Sätze im Deutschen – Struktur, Erklärungen und Beispiele
German Sentences – Summary
The grammatical elements of a sentence stand in a certain order.
- A main clause is a complete and independent sentence.
- The conjugated verb in a main clause is always in the second position.
- Usually, the subject is in the first position.
- Sometimes, you can find the subject in the third position of a sentence.
The subject takes the third position, if another element is placed in the first position. Here are some examples:
- Local adverbs: “Auf der Rennbahn laufen die Hunde.”
- Temporal Adverbs: “Gestern liefen die Hunde auf der Rennbahn.”
- Accusative or dative objects: “Dem Hund schmeckt das Futter.”
- Pronouns in the accusative or dative: “Ihm schmerzt der verletzte Fuß.”
In case the verb is in the first position of a sentence, the sentence turns into a question. In many questions, the so called “W-Wörter” are put at the beginning.
- “Was essen die Hunde?” (What…)
- “Wer rennt so schnell?” (Who…)
- “Wo finden Hunderennen statt?” (Where…)
- “Wie wird hier gewettet?” (How…)
In negative sentences, the negation-word “nicht” is often in the last position of the sentences or in front of the second part of the predicate.
- “Die Hunde laufen nicht.”
- “Die Hunde laufen nicht um die Wette.”
- “Die Hunde sind nicht gerannt.”
- “Wettest du nicht?”
- “Wettest du nicht auf den Hund?”
So, how was your day so far? Quite good, you say? Well, there is an easy way to change that. Maybe you will say that you are a strong person, emotionally stable. But believe me, at the end of this article, you will understand me. You will look back at this text and there will be some tears, but also a smile on your face. Exactly, a smile. Because you have done it.
So, let’s name the monster. This article will be about German sentences. Of course, there are rules about word order, but, you know, there are also some exceptions. Well, many exceptions to be honest.
Nevertheless, your will to master this beautiful language is stronger than this. And hopefully I can help you to understand the basics of German sentences in this article. So, to make it somewhat easier, I will structure this article into four chapters, which in a whole, will give a complete idea of German sentences.
Conjuctions which Influence Word Order
Konjunktionen, die die Satzstellung beeinflussen
So, we have reached the first point in this article, the conjunctions which change the word order in German sentences. Of course, you all know that the regular word order in German sentences is the following.
- Subject – Verb – Object.
Now, there are conjunctions which change this word order. And, of course, there are some which don’t change anything. First, the ones that don’t influence the word order in German sentences are called “coordinating conjunctions”. Here you have some examples.
So, the conjunctions that do influence the word order are called “subordinating conjunctions”. In the following, I will show you another table with some examples for this kind of conjunctions.
Now, let’s illustrate what I mean when I say that these conjunctions change the word order. So, as a general rule you can say that the verb gets moved to the end of the clause, when a subordinate conjunction is used.
- Coordinate Conjunction: “Aber er ist ein fauler Mann.”
– But he is a lazy man.
- Subordinate Conjunction: “Ich mag ihn nicht, weil er ein fauler Mann ist.” – I don’t like him because he is a lazy man.
Although this case might seem rather complicated, you will master it with some practice. Let’s come to the next point, the position of the verb at the end of a German sentence.
The Position of the Verb in a German Sentence
Die Position eines Verbs in einem deutschen Satz
So, let’s come to the next topic of this article, the position of a verb in a German sentence. Well, in some cases, the verb of a sentence simply has to be at the end of the sentence. Luckily, there are some rules determining these cases. Now, we will have a look at the two most important ones. By the way, there is a golden rule you should always remember: The verb in a German main sentence is always in the second position.
For sure, all of you know what modal verbs in German are. If this is not the case, just click on the link and you will enter the beautiful world of modal verbs in German. Nevertheless, let’s state that modal verbs can be described as “auxiliary verbs”. The most common ones are…
- “müssen” – must
- “sollen” – shall
- “möchten” – like to do
- “können” – can
So, in German sentences, the verb always goes to the end of a sentence, if a modal verb is also used in this phrase. Maybe this might seem rather strange to you – but hey, it is German. So stop asking questions.
