Having studied English from an early age, I've been always taught that English has a fixed sentence structure and words within it appear in a fixed order.

For example, one is supposed to say: A pen is on the table. Or: There is a pen on the table. According to this principle (the subject coming before the predicate), one shouldn't say: On the table is a pen.

However, reading some English books and articles, I've noticed a violation of this rule. I've seen it in sentences like these:

  • In the east is the Atlantic coast.
  • In the far north is the famous Arctic region.
  • In the mountain region are big deposits of coal.

What is the justification of these structures? Are they correct?


2 Answers 2


On the table is a pen
But in the cup, there are ten
Show good manners – put it back
Lest cleanliness is what we lack

That's a silly poem that could be found on a sign in a copy shop, exhorting customers to put pens back in a cup, rather than leave them on the tabletop. (Perhaps an exasperated owner was tired of putting them back in the cup all day long, or maybe a customer's project was ruined after erroneously spreading it over what she thought was a smooth service.)

Anyhow, my point is this: "correct" is a loaded word. A sentence from a newspaper article or textbook may seem like it needs to be rewritten, but there are other contexts – such as poetry – where the wording may sound fine or even natural.

English may have guidelines for how to assemble sentences, but it's a very flexible language with plenty of wiggle room for variants.

  • 1
    Yes, generally a pen is on the table is just lesson n.1.
    – user66974
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 9:13

It's well known technique: the use of the fronted adverbial. Entirely correct.

You'll find many great references searching at Google Books (not vanilla Google) for:

"fronted adverbial"

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