I have a question concerning the word order in the following sentence:

Trade between countries has increased.

Trade has increased between countries.

For me (non-native speaker) both sentences seem to be perfectly fine. However, doesn't sentence number 1 violate the Subject - Verb - Object rule?

Thank you! Anna

  • 1
    You're right - they are both fine. It doesn't violate the SVO rule because the preposition phrase "between countries" is not an object, but a modifier of the noun "trade" in your first example, and an adjunct in clause structure in the second. That explains why it can appear before or after the verb. – BillJ Mar 5 '17 at 11:14

No, this does not violate the phrase structure of English. Both sentences are correct. In the first, the subject is 'trade between countries' (or simply 'trade'), whereas in the second, the subject is 'trade' and 'between countries' is an adjunct of the verb. There is no object; the verb is intransitive and takes only one argument.

The phrase structure is therefore fairly simple:

[                S                  ]
[         NP          ] [    VP     ]
Trade between countries has increased


[                S                  ]
[ NP] [     VP    ] [       PP      ]
Trade has increased between countries

On reflection, as an adjunct, between countries is free to move anywhere (without breaking up another syntactic unit), so in fact the first could be analysed as:

[                S                  ]
[NP ] [     PP        ] [     VP    ]
Trade between countries has increased

There may be some slight semantic difference between these two analyses, and a different example might elucidate it.

Furthermore, as it can move anywhere, there's on more possible place where you could put this adjunct; before the subject noun phrase, as in:

Between countries, trade has increased

  • Thanks for the detailed answer. That provided me with many details to research :-) – Anna_P Mar 5 '17 at 11:38

If you are writing to the extent where your want to value one or another, then it should come at first.

Trade has increased between countries.

This clearly indicates that your focus is on trades. On other hand:

Trade between countries has increased.

It gives an initial larger picture of what you are talking about and therefore indicates that you are considering the behaviour of "trade between countries" and not trades themselves.

This approach to sentence structure is generally the same.

I hope it answers your question.

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