Object Verb Subject

Object Verb Subject

Object Verb Subject (OVS) or Object Verb Agent (OVA) is one of the permutations of expression used in linguistic typology, although it is rare among languages in general. OVS denotes the sequence 'Object Verb Subject' in unmarked expressions: "Oranges ate Sam", "Thorns have roses". While the passive voice in English may appear to be in the OVS order, this is not an accurate description. In an active voice sentence, for example "Sam ate the oranges," the grammatical subject, "Sam" is the 'agent', who is acting on the 'patient,' "the oranges," which are the object of the verb "ate". In the passive voice, "The oranges were eaten by Sam," the order is reversed so that patient is followed by verb, followed by agent. However, "the oranges" become the subject of the verb "were eaten" which is modified by the prepositional phrase "by Sam" which expresses the agent, maintaining the usual Subject Verb (Object) order. OVS sentences in English "can" be parsed when pronouns mark the case ("Him like I.") But such a sentence is clearly nonstandard. This sort of reversed order can also be used in English when relating an adjective to a noun (i.e. "cold is Alaska"), although here "cold" is a predicative adjective, not an object.


OVS is a class of languages used in the classification of languages according to the dominant sequence of these constituents. In this case the sequence of the constituents is Object Verb Subject. This sequence is the rarest of the six possible orderings of Subject, Verb, and Object. Examples of human languages that use it include Tamil particularly in the reported speech and passive voice. The above example Orange-kalai (Accusative object) sapitavan (past tense verb with first person singular conjugation) Sam (Subject) is grammatically correct in Tamil, Guarijio, Hixkaryana, and to some extent also Tapirapé.

yntax sequence uses

Although not dominant, this sequence is also possible when the object is stressed in languages that have relatively free word order due to case marking. Romanian, Basque, Esperanto, Hungarian, Finnish and, to some extent, German are examples. Some languages, such as Swedish and Norwegian, which normally lack any extensive case marking, allow such structures when pronouns (which are marked for case) are involved, or when the roles are clear from context. In these languages it is fairly often used to emphasize the object. OVS is especially frequent when there has been a discussion or question about the nature or identity of the object and that question is answered.

Some Norwegian examples of using this word order for object emphasis: Det tror jeg ikke (That believe I not) - I do not believe THAT. Tom så jeg i går (Tom saw I yesterday) - I saw TOM yesterday. Fisk liker katten (fish likes the cat) - The cat likes FISH. In the last example it is highly unlikely that "fish" is the subject, and hence that word order can be used.

In some languages, auxiliary rules of word order can provide enough disambiguation for an emphatic use of OVS. For example, declarative statements in Danish are ordinarily SVnO, where "n" is the position of negating or modal adverbs. However, OVSn can be used to emphasize the object when there is no ambiguity. Thus, "Susanne elsker ikke Omar" (lit. "Susanne loves not Omar": Susanne does not love Omar) versus "Omar elsker Susanne ikke" (lit. "Omar loves Susanne not": Omar is someone whom Susanne doesn't love) where neither "Omar" nor "Susanne" have case.


The Object Verb Subject sequence also occurs in Interlingua, although the makes no mention of it excepting passive voice. Thomas Breinstrup, editor in chief of Panorama in Interlingua, sometimes uses the sequence in articles written for Panorama.


This sequence was chosen for the artificial language Klingon, a language spoken by the extraterrestrial Klingon race in the fictional universe of the Star Trek series, in order to make the language sound deliberately alien and counterintuitive. Thus, Klingon uses the rarest permutation of expression, which is expected given the designer's goals.

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