Sentence Structure


We can only mumble words till they start to make no sense. Write me what understand are you sentence can this? Or perhaps, with proper sentence structuring, can you understand this sentence I am writing? As demonstrated, words can only have as much power as the sentence they are standing on. Surely, we can say ‘John fish eat’ and still make some sense. However, in order to communicate and express deep, complex thoughts, we need to order our words so they form a coherent, predictable structure. This arrangement of words, phrases and clauses in a sentence is called Sentence Structure.

Every language has some form of sentence structuring and Nepali is no exception to that. In this lesson, we shall explore basic sentence structuring and see where parts of sentence fit in the grand scheme of a Nepali sentence.

From now on, I shall be adding a brief list of vocabulary words that are featured on the lesson. This should help you build up words as you learn grammar.


रातो (rāto) = Red
घर (ghar) = House
जन (jan) = John
नाम (nām) = Name
स्याउ (syāu) = Apple
म (ma) = I
किताब (kitāb) = Book
अग्लो (aglo) = Tall
बिस्तारै (bistārai) = Slowly
धेरै (dherai) = Very; a lot
आज (āja) = Today
राति (rāti) = Night
गाडी (gāḍī) = Car
छिटो (chiṭo) = Fast


Before we proceed, we need to first understand what a sentence is, and how many parts it has. A sentence is a set of words that is complete in itself and describes an action, a question, a command or a thought. An example in English would be: John is eating the apple.

The sentence is complete by itself, that it requires no further information. Who is eating the apple? John is eating the apple. Here, John is the action-doer, since he is doing an ‘action’. We have a special word for the doer of an action; we call it the ‘action-doer’. In linguistics, the doer of an action is called the subject.

However, what is an action? Although we know that John is doing some action to the apple, but we do not yet know what is an action! In simple terms, an action is the process of doing something to achieve an effect. Here, John is doing the action of eating. Thus, ‘is eating’ is the action word. In linguistics, an ‘action word’ is better known as the verb.

Finally, upon what/whom the action is being done? Certainly, an action such as ‘eating’ needs something to take the action of being ‘eaten’. This recipient, who receives the effects of the action being done, is called the object

Note that not all verbs require an object! Verbs that take no object are called intransitive verbs, but we will discuss those later. These verbs include actions like sleeping, sitting, standing etc.

Thus, we have introduced the three basic components of a sentence: SubjectObjectVerb


In English, a sentence is usually formulated with the subject in the front, the verb in the middle and finally, the object in the end. This type of structuring is called Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) structuring. In other words, a sentence appearing in languages that use this structure appears as:
[Subject + Verb + Object]

For example, let’s take a simple English structure:
John eats apples.
[Subject + Verb + Object]

Above, John is the subjecteats is the verb while apples is the object. Taking another example sentence:
I write books.
[Subject + Verb + Object]

There are many languages that follow this format, such as German:
John isst Äpfel. (John eats apples.)
[Subject + Verb + Object]

Now, Nepali does this a bit differently. Instead of using the SVO order, it switches the object and the verb to get the SOV order instead.


In Nepali, a sentence is formulated by keeping the verb in the very end after the object. Such a structure is known as Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) structuring. In other words, a sentence appearing in langauges that use this structure appears as:
[Subject + Object + Verb]

For example, let’s take a simple English structure in SOV formatting:
John apple(s) eats.
[Subject + Object + Verb]

In Nepali, such a sentence would be:
जन स्याउ खान्छ
jan syāu khāncha
[John + apple(s) + eats] 

Notice that the verb खान्छ (khāncha) succeeds the object स्याउ (syāu). The Nepali sentence follows SOV formatting. Take another sentence:
म किताब लेख्छु 
ma kitāb lekhchu
[I + book + write]

The SOV structure of Nepali is clearly demonstrated.


Now that we have gone through action sentences, let’s wind back and look at sentences that define or describe something, rather than showing an action. Take an example:
जन स्याउ हो
jan syāu ho
[John + apple + is]
= John is (an) apple.

