I am a native speaker of English (from America), but I do speak Russian, so I have some Russian correspondents. Occasionally, I may comment on their English grammar in order to help them.

Recently, a person from Russia wrote the following, as an exercise in English about shopping:

"Usually you can find in my cart a lot of taste(sic) products. I always buy some fruit , such as : pineapples, apples, a bunch of bananas and grapes. Also you can see in my shopping cart one carton of milk and some vegetables. There are peppers, peas, potatos. some lettuce and cauliflower.
I always pay only with cash."

Look at these sentences: "Usually you can find in my cart a lot of tasty products."....Aside from the fact that an American tends not to say "tasty", the parts of speech "seem" to be out of order for me. I cannot say it is syntactically wrong, but an American would be more inclined to say,
"Usually you can find a lot of tasty products in my cart.", meaning the direct object trailing as close as possible to the verb. And then the prepositional phrase tends to follow; however, I could conceive of myself also saying, "Usually in my cart you can find a lot of tasty products.".

What is the syntatical principle here? I know that I, myself, would not say, "Usually you can find in my cart a lot of tasty products.", but I cannot tell the person why that is more unnatural sounding than the other two possibilities I mentioned.

And of course, the person makes a similar "error" in this sentence:
"Also you can see in my shopping cart on carton of milk and some vegetables."

From the standpoint of the Russian language I CAN see why the person wrote what they did because prepositional phrases and personal pronouns as objects and indirect objects tend to precede the verb but follow the subject. But also in Russian there is a principle of
theme -- old information; that which is under discussion

rheme --- new information introduced in a sentence

Word order in Russian is NOT as fixed in syntax as it is in English but they do adhere to a principle of having the rheme come at the end of the sentence....so in the case of
"Usually you can find in my cart a lot of tasty products", I can see where the person considered, from the viewpoint of their own native Russian paradigm, "tasty products" to be the rheme, the new information. So the person felt "obliged" from the viewpoint of their own language to place the direct object at the end.

What is the guiding principle in English regarding the ordering of various parts of speech, for example, direct objects, indirect objects, adverbs, prepositional phrases, etc., vis-a-vis the subject and verb? For simplicity we can just consider DECLARATIVE sentences.

If it is too involved to answer in a custom submitted comment, perhaps you can show me an area of a grammar site on the internet that discusses the issue. I can seem to find the correct search arguments myself to Google the issue properly.

Thanks in advance.
dsteve54What is the syntatical principle here?
English never separates the verb from its direct object unless absolutely necessary to avoid an even more awkward phrasing. Speakers of Russian and German do occasionally have trouble with this aspect of English because their own languages are freer in this respect.

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Ok, CalifJim, thank you, that is noted as probably the driving "principle" in the case at hand. The person indeed injected the prepositional phrase between a verb, notably one that was not phrasal in nature, and the direct object.

So that may be "case closed" for this particular example.

But would that be termed a syntactic rule, or would it be a "convention"? I am not sure how to explain it to the person in a closed-form way. As you noted yourself, there are cases where we do separate direct object from verb to avoid something even more cumbersome.

So I am not sure how to state "order of parts of speech" in a sentence as an algorithm.

Beyond that comment on the verb/d.o. , there are occasions when I myself have trouble ordering. But admittedly such a case does not involve a direct object.

"In the summer of 1979 I briefly stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of Seattle".
.... this SEEMS to me to be the most natural order as a native speaker.
However, I cannot necessarily REFUTE these as being incorrect grammatically:

"I briefly stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of Seattle in the summer of 1979".
"I briefly stayed on the outskirts of Seattle in a hotel in the summer of 1979".

The only guiding principle I can see here is that the adverb "briefly" needs to be bumped up against the verb: "briefly stayed" or "stayed briefly". If that gets too far afield, it does create ambiguity as to its role (what it is modifying). I can see that
"On the outskirts of Seattle I briefly stayed in a hotel in the summer of 1979", is awkward, but I cannot say it is syntactically wrong.

Is there a further ordering principle in a sentence for adverbs or adverbial phrases? It seems that adverbial phrases describing where either seem to be mentioned last, or at least last in relation to "when" phrases....and I am not sure where "how" phrases fit in.

Are there rules, or simply "conventions"?
dsteve54how to state "order of parts of speech" in a sentence as an algorithm.
It can't be done. There is no algorithm for the order of parts of speech in a sentence. An algorithm would be much too strict. Most of what are called "rules" in language are more like, as you say, "conventions". Yet they are stated as rules for beginners to make learning easier.
dsteve54ordering principle in a sentence for adverbs or adverbial phrases?
Adverb placement is somewhat free. The discussion of the various types of adverbs and their usual position is a subject that takes a chapter of a book, so your best bet is to search on-line for further information. In the forum format, we are more used to dealing with specific cases, so you might want to start a separate post or two with more specific questions.

To judge from your talk of algorithms, you might be interested in "transformational grammar", so you might try Googling that.

Other entries that you might try are "sentential adverb", "verb phrase adverb", "frequency adverb", "adverb placement", and similar entries. If you really want to get into this in a big way, you'll have to do a good deal of reading.

Very good, thx.

{more used to dealing with specific..}
I am new here, so I probably SHOULD have panned around and seen how people formulate questions and of course, looked at the target audience, rather than dumping treatise sized issues in one post. BUT you gave me some good leads for further investigation via Google, etc. So I thank you.

And I will try to present a specific example in the future. Those will be more readily dealt with, I think.

{ no algorithms }
Yeah, I figured as much. I guess it was simply wishful thinking. I will figure out some way to respond to my correspondent in Russian in a way that will not overwhelm that person.
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