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Does an adverb come before or after the verb? I'm writing (or at least trying to) the sentence "Never step inside of/on the tokonoma." Now, knowing how to write that sentence specifically would be great, but I would really love to know: in general, where does the adverb go in the "subject-object-verb" sentence format??

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In Japanese verbs always come last (except for poetry and in such cases that is often a noun which concludes the sentence). Which means that adverb always come before the verb.

Examples: (adverbs in bold)

  • 速く走る : to run fast
  • 早く起きる : to wake up early
  • 恐らく雨が降るでしょう : it will probably rain
  • 日本語を話せるように一生懸命勉強している。: I work hard in order to become able to speak Japanese

The adverb of interest here is never. The "big" problem is that there is no one-to-one correspondence between never and a Japanese word (whereas in many romance languages there are direct equivalents: mai (in Italian), nunca or jamás in Spanish, jamais in French, etc.)

But if you look at it, "Never step inside of/on the tokonoma." is an order, or more precisely an interdiction. Thus, it can be rewritten this way: "(No matter the situation,) do not step on the tokonoma."

To express a negative order in Japanese, you can add な to the 終止形 (the form used to conclude a sentence) of a verb.

Examples:

  • 飲む : to drink → 飲むな Do not drink
  • 来る : to come → 来るな Do not come.

Nevertheless adding な is very direct.

An other possibility is to append てはいけない to the 未然形 of the verb. (Literally, if you do so, it won't be any good)

  • 飲む → 飲んではいけない You'd better not drink
  • 来る → 来てはいけない You'd better not come

More softly, you can append こと after the negation of the verb.

  • 飲まないこと → You should not drink
  • 来ないこと → You should not come

If you want to be polite.

  • 踏む (step on) → 床の間を、お踏みにならないように(ご注意ください)。 Please make sure not stepping on the tokonoma.

I am sure there are other ways to say it.

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I would like to point out that although Japanese is indeed a SOV language, the rules of word ordering are fairly free: as you have particles that provide hints as to which role the word fulfils, you do not need a precise word order.

Setting this aside, these recommendations will help you:

Thus they will often be placed:

  • At the beginning of a sentence, when they qualify it entirely
  • Before a noun, to qualify it
  • Right before a verb, when they modify the action.

In your case, I would probably place it at the beginning:

絶対{ぜったい}に床の間を踏{ふ}まないでください

But I guess it would be acceptable before the verb:

床の間を決{けっ}して踏まないでください

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