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Word Order in Russian Sentences: What Do You Need to Know?

Word order, or the way words are organized in a sentence, tends to remain constant within one language but to change across languages. If you understand Russian word order, you have a blueprint for building sentences. To create your own blueprint for sentence construction, study Russian online with a teacher.

What Does Flexible Word Order Mean?

In many languages (e.g., English and German) affirmative sentences are usually built up according to the following structure: subject (S) + verb (V) + object (O). In Russian, word order is somewhat flexible. Some sentences may follow the S-V-O structure, but you can break the rule.

To better understand word order in Russian, let’s use an example. All three sentence below translate to “We walked in the forest”:

  • Мы гуляли в лесу. (My gulyali v lesu.)

  • Гуляли мы в лесу. (Gulyali my v lesu.)

  • В лесу мы гуляли. (V lesu my gulyali.)

As you can see, you can use the S-V-O structure, put the verb in front of the subject, or place an object at the beginning of the sentence. But what’s the difference between these three sentences in terms of their meaning?

  • Мы гуляли в лесу. (My gulyali v lesu.)

  • This is a simple statement that we walked in the forest.

  • Гуляли мы в лесу. (Gulyali my v lesu.)

  • This sentence is focused on the action: it’s important that we walked in the forest, not that we collected mushrooms or did something else on our walk.

  • В лесу мы гуляли. (V lesu my gulyali.)

  • In this case, we highlight the place: we walked in the forest, not somewhere else.

Sentences always consist of new information and information that was already known or understood. In Russian, new information should be at the end of the sentence, while the information known to the speaker should be placed at the beginning.

Depending on what you want to emphasize, you can use different patterns of word order and rearrange words in a sentence. However, you should remember that the position of certain words is fixed. Adjectives normally precede the noun they modify, for instance, “красивая девушка” (krasivaya devushka – beautiful girl). Noun modifiers usually precede the noun as well, as in “компьютер сестры” (komp’iuter sestry – sister’s computer). The object is normally placed after the predicate: “Я читал книгу” (Ya chital knigu – I read a book.)

Before you start practicing different patterns of word order, build up sentences according to the S-V-O structure. If you need help with Russian sentence structure, order a Russian lesson.

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