05
In general I agree, but without context or italics to hint otherwise, I would read "We trust in God" with light emphasis on "trust". – Peter Taylor Mar 6 '11 at 9:09

The unusual (English) word order has the effect of emphasizing the part which is moved to the front from the normal order. The basic meaning is unchanged: the trusting is being done by "we" in both forms. The normal order, "We trust in God", places more emphasis on the first word, the subject, "We" (although the emphasis is not large, simply because this is the normal order for most sentences). Putting "in God" first emphasizes that, and it has a stronger emphasis because the order is not the ordinary order.

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