Basic Word Order in German The following is an explanation of what

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Basic Word Order in German
The following is an explanation of what you largely already know, namely how to form sentences, but
with grammatical terms. Yet, it is important to know this to be able to build more complex sentences.
Simple Statements
Ich mache ein Foto.
I take a photo.
Ich sehe meine Mutter.
I see my mother.
Ich gebe meiner Mutter das Foto.
I give my mom the photo.
Ich wohne in Wolfville.
I live in Wolfville.
Meine Mutter kommt morgen.
My mother is coming tomorrow.
Ich fahre morgen nach Halifax.
I am going to Halifax tomorrow.
Ich fahre morgen mit dem Auto nach Halifax. I am going to Halifax by car tomorrow.
Simple statements in German use the same pattern as simple statements in English:
Subject – Verb – something else.
The Subject of a sentence can be described as “the doer”, it is the person/thing that does something or
is in a certain state.
The something else is called a complement, because it completes the meaning of the sentence.
Those parts of the complement which tell you what, whom, or to whom are called objects.
What do I take? A photo
Whom do I see? My Mother
To whom do I give the photo? To my mother
Those parts of the complement that tell you when, how or where something happens, are called
adverbs (or adverbial phrases if the consist of more than one word).
Where do I live? In Wolfville
When does my mother come? Tomorrow
Where am I going tomorrow? To Halifax
These are also called time (when), manner (how), and place (where).
If several adverbial phrases are part of the sentence, the order is time, manner, place in German, while
it is place, manner, time in English, e.g.:
Ich komme morgen mit dem Auto nach Hause.
I am coming home by car tomorrow.
time
manner
place
place manner time
Very important to remember for now: The Verb always is in second position of the sentence!
However,that does not necessarily mean second word of the sentence (see Meine Mutter).
Information partly taken from: Kimberley Sparks, Van Horn Vail: German in Review. Lehrbuch der Deutschen Grammatik. 4th
edition, 2004.
Word order in questions with a question word (QW).
Wo
QW
wohnst du?
verb subject
(where do you live?)
Ich
wohne in Wolfville.
subject verb adverbial phrase: place
(I live in Wolfville)
Wohin gehst du
morgen?
QW
verb subject adverbial phrase: time
(where are you going tomorrow?)
Ich
gehe
subject verb
(I am going to the movies tomorrow)
morgen
time
ins Kino.
place
Now, the Verb is still in second position, but in questions with a question word, the subject comes
after the verb. Then the complement follows (see example 3 and 4).
Yes/No Questions
Bist du Tim?
Nein, ich bin Tom.
Wohnst du in Wolfville?
Ja, ich wohne in wolfville.
Gehst du heute Abend ins Kino?
Ja, ich gehe heute Abend ins Kino.
In yes/no questions, the Verb and Subject appear in reversed order.
Thus, to form a yes/no question, you have to put the verb in first position, the verb in the second,
then the complement follows as above.
Note how in both cases, in Questions with question words, and in yes/no questions, the verb comes
before the subject, while the subject comes before the verb in statements.
Yet, in Statements and in QW Questions, the Verb is in second position, while it is in first position in
yes/no questions.
Information partly taken from: Kimberley Sparks, Van Horn Vail: German in Review. Lehrbuch der Deutschen Grammatik. 4th
edition, 2004.
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