Word order in German

English has rules about the order of words in a sentence. The basic pattern is the order subject – finite verb – object (S–V–O). In comparison German word order is more flexible than English word order. But there are still some patterns and rules in German.

Word order

  • The position of the verb:
The main rule for word order in German is that the verb must be in second position in statements and in subordinating clauses the finite verb is sent to the end. So the basic pattern in German is often just like the English one: subject – verb – object. If there are two verbs in a sentence, oneverb form – the finite verb – goes into the second position, while the other verb form (the infinitive or the participle) is sent to the end of the clause.
But there are some instances where the finite verb is not in second position and comes first in the sentence: yes/no-questions, the imperative,
  • The position of the sbujcet:
Mostly the subject is the first position (S-V-O), but if the subject is not in first position in a sentence, it is placed directly after the finite verb (called subject–verb inversion). In German the verb comes before the subject if you have the expression of time in first place. This causes often problems for English speakers.
  • The position of objects

Another rule to sequence of various elements in a sentence is that expressions of time come before manner (how something is done) and the description of a place (Time – Manner – Place). It is very common to have descriptions of time or place in first position.

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Autor: , Letzte Aktualisierung: 22. Juni 2022