Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Describing language
Describing language

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

1.2 Where do the words go?

The rules of grammar mean that, although there are many potentially different sentences, there are always similarities in the way words are ordered. Certain words (or rather word classes) go in certain places. Sometimes the place of the word actually tells us what the word means. Look at can in these examples:

You can see it from here

I bought a can of peas

It’s not the spelling that tells you which one means ‘be able to’, and which one means ‘a cylindrical, metal food container’ – it’s the grammatical context. Let’s see if you can find any patterns in how we order word classes.

Activity 2 What word class goes where?

Timing: This activity should take around 15 minutes

This sentence is famous for being used as practice by people learning to type on a computer keyboard:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Here are four sentences with a similar structure. Compare each of the sentences and think back through all the terminology you’ve learned so far. Choose the right word class for each slot.

  1. A small fierce dog barks at a frightened child.
  2. An angry young man sits on our favourite seat.
  3. Another really lovely plant grew from that tiny cutting.
  4. The huge bay window looks over their beautiful garden.
Active content not displayed. This content requires JavaScript to be enabled.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


You can see from the sentences above that words of the same type fit into the same slots. Notice that the pattern DET + ADJ + (ADJ +) NOUN occurs twice, once before the verb, and once after the preposition. You’ll look at these repeating patterns throughout this week.