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Why does in some circumstances the order of the object and the action reversed?

...viene gente a vernos

Why not "gente viene a vernos"?

  • Can you give us more context? What was in place of the ellipsis ... and is this a statement, a question, ... ? – mdewey Jul 11 '16 at 14:57
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    Jean Aitchison says in her book The Seeds of Speech (emphasis added): "English, like many other languages, has the order [subject-verb]. The reverse is possible (...), but less normal. (...) A few languages even prefer the uncommon order. Welsh regularly starts sentences with verbs and several languages do so intermittently: in Spanish, vino un coche 'came a car', is more usual than un coche vino 'a car came'." Unfortunately, she doesn't go into detail but this kind of confirms the idea "viene gente" is at the least a common word order (if not more common than "[la] gente viene"). – Yay Jul 11 '16 at 18:59
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This construction is often used.
Reversing the word order just wants to show which part of the sentence you'd like to put first. Nothing out the extraordinary.

Both sentences are equally used (don't know if regionally) but they carry the same meaning. The difference is just the focus. Even though the second sentence sounds a bit weird to my ears, it's still acceptable.

This is like Yoda's speaking. You'll often see many of these sentences reversed. For instance,

La gente viene hoy a la fiesta. (I want people to know that gente is the first thing I want them to hear from me.)
Viene la gente hoy a la fiesta. (I just want to put later the noun because for me it's important to mention that the action is being carried out.)

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  • Or indeed Hoy viene la gente a la fiesta to emphasise that they are doing it today as opposed to yesterday when they were working. – mdewey Jul 11 '16 at 16:43
  • is that applicable to any verb? – Matudi Jul 12 '16 at 2:01
  • @Matudi I think it is. But we can probably have a more far-fetched case. – Alejandro Jul 12 '16 at 3:12
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That is done to place more emphasis on the action and less on who is doing the action. In Spanish you can change the emphasis by changing the order of words. In English you could accomplish something similar by using the passive voice.

In the sentence "gente viene a vernos", the emphasis is on "gente", the subject of the sentence. That is the normal, active voice. The people come.

In the sentence "viene gente a vernos", the emphasis is on "viene", the verb. The subject "gente" has less importance and could even be omitted, like "vienen a vernos". Who is coming? Not important.

Why the emphasis is placed in that part of the sentence depends on the context of the sentence. Probably it's because the speaker doesn't care much about the people that are coming, except for the fact that they are coming.

Edit: Removed incorrect information about the passive voice.

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    You say that what is coming is people but then that gente is the direct object. That seems to me a self-contradiction. Can you explain what you mean? – mdewey Jul 11 '16 at 16:03
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    I don't mean to sound contrary here but viene gente a vernos is an active sentence. The problem here is that there's nothing to become the subject of a passive sentence. Taking a transitive verb for example: X come manzanas and manzanas X come. The latter is still an active voice but in a strange word order. A passive structure would be manzanas son comidas por X and with another word order this is manzanas comidas son por X. This is still a strange way to say it but it makes it passive. – Alejandro Jul 11 '16 at 16:05
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    Passive voice would something like "nosotros somos vistos por la gente que viene" – DGaleano Jul 11 '16 at 16:46
  • I edited my answer to remove the incorrect parts about the passive voice. Thanks for the corrections. – Santiago Tórtora Jul 11 '16 at 17:45
  • @DGaleano But it's a very coerced construction! – Alejandro Jul 11 '16 at 19:30

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