top of page
  • Writer's pictureSarah

What is the word order in German sentences?

In German, the basic word order is subject-verb-object (SVO). However, the word order can be flexible depending on the emphasis or information structure of the sentence. Here are some general guidelines for word order in German:




1. The conjugated verb is always in second position in a declarative sentence. Example: Ich gehe heute Abend ins Kino. (I am going to the cinema tonight.)

In German declarative sentences (sentences that make a statement), the conjugated verb (the verb that shows the tense and the subject) must appear in the second position. For example, consider the sentence: "Ich gehe heute Abend ins Kino" (I am going to the cinema tonight). In this sentence, the conjugated verb "gehe" (go) appears in the second position, right after the subject "ich" (I). Here are a few more examples:

  • "Meine Schwester liest ein Buch" (My sister is reading a book). The conjugated verb "liest" (reads) appears in the second position after the subject "meine Schwester" (my sister).

  • "Wir haben gestern im Restaurant gegessen" (We ate at the restaurant yesterday). The conjugated verb "haben" (have) appears in the second position after the subject "wir" (we).

Note that in some cases, the first position may be occupied by a dependent clause or a phrase that is not the subject of the sentence. In those cases, the conjugated verb still appears in the second position. For example: "Obwohl ich müde bin, gehe ich joggen" (Although I am tired, I am going jogging). The dependent clause "obwohl ich müde bin" (although I am tired) occupies the first position, but the conjugated verb "gehe" (go) still appears in the second position after the comma.


2. The subject usually comes before the verb in a declarative sentence. Example: Der Hund bellt laut. (The dog barks loudly.)

Consider the sentence: "Der Hund bellt laut" (The dog barks loudly). In this sentence, the subject "der Hund" (the dog) comes before the verb "bellt" (barks).

Here are a few more examples:

  • "Ich spiele gerne Tennis" (I like to play tennis). The subject "ich" (I) comes before the verb "spiele" (play).

  • "Sie isst einen Apfel" (She is eating an apple). The subject "sie" (she) comes before the verb "isst" (is eating).

It's important to note that the order of subject and verb in German can be flexible and can vary depending on the emphasis or information structure of the sentence. However, in general, the subject usually comes before the verb in a declarative sentence.


3. In subordinate clauses, the conjugated verb moves to the end of the clause. Example: Ich weiß nicht, ob er heute kommt. (I don't know if he is coming today.)

In German, subordinate clauses are dependent clauses that cannot stand alone as complete sentences. When a subordinate clause is used in a sentence, the conjugated verb is moved to the end of the clause.

For example, consider the sentence: "Ich weiß nicht, ob er heute kommt" (I don't know if he is coming today). In this sentence, the subordinate clause is "ob er heute kommt" (if he is coming today), and the conjugated verb "kommt" (is coming) is at the end of the clause.

Here are a few more examples:

  • "Ich habe gestern gesehen, dass er ein neues Auto hat" (I saw yesterday that he has a new car). The subordinate clause is "dass er ein neues Auto hat" (that he has a new car), and the conjugated verb "hat" (has) is at the end of the clause.

  • "Ich frage mich, warum er nicht antwortet" (I wonder why he isn't answering). The subordinate clause is "warum er nicht antwortet" (why he isn't answering), and the conjugated verb "antwortet" (is answering) is at the end of the clause.

It's important to note that in subordinate clauses, the word order can be quite different from the main clause. The verb must always be in the second-to-last position, but other elements can move around within the clause to create different emphasis or meaning.


4. Adverbs of time, manner, and place usually come before the verb. Example: Morgen gehe ich früh zur Arbeit. (Tomorrow I am going to work early.)

In German, adverbs of time, manner, and place usually come before the verb in a sentence. This means that they typically follow a pattern of adverb-verb-object (AVO) order.

For example, consider the sentence: "Ich gehe morgen früh zur Schule" (I am going to school early tomorrow). In this sentence, the adverb "morgen früh" (tomorrow early) comes before the verb "gehe" (am going).

Here are a few more examples:

  • "Er spricht sehr schnell" (He speaks very quickly). The adverb "sehr schnell" (very quickly) comes before the verb "spricht" (speaks).

  • "Sie wohnt jetzt in Berlin" (She now lives in Berlin). The adverb "jetzt" (now) comes before the verb "wohnt" (lives).

It's important to note that while adverbs of time, manner, and place typically come before the verb, the word order can be flexible in German depending on the emphasis or information structure of the sentence. However, in general, placing the adverb before the verb is the most common word order for these types of adverbs.


5. Direct and indirect objects usually come after the verb. Example: Ich kaufe meiner Schwester ein Geschenk. (I am buying a gift for my sister.)

In German, direct and indirect objects usually come after the verb in a sentence. This means that they typically follow a pattern of subject-verb-object (SVO) order, where the object comes after the verb.

For example, consider the sentence: "Ich kaufe das Buch" (I am buying the book). In this sentence, "das Buch" (the book) is the direct object and it comes after the verb "kaufe" (am buying).

Here are a few more examples:

  • "Er gibt ihr das Geschenk" (He gives her the gift). In this sentence, "ihr" (her) is the indirect object and "das Geschenk" (the gift) is the direct object, and they both come after the verb "gibt" (gives).

  • "Wir schreiben dem Lehrer eine E-Mail" (We are writing an email to the teacher). In this sentence, "dem Lehrer" (to the teacher) is the indirect object and "eine E-Mail" (an email) is the direct object, and they both come after the verb "schreiben" (are writing).

It's important to note that while the direct and indirect objects usually come after the verb in German, the word order can be flexible depending on the emphasis or information structure of the sentence. However, in general, placing the object after the verb is the most common word order for these types of objects.


It's important to note that German word order can be quite complex, especially in longer and more complex sentences. The best way to improve your understanding of German word order is to practice reading and listening to German sentences and paying attention to the order of the words.



Read more blogs!

The German Language Revealed: Challenging Misconceptions about German



Exploring the Fascinating Similarities Between German and English Grammar



Must-Have Resources for German Beginner Students: TV Shows, Podcasts, Radio Stations, and Apps


Comments


bottom of page