- What is the basic word order in Persian?
- How are grammatical cases indicated in modern Persian?
- Does Persian have free word order?
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, Latin, Greek and modern languages like Russian. New Persian uses case markers to indicate grammatical cases rather than using different inflected forms. Consider the sentence “the woman told the man” (SVO: “Subject Verb Object”). In languages that have grammatical cases, “the man” is 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.
|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
che khosh goft zâl-i be farzand-e khwish
goft (verb), zâl-i (subject), be farzand-e khwish (object)