In the above sentence, you are defining that John is actually an apple. We may also called defining as renaming, as we are simply saying the two objects are essentially the same. Keep in mind that हो (ho) is a conjugate of ‘to be’, but we shall not be looking at it in detail until later. हो (ho) is being used here to define the state of something. The important thing to realise there is that the structure is still quite the same, in the order of:
[Subject + Defined State + Verb (to be)]

However, John may have other qualities that may require describing them instead. Take this sentence:
जन अग्लो छ
jan aglo cha
[John + tall + is]
= John is tall.

Notice that we use a different word i.e. छ (cha) which is still a conjugate of ‘to be’. 

In linguistics, we have a special word to describe verbs that do the above functions i.e. the copula. Copula is a word that links the subject with the predicate or more specifically, the subject complement. The subject complement (not compliment) is a word that either renames the subject or describes it. For example, in the first example we renamed John (as an apple) but in the second example, we described John (as tall). In the following sentence, the copula is in bold while the subject complement is in italics:
John is tall.

The copula is a very important bit in Nepali, because it helps us link together many sentences. We will of course, be looking at this in detail much later, but the important thing here is to look at the structure instead. If we have to simplify the structure, we get the following:
[Subject + Subject Complement + Copula]

An example of the above structure is given below:
मेरो नाम जन हो
mero nām jana ho
[(my + name) + John + is]
= My name is John.

Notice how my name is treated as a single subject, then followed by the complement John, then finally the copula is

Now, let’s see how adjectives and adverbs modify the subject/object and verbs respectively.


Adjectives are words that describe the attribute of a entity that is a noun or a pronoun. Examples include colours (red, blue…), sizes (small, tall…), quality (good,dirty…) etc. For example:
Red house
[Adjective + Entity]

In English, as demonstrated above, the adjective precedes the word it is modifying. Some languages like Spanish do the opposite i.e. the adjective succeeds the word. For example:
casa rojo
[house + red]

Fortunately, Nepali is not that different from English in terms of placing adjectives. In Nepali, adjectives precede the word they are modifying. For example:
रातो घर
rāto ghar
[red + house]

Thus, you can construct a sentence such as:
जन रातो स्याउ खान्छ
jan rāto syāu khāncha
[John + red + apple(s) + eats]
= John eats red apple(s).

Note that John can also be modified, since adjectives can modify any noun/pronoun entity. If John was tall, you’d say:
अग्लो जन रातो स्याउ खान्छ
aglo jan rāto syāu khāncha
[tall + John + red + apple(s) + eats]
Tall John eats red apple(s).

Use of adjectives are simple in Nepali. Adverbs, however, are slightly bit more complicated.

For a list of adjectives, click here.


Adverbs are words (or phrases) that modify the meaning of a verb, an adjective or even other adverbs. While they do not directly modify nouns and pronouns, they influence how they behave in a sentence by setting up a deeper context.  For example:
John eats apples slowly.
[Subject + Verb + Object + Adverb]

When an adverb is modifying an adjective, the process is relatively easy. Like in English, you place the adverb before the adjective it is modifying. For example:
Very red apple
[Adverb + Adjective + Object]

In Nepali, the same sentence would be:
धेरै रातो स्याउ
dherai rāto syāu
[very + red + apple]

Now comes the slightly complicated part. In English, adverbs can appear literally anywhere when they modify a verb. It appeared in the end for the first sentence, but for the following, it appears in the middle of the sentence:
John always eats apples.
[Subject + Adverb + Verb + Object]

In both cases, the adverb is modifying the verb ‘eats’ (slowly vs. always). However, we can notice something different in the second sentence. The adverb ‘always’ is describing the frequency of the action! In English, adverbs usually appear in the end, except when they describe frequency, where they usually appear before the verb they modify. Nepali does something similar, which I’ll list below. Fortunately, the rules are simpler, though exceptions may arise due to other complexities.

