How to learn Main Clauses in German Grammar

Introduction
Main clauses, also called independent sentences, are sentences that can stand alone as a complete sentence. They contain at least one subject, one verb and one object to express a complete thought.

German word order
Simple sentences in German grammar follow the same pattern as in English grammar: subject - verb - object. However, since we can tell from the four cases (Nominative, Accusative, Dative and Genitive) if a noun or pronoun is used as subject or object, it is possible to change the word order of sentences in German in order to highlight different things.

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Important

The basic rules for word order are:

  • The finite verb always comes in the second position of a main clause. This is a reliable rule. 

Subject - verb - time - object: Der Mann isst montags Bratwurst
Time - verb - subject - object: Montags isst der Mann Bratwurst.
Object- verb - subject - time: Bratwurst isst der Mann montags.

  • Infinite verb forms such as infinitives or past participles are placed at the end of the sentence.

Subject - finite verb - time - object - infinite verb: Der Mann kann montags Bratwurst essen.

  • In many cases, the subject is at the beginning of the sentence. In German, however, other parts of the sentence such as the object, the place or the time can also stand at the beginning of the sentence. In this case, the subject comes after the finite verb.

Subject - verb - time - object: Der Mann isst montags Bratwurst

Time - verb - subject - object: Montags isst der Mann Bratwurst.

Object - verb - subject - time: Bratwurst isst der Mann montags.

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Important

Example:

den Ring = ihn

Der Mann hat ihn der Frau gesten im Park gegeben.

  • Time can only be positioned after the place in certain cases - for emphasis and ideally only in spoken language. In written German, it usually appears wrong as time almost always comes before place.

Example:

Der Mann hat der Frau im Park einen Ring gestern gegeben.

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