In linguistic typology, a verb–subject–object (VSO) language is one in which the most typical sentences arrange their elements in that order, as in Ate Sam oranges (Sam ate oranges). VSO is the third-most common word order among the world's languages, after SOV (as in Hindi and Japanese) and SVO (as in English and Mandarin). Families where all or many of the languages are VSO include the following: Spanish resembles Semitic languages such as Arabic in allowing for both VSO and SVO structures: "Jesús vino el jueves"/"Vino Jesús el jueves, "Tu madre dice que no vayas"/"Dice tu madre que no vayas". Many languages, such as Greek, have relatively free word order, where VSO is one of many possible orders. Low level programming languages such as assembly tend to follow VSO order in how they assign bits in a memory word. Although the bit sizes vary between architectures, the general form consists of an opcode (verb) followed by a combination of memory or register addresses (subjects) and/or values (objects).
Standard Arabic is an example of a language that uses VSO:
|Sentence||يقرأ المدرس الكتاب|
|Transliteration||yaqraʼu l-mudarrisu l-kitāba|
|Gloss||reads||the teacher||the book|
|Translation||The teacher reads the book|
^* Arabic script is written right-to-left
Another Semitic language, Biblical Hebrew, uses VSO, as in Genesis 1:1, seen here, and many other places in the Tanakh:
|Sentence||... בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם|
|Words *||בָּרָא||אֱלֹהִים||אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם|
|Romanization of Hebrew||Bara Elohim et ha-shamayim...|
|Translation||God created the heavens...|
^* et is a particle marking the direct object of the verb.
^* The Hebrew script is written from right to left.
Word order is rather flexible in Spanish and VSO word order is allowed in practically all situations, but it is particularly common where some element other than the subject or direct object functions as the subject of predication. Some resemble V2 word order, with an adverb or oblique argument at the front:
Other examples of VSO in Spanish:
In Welsh, some tenses use simple verbs, which are found at the beginning of the sentence followed by the subject and any objects. An example of this is the preterite:
|Sentence||Siaradodd Aled y Gymraeg.|
|Translation||Aled spoke Welsh.|
Other tenses may use compound verbs, where the conjugated form of, usually, bod (to be) precedes the subject and other verb-nouns come after the subject. Any objects then follow the final verb-noun. This is the usual method of forming the present tense:
|Sentence||Mae Aled yn siarad y Gymraeg.|
|Words||Mae||Aled||yn siarad||y Gymraeg|
|Translation||Aled speaks Welsh.|
In Irish, phrases also use VSO:
|Sentence||Labhraíonn Seán Gaeilge.|
|Translation||John speaks Irish.|
In Irish, when forming a question the following would be true:
|Sentence||An labhraíonn tú Gaeilge?|
|Translation||Do you speak Irish?|
The typological classification of Breton syntax is problematic. It has been claimed that Breton has an underlying VSO character, but it appears at first sight that V2 is the most frequent pattern, which arises as a result of a process which usually involving the subject noun phrase being fronted. It has been suggested that this fronting has arisen from a development in which clefting and fronting, very common in Celtic languages, became completely pervasive. A very similar development is seen in literary Middle Welsh but this did not continue into Modern Welsh.
There some tendency in many languages to switch constructions for emphasis. Particularly, sentences in English poetry are sometimes written in VSO order, and Early Modern English explicitly reflects the tacit VSO order found in Modern English by suppressing the imperative's now-understood subject. For example, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may" contrasts with modern "Gather rosebuds while you may".
Arabic sentences use either SVO or VSO, depending on whether the subject or the verb is more important. Sociolinguistic factors also influence sentence structure; especially colloquial varieties of Arabic generally prefer SVO, whereas VSO is more common in Standard Arabic.
Non-VSO languages that use VSO in questions include English and many other Germanic languages such as German and Dutch, as well as French, Finnish, Maká, Emilian.
In languages with V2 word order, such as most of the Germanic languages (though not Modern English) as well as Ingush and Oʼodham, the verb is always the second element in a main clause; the subject precedes the verb by default, but if another word or phrase is put at the front of the clause, the subject is moved to the position immediately following the verb. For example, the German sentence Ich esse oft Rinderbraten (I often eat roast beef) is in standard SVO word order, with the adverb oft (often) immediately following the verb. However, if that adverb is moved to the beginning of the sentence for emphasis, the subject ich (I) is moved to the third position, placing the sentence in VSO order: Oft esse ich Rinderbraten.