Word order and sentence structure


Position of direct and indirect objects

The sequence in which direct and indirect objects appear in a sentence depends on their being either a noun or a pronoun: • If there are two nouns, the indirect object (in the dative case) comes before the direct object (accusative): Er kauft seiner Frau (indirect object) einen Ferrari. (direct object) He buys his wife a Ferrari. • When a noun appears together with a pronoun, the pronoun always pr... »

Position of subject in main and subordinate clauses

The subject in main clauses A German sentence or main clause often starts with the subject, followed by the finite verb: Subject                               Finite verb              Object or other elements Ich                                       gehe                        heute Abend ins Kino. Peter                                   fährt                         meistens mit dem Auto zur Arb... »

Verbs in questions

There are two main types of question in German – yes/no-questions and w-questions. The finite verb is placed in different positions: • yes/no-questions start with the finite verb: Spielen Sie ein Instrument? Do you play an instrument? • w-questions usually start with a question word. The finite verb is the second element: Was machst du heute Abend? What are you doing tonight? »

Verbs in the imperative

Finite verb in the first position In the imperative or command form the finite verb is usually the first element. This pattern applies to all three imperative forms in German: Setz dich! Sit down! (du form) Esst nicht so viel! Don’t eat so much! (ihr form) Notieren Sie das! Write this down! (Sie form) When used in connection with another verb, the second verb normally moves to the end: Geh jetzt e... »

Verbs in zu + infinitive clauses

The infinitive in final position In zu + infinitive clauses, the verb in the infinitive form appears at the end. Er hofft, im Lotto zu gewinnen. He hopes to win the lottery. Ich habe keine Zeit, ins Kino zu gehen. I don’t have time to go to the cinema. Ist es schwierig, Karten zu kaufen? Is it difficult to buy tickets? zu + infinitive clauses often follow verbs such as aufhören ‘to stop’, hoffen ‘... »

Verbs in subordinate clauses

Dependent on a main clause A subordinate clause has to be linked to a main clause as it cannot stand on its own: Er fährt nach Frankfurt, weil er einen alten Freund besuchen möchte. He is travelling to Frankfurt because he wants to visit an old friend. In the above example the subordinate clause (. . ., weil er einen alten Freund besuchen möchte) shows its dependent character as it would not make ... »

Verbs in subordinate clauses

Dependent on a main clause A subordinate clause has to be linked to a main clause as it cannot stand on its own: Er fährt nach Frankfurt, weil er einen alten Freund besuchen möchte. He is travelling to Frankfurt because he wants to visit an old friend. In the above example the subordinate clause (. . ., weil er einen alten Freund besuchen möchte) shows its dependent character as it would not make ... »

German word order – rules and patterns

This unit gives you an overview of the basic principles regarding word order in German and deals with the following: • the position of the verb in various sentence structures • the position of the subject and the direct and indirect objects • the sequence of different elements in a sentence. Position of verb in different sentence structures The position of the verb depends on the type of sentence ... »