How can I get better at German word order?
I get sentences like
"Ich liebe meine Katze." - I love my cat
"Ich möchte in den Park gehen." - I want to go to the park
"Heute geht er zum Arzt." - Today he's going to the doctor
But the other kinds of sentences are so confusing. I know that the verb is always in the second position, if you have two different verbs in the sentence, one will have to go to the very back of the sentence... but other than that, I have no clue.
I found the Hammer Grammar video series on YouTube extremely helpful when learning German. https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2fCGQa2PY7CDJkKsRiYNC-7XxiU4I10f
You can study grammar books (and it is a good idea to do so), but practically when using the language you don't have time to remember which rule applies to which sentence. So there are two ways to learn: 1st you are lucky and have someone to speak to in german and they correct you all the time and tell you how it should be. 2nd you are not so lucky and then reading and listening is the most effective way to learn the word order. Your brain will actually get used to the sentence structures and you won't have to think about it anymore.
For me as a native German speaker, there is no confusion. The sentence structure in both cases is correct, but you can use a different structure to emphasize a special point.
"Heute geht er zum Arzt!" means, that he goes to the doctor today, not tomorrow or on another date.
"Er geht heute zum Arzt." is only an information, but the main point is here, that he goes and not she or another person.
"Zum Arzt (geht er heute)." this is a bit weird, but also common language, the main information is here, that he goes to a doctor and not to a business meeting, in example.
A bit funny: "Zum Arzt heute er geht." This is clear a wrong word order, but "Yoda-Style" :D
Also stressing some words may change the main point slightly.
- HEUTE geht er zum Arzt! - Today, not tomorrow or on another date
- Heute geht er zum ARZT! - Doctor, not another person or place.
- Heute GEHT er zum Arzt! - Here are different interpretations possible: He goes and not drives or something like he will/have to go
Nearly the same is possible for the other sentences with different word orders.
Basic Rules<h1>1: When there is one verb in the sentence, in the present tense (sagen) and the simple past (sagte), it goes 2nd.</h1> <h1>2: In the spoken past (gesagt) a form of haben or sein (for movment/bleiben) goes first and the past participle goes at the end (Ich haben es gesagt)</h1> <h1>3: When there is a Modal verb (Sollen) it goes secound and the other verb goes at the end.</h1> <h1>4: When asking a question, the verb may go first if a question word (Was, Wie, Wann, Wo, etc) is not used first.</h1>
Those are the most basic rules.