Understanding Extraposition: A Comprehensive Guide

Extraposition is a syntactic phenomenon that often goes unnoticed but plays a crucial role in sentence structure and meaning. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of extraposition, its types, and its implications for both spoken and written English.

What is Extraposition?

Extraposition refers to the syntactic operation where a constituent, often a clause, is moved to the end of a sentence. This rearrangement serves various purposes, such as emphasizing a particular element or improving the flow of the sentence.

Types of Extraposition

1. Subject Extraposition

In subject extraposition, the subject of the sentence is moved to the end, and a dummy subject like “it” takes its place.

  • Basic Sentence: That you are here is surprising.
  • Extraposed: It is surprising that you are here.

2. Object Extraposition

Here, the object of the sentence is moved to the end, often for emphasis or clarity.

  • Basic Sentence: I believe strongly in your abilities.
  • Extraposed: Your abilities, I believe strongly in.

The Role of Extraposition in Spoken English

In spoken English, extraposition is frequently used to maintain the flow of conversation. It helps in avoiding awkward pauses and contributes to a more natural speaking style.

Benefits in Conversation

  1. Emphasis: Extraposition allows the speaker to emphasize the most important part of the sentence.
  2. Clarity: It can make complex sentences easier to understand.
  3. Rhythm: It contributes to the natural rhythm and intonation of spoken English.

Extraposition in Written English

In written English, extraposition serves to improve the readability and structure of complex sentences. It is particularly useful in academic and formal writing.

Applications in Writing

  1. Sentence Variety: Extraposition adds variety to sentence structures, making the text more engaging.
  2. Focus: It helps in directing the reader’s attention to the most crucial part of the sentence.
  3. Cohesion: It aids in creating a more cohesive and logically structured paragraph.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

While extraposition is a useful tool, it’s essential to avoid some common mistakes.

  1. Overuse: Excessive use of extraposition can make sentences convoluted.
  2. Ambiguity: Ensure that the extraposed element clearly relates to the rest of the sentence.
  3. Inconsistency: Maintain a consistent use of extraposition throughout your text to avoid confusing the reader.

Actionable Tips for Mastering Extraposition

  1. Practice: The more you practice, the more natural it will become.
  2. Read Widely: Exposure to different writing styles will help you understand when and how to use extraposition effectively.
  3. Seek Feedback: Don’t hesitate to seek feedback from skilled writers or linguists.


Extraposition is a versatile syntactic tool that can significantly enhance both your spoken and written English. By understanding its types and applications, you can become a more effective and engaging communicator. Remember, the key to mastering extraposition lies in practice and thoughtful application.


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