The basic word order of Gao verb phrases is SOV. If there is an aspect marker in the sentence, it shows up between the subject and the object. There are many different aspect markers, common ones being ga (imperfective aspect), na (perfective aspect), and goːma (progressive aspect).
|(1)||aɪ na hari haŋ
1sg PFV water.INDEF drink
‘I drank water.’
|(2)||haɪla goːma ncaŋo ŋa
cat.DEF PROG mouse.DEF eat
‘The cat is eating the mouse.’
A small number of verbs, like diː ‘see’, baː ‘like/want/love’, and ma ‘perceive’, always show an SVO word order.
|(3)||aɪ diː bari beːri bi
1sg see horse big yesterday
‘I saw a big horse yesterday.’
|(4)||sara ga baː ibrahim
Sara IMPF like Ibrahim
‘Sara likes Ibrahim.’
When there is no overt aspect marker, all verbs show an SVO word order. The zero aspect marker is perfective, like na, and the two correspond to SVO and SOV order, respectively. Compare (1) and (5).
|(5)||aɪ haŋ hari
1sg drink water.INDEF
‘I drank water.’
|(6)||aɪ baː ga
1sg love 3sg
‘I loved her/him.’
However, some of these verbs have SOV homophones. For example, SVO diː ‘see’, has an SOV homophone in diː ‘catch’.
|(7)||aɪ ga bari beːri diː suba
1sg IMPF horse big.INDEF catch tomorrow
‘I will catch a big horse tomorrow.’
In ditransitive sentences, the indirect object takes the position between the aspect marker and the main verb. In simple transitives, this position is occupied by the direct object, which takes a post-verbal position in ditransitive sentences.
|(8)||aɪ na ni cebe tiːra
1sg PERF 2sg show book.INDEF
‘I showed you a book.’
Indirect objects can also be seen in postpositional phrases following the verb, in which case the direct object takes its usual position between the aspect marker and the verb.
|(9)|| aɪ na tiːra cebe i ɕe
1sg PERF book.INDEF show 3pl P
‘I showed a book to them.’
Temporal adverbials and locatives commonly appear at the end of a clause.
|(10)||ncirŋo kaŋ bi
rain.DEF fall yesterday
‘It was raining yesterday.’
|(11)||ncirŋo ga kaŋ haŋ kul
rain.DEF IMPF fall day all
‘It rains every day.’
|(12)||aɪ na tiɾaː ɟiɕi taːbalo cire
1sg IMPF book put table.DEF under
‘I put a book under the table.’
|(13)||hanso goːma dira fondaː ra
dog.DEF PROG walk street.DEF in
‘The dog is walking in the street.’
Any element of the sentence can be focused, in which case it is moved to the sentence-initial position and followed by the focus particle no. The word order of the remaining elements is unaffected by this.
|(14)||haŋ kul no ncirŋo ga kaŋ
day all FOC rain.DEF PERF fall
‘It rains EVERY DAY’
|(15)||haɪla no aɪ diː bi
cat.INDEF FOC 1sg see yesterday
‘I saw A CAT yesterday.’