Well, in this case, we also have a clear rule. In a relative clause, the verb also goes to the end of the clause. Unfortunately, it gets a bit more complicated. If there are two verbs in a relative cause, the main verb also goes to the end, while the auxiliary verbs stays it its position. Yes, you have survived it – there are no more rules in this case. So, let’s see some examples.
- “Das Geschenk, das ich meiner Mutter gekauft habe, ist nicht mehr in meinem Zimmer!” – The present I’ve bought for my mother is not in my room anymore.
The Position of Adverbs in German Sentences
Die Position von Adverben in Deutschen Sätzen
Well, you are lucky – I have more rules for you. They are all about one topic, the inversion of German sentences. So, don’t let us lose too much time – here is the most important rule that will tell you when you have to invert a German sentence.
Any time a temporal adverb or prepositional phrase comes at the beginning of the sentence, the verb has to come in the second position.
Here are some examples that illustrate what this actually means.
- “Morgen fängt die Schule an.” – Tomorrow, school will start.
- “1939 fing der zweite Weltkrieg an.” – In 1939, the Second World War began.
Unfortunately, there are some more difficult parts. Sometimes, you put the object at the beginning of the sentence and invert it to add emphasis on the object. For example…
- Seine Wohnung habe ich nie gemocht – Er hat einfach zu viele Katzen!
– I never likes his apartment – he simply has too many cats!
TeKaMoLo – When, How, Where and Why in German Sentences
Without any doubt “TeKaMoLo” plays an important role in the German sentences. This rule helps us to identify the word order in a sentence.
TeKaMoLo – How it works
- TEMPORAL – “Wann war es?” – (When was it?)
- KAUSAL – “Warum war es?” – (Why was it?)
- MODAL – “Wie war es?” – (How was it?)
- LOCAL – “Wo war es?” – (Where was it?)
TeKaMoLo – In action
In this example, we see all important parts of TeKaMoLo:
“Ich habe gestern wegen dem Besuch meiner Großeltern schnell zu Hause einen Kuchen gebacken.”
– (I have quickly baken a cake yesterday at home because of the visit of my grandparents.)
- TEMPORAL: “gestern”
- KAUSAL: “wegen dem Besuch meiner Großeltern”
- MODAL: “schnell”
- LOCAL: “zu Hause”
There is no fix rule for TeKaMoLo, it is only a guidance. Also here, you can be a little bit flexible. For example, if you want to put the place as more important, then you can also put it in an earlier position in front of the verb.
The Inversion of German Sentences
Die Inversion von Sätzen im Deutschen
Finally, we have come to the last topic of this article about German sentences. For sure, you all remember the basic word order for German sentences:
- Subject – Verb – Indirect Object – Direct Object
Furthermore, you have to order the information you transmit in this sentence. Here, the order should be the following
- Time – Manner – Place
So, applying these rules to adverbs, you simply have to keep in mind that adverbs also have to follow this order. Finally, we will have a look at an example sentence.
- “Vater ist heute nach Hause gekommen und sagte, dass er Pizza mitgebracht hat.
Ich musste mich beeilen, weil ich noch ein Stück davon abhaben wollte!”
– Today, dad came home and said that he brought pizza.
I had to hurry, because I still wanted a slide of it.
Well, let’s analyze this last (I promise, the last one!) example sentence. The modal verb “wollte” is at the end of the sentence, since “weil” is this type of conjunction. Here, “dass” does the same thing, moving “hat” after “mitgebracht”.
So, I think this is enough to get the basics of German sentences. Luckily, there are some really useful rules that help you to understand this rather complicated topic. Always keep practicing your vocabulary, keep in mind the rules and try to remember exceptions. As a consequence, German might get a lot easier than you might think. And if not, have a look at this book by Mark Twain with the title “The Awful German Language”. Here, you can find someone sharing your pain, so maybe it will hurt less.
The Grammatical Cases in German
Die Fälle im Deutschen
As a last but not least important part of German sentences, we should mention the grammatical cases. Especially for English speakers they might be difficult, as they do not appear like this in the English language. So, in German we have the nominative, genitive, dative and accusative case.
Well, this article would become too long if we would talk about every single one in detail. So, in case you want to know more about every single case, just click on the corresponding one and you will be redirected to the article about it.