Like Latin, Persian is an SOV language. “Subject” comes first, then “Object” and finally “Verb”. This is the preferred and basic word order. However, since Persian always marks direct and indirect objects and clearly indicates grammatical cases, it has free word order. Words can appear in any order in a sentence depending on the emphasis or literary preferences.

Old Persian uses inflection to indicate grammatical cases just like Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. New Persian employs case markers to indicate grammatical cases and the relationship between words. Consider the sentence “the woman told the man” (SVO: “Subject Verb Object”). In languages that have grammatical cases, “the man” is typically in the dative case. English does not indicate the dative neither by inflection nor by marking. If we change the word order to OVS (Object Verb Subject), the meaning will entirely change: “the man told the woman”. This does not occur in Persian because “the man” is marked in the dative case and consequently, words can be arranged in OVS and all the other possible orders without causing any change in the basic meaning. All the sentences in the following table basically mean “the woman told the man” but with different orders and levels of emphasis.

Sentence Word Order
زن به مرد گفت
zan be mard goft
Subject Object Verb
زن گفت به مرد
zan goft be mard
Subject Verb Object
به مرد گفت زن
be mard goft zan
Object Verb Subject
به مرد زن گفت
be mard zan goft
Object Subject Verb
گفت به مرد زن
goft be mard zan
Verb Object Subject
گفت زن به مرد
goft zan be mard
Verb Subject Object

These word orders are not theoretical. All of them are used both in spoken and written Persian. For example, in this line of poem from Saadi, the word order is VSO:

چه خوش گفت زالی به فرزند خویش
če xoš goft zâl-i be farzand-e xwiš
goft (verb), zâl-i (subject), be farzand-e xwiš (object)