The first rule is that adverbs that denote time are placed at the beginning of the sentence. For example:
आज राति
āja rāti
[today + night]
Today night (tonight)

The second rule is that otherwise, adverbs precede the verb or verbal phrase they modify. 

Verbal phrases are basically verbs that have a noun attached to them, such that they are treated as one entity rather than two. If you consider ‘to eat pudding’ as a single phrase, much like the verb ‘to run’, then you have successfully understood verbal phrases. There are plenty in Nepali, but not so many in English. 

Anyway, here is an example usage of adverbs following the second rule:
जन स्याउ बिस्तारै खान्छ
jan syāu bistārai khāncha 
[John + apple + slowly + eats]
= John eats apples slowly.

If you consider ‘to eat apples’ as a single verbal phrase, you can rewrite the sentence as:
जन बिस्तारै स्याउ खान्छ
jan bistārai syāu khāncha
[John + slowly + apple+ eats]
= John eats apples slowly.

You will still make sense because the verbal phrase ‘ स्याउ खान्छ’ (syāu khāncha) acts as one unit. However, be careful doing so because some adverbs like छिटो (chiṭo) are also adjectives. For example, the following sentences have different meanings:
गाडी छिटो आयो
gāḍī chiṭo āyo
[car + fast + came]
= (The) car came fast. (It arrived quickly)

छिटो गाडी आयो
chiṭo gāḍī āyo
[fast + car + came]
= (The) fast car came. (The car that is fast has arrived)

For a list of adverbs, click here.


Nepali does not use articles. Words like aan and the do not exist in Nepali. That’s why I bracket articles in translations to show that they do not exist in Nepali, but must be used in English (translations) to make sense of the sentence.


Declension is rather a new word, but the concept should not be very hard to grasp. It’s not that English has a lack of declined words that makes it difficult to understand, but rather the sheer number of rules that one has to following while declining. In simple words, a declension is a word that has been modified such that you can identify the grammatical identity of the word. This identity can be case, gender or a number. 

Simply put, a declension is much like a picture of you after a haircut. You have been changed, such that when someone sees that picture of you, they are able to identify what you had gone through i.e. haircut. When you change the word so that it becomes a declension, you say you have declined the word. Mind you that it’s very rare to find declensions in English, but there are quite a few. Here is an example of a word being declined:
girl > girls 
= Declined for number

How do we know that the word has been successfully declined? By the small suffix -s, which tells us that the word has been declined for gender. This is somewhat related to cases, because in Nepali, we decline each case with a case marker.

You may also be wondering what a case is. Cases are simply forms that a word takes to show what part it plays in the sentence. Cases show the relationship a word has to other words in a sentence. For example:
जन स्याउ खान्छ
jan syāu khāncha
[John + apple(s) + eats]

Above, John and apple(s) are cases. These cases tell us what the words do in a sentence. For example, John is the action-doer. The apple is the action-receiver. However, is this really the truth? What is the apple was the actual action-doer?
स्याउ जन खान्छ
syāu jan khāncha
[Apple(s) + John + eats]
= Apple(s) eat(s) John?

In Nepali, we identify cases using case markers. In simple words, case markers are identifiers that tell us what type of case the given word is. Granted, the above translation is not correct because the cases are clear from the structuring. Nepali does not require the use of case markers for every possible case. However, when you have more complex sentences, you need to show the relation between each word using these markers. This is why case markers are important, as they show the subject, object, location of action among other things. Now, where do these case markers go?


Take the following sentence in English:
John eats apple(s) at home.
[Subject + Verb + Object + Case marker + Location]

When you ask the question, “Where does John eat apple(s)?” you get the answer above. Each word here, ‘John’, ‘apple(s)’, ‘home’ are cases. The preposition ‘at’ is marking the (locative) case ‘home’, thus we say that at is a (locative) case marker. Case markers in English usually precede the word it modifies, much like adjectives precede the noun/pronoun they modify. 

