In linguistic typology, subject–verb–object (SVO) is a sentence structure where the subject comes first, the verb second, and the object third. Languages may be classified according to the dominant sequence of these elements in unmarked sentences (i.e., sentences in which an unusual word order is not used for emphasis). The label is often used for ergative languages that do not have subjects, but have an agent–verb–object order.
SVO is used in the active voice. SVO is the second-most common order by number of known languages, after SOV. Together, SVO and SOV account for more than 75% of the world's languages. It is also the most common order developed in Creole languages, suggesting that it may be somehow more initially 'obvious' to human psychology.
Although some subject–verb–object languages in West Africa, the best known being Ewe, use postpositions in noun phrases, the vast majority of them, such as English, have prepositions. Most subject–verb–object languages place genitives after the noun, but a significant minority, including the postpositional SVO languages of West Africa, the Hmong–Mien languages, some Sino-Tibetan languages, and European languages like Swedish, Danish, Lithuanian and Latvian have prenominal genitives (as would be expected in an SOV language).
Non-European languages, usually subject–verb–object languages, have a strong tendency to place adjectives, demonstratives and numerals after nouns that they modify, but Chinese, Vietnamese, Malaysian and Indonesian place numerals before nouns, as in English. Some linguists have come to view the numeral as the head in the
E relationship to fit the rigid right-branching of these languages.
There is a strong tendency, as in English, for main verbs to be preceded by auxiliaries: I am thinking. He should reconsider.