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Word order types

 
 
According to the position of the finite verb form (= verb form having a specific number and person), German sentences and clauses are divided into three basic word order types:

Verb-second clause  The finite verb comes second  Sie kauft ein Auto.
Verb-first clause The finite verb comes first Kauft sie ein Auto?
Verb-last clause          The finite verb comes last dass sie ein Auto kauft.


Verb-second clause

In a verb-second clause or sentence the finite verb form comes second:

Constituent 1 Finite verb  Constituent 2  Constituent 3  Constituent...
Sie kauft ein Auto.
Seine Frau  kaufte ihm damals ein Auto.
Dieses Jahr  blühen die Bäume sehr früh.

Verb-second clauses are by far the most frequent word order type in both spoken and written language. The following clause and sentence types belong to this word order type:
  • declarative sentences:
    Der alte Mann hütet die Kinder seines Sohnes.
    Es
    regnet heute wieder einmal den ganzen Tag.
    Früher
    haben wir oft im Wald gespielt.

Verb-first clause

In a verb-first clause or sentence the finite verb form comes first:

Finite verb  Constituent 2  Constituent 3  Constituent 4  Constituent...
Kauft sie ein Auto?
Kaufte seine Frau  ihm damals ein Auto?
Geht mir sofort aus dem Weg!

The following clause and sentence types belong to this word order type:

Verb-last clause

In a verb-last clause or sentence the finite verb form comes last:

Constituent 1  Constituent 2  Constituent 3  Constituent 4  finite verb 
...dass sie ein Auto kauft.
...weil seine Frau  es ihm damals kaufte.
...damit  ihr mir sofort aus dem Weg  geht.

The following clause and sentence types belong to this word order type: The finite verb form is not always in the very last position (see Nachfeld), but it always comes after the second position.


Note

In word order, the term "finite verb form" refers to a single verb form having a specific number and person. In complex predicates only the verb form specifically expressing number and person is a finite verb form. See the second position of the finite verb form in the following examples:

Sie  kauft  ein Auto.
Sie  hat ein Auto gekauft.
Sie  möchte  ein Auto kaufen.

For the position of the other, non-finite parts of the predicate (here gekauft, kaufen) see Word order, Complex predicate.







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