In Nepali, however, case markers succeed the word they modify. 
जन घरमा स्याउ खान्छ
jan ghar-mā syāu khāncha
[John + home (+) at + apple(s) + eats]
= John eats apple(s) at home.

Note that case markers are attached to the case itself and are not written separately, unlike English. Thus, in a sentence, case markers succeed the cases they modify. There are quite a few number of case markers, which we will look over later. 

Postpositions behave in the exact same way, in that they appear after the word they modify (‘-post’). In Nepali, postpositions are those markers that describe the location of an entity. This is slightly different from prepositions, but nonetheless have quite a few things in common.  


Take the following sentence:
John eats apple(s).

What if we said the opposite? 
Apple(s) eat(s) John.

Gives a completely absurd meaning, right? However, in Nepali, you can play around the structure quite a bit because of case markers. You see, because words are marked with case markers, their meanings do not change if you move it around. Apart from the verb remaining in the end, restructuring can be done as long as the case markers are recognisable. What if English had case markers like Nepali?
S-John O-apple(s) eats.
O-Apple(s) S-John eats.

The above sentences still give the same meaning, because we have already identified what the relationship of the words are in the sentence, using case markers O (object) and S (subject). Nepali behaves in a similar way, thus we can restructure sentences. 

As long as the case markers are unambiguously attached to a word, you can rearrange words rather freely and still send the same meaning.


  • A simple sentence consists of a Subject, an Object and a Verb. However, it is not necessary for a sentence to have an object, as some verbs (intransitive) do not take objects.
  • Nepali is a Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) language.
  • Sentences that use a copula behave in a similar way as a standard SOV structure. The Subject comes first, then the Subject Complement and finally, the Copula.
  • Adjectives precede the word they modify.
  • Adverbs that modify adjectives precede the adjective.
  • Adverbs that denote time are placed in the beginning of the sentence.
  • Adverbs usually precede the verb or verbal phrase they modify.
  • Nepali does not use articles.
  • Words are marked to show the case by case markers
  • Case markers and postpositions succeed the word they modify.
  • Sentences can be usually restructured because case markers help identify each case no matter where they would be.



1. John went home.
2. A fish was caught by me.
3. He slept.
4. She worked on a project.
5. Mt. Everest is very high. (Identify the copula and the subject complement instead of verb and object respectively)


1. John went home.
2. A fish was caught by me.
3. He slept.
4. She wrote a project.
5. The factory processes apples.


1. In room green door 
2. I slept yesterday.
3. Sarah blue car parking lot-in parked.
4. John sushi ate.
5. John sushi ate at home.



1. Mary is thin.
2. The building is tall.
3. Susan is a project manager.
4. Zeus is the lord of Olympus.
5. Zeus is mighty.
6. Germany is a beautiful country.
7. Antarctica is very cold.


1. Susan sushi is. (Defining)
2. Mary project manager is. (Describing)
3. This pizza tasty is. (Describing)
4. Coffee very tasty drink is. (Describing)
5. Jokes funny is. (Defining)


A.1. [Subject + Verb + Object]
A.2. [Object + Verb + Subject]
A.3. [Subject + Verb]
A.4. [Subject + Verb + Object]
A.5. [Subject + Copula + Subject Complement]
B.1. John home went.
B.2. I (a) fish caught.
B.3. He slept.
B.4. She (a) project wrote.
B.5. (The) factory apples processes.
C.1. No
C.2. No
C.3. Yes
C.4. Yes
C.5. No
D.(C.1.). Room-in green door 
D.(C.2.). Yesterday I slept.
D.(C.5.). John sushi home-at ate. (or John home-at sushi ate.)
E.1. Describing
E.2. Describing
E.3. Defining
E.4. Defining
E.5. Describing
E.6. Defining (note that ‘beautiful country’ is renaming the country)
E.7. Describing
F.1. Yes
F.2. No
F.3. Yes
F.4. No
F.5. No

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