How should one translate the following sentence?
context: I usually visit cafes and restaurants.
"But at home I eat bread and drink milk"
My variants are:
Aber zu Hause esse ich Brot und trinke Milch.
Aber esse ich zu Hause Brot und trinke Milch.
Aber esse ich Brot und trinke Milch zu Hause.
The German sentence structure is very loose compared to English, so all variants are right. The difference is what you want to emphase.
There is just a small problem with the second and third sentences: The subject (ich) should come before the verb:
Aber ich esse zu Hause Brot und trinke Milch.
Aber ich esse Brot und trinke Milch zu Hause.
Well, the first sentence emphases that you consume them AT HOME.
The second variant is maybe not a correct translation because it says that you eat bread at home - and trink milk just in general.
The third variant doesn't emphase anything in general, I think. ._.
By the way, the aber could also be at another position in the sentence. You placed it at the first position, which emphases the difference to what you do in restaurants and cafes - and implies that you don't eat bread and drink milk when you're not at home.
Each sentence is actually a main clause (prominently indicated by the leading "aber" conjunction), which requires the "verb in second place" rule – though the conjunction in itself doesn't count as a position (or maybe you could count it as the 0th place, if you wish). So in the second and third sentence you have to put "esse" in the second position after the subject "ich", i.e.: "(Aber) ich esse..."
Yes, you can (at times) exchange subject and object with one another in order to shift the emphasis towards the object, as in "Brot esse ich zu Hause" (Bread is what I eat at home). But you wouldn't usually write like that except in poetic settings, because such sentences usually require special emphasis. For example, you could never grasp the proper meaning of or distinguish between "Die Katze isst die Maus" and "Die Maus isst die Katze" without me emphasizing it properly. What's particularly tricky here is the fact, that even though in both sentences one of the nouns is the subject while the other is the object of the sentence, both are female nones which do not change from the nominative (subject) case to the accusative (object) case. Thus, both sentences could mean exactly the same AND opposing things at the same time – totally depending on emphasis of words, or context. Another example where you might see the casing issue a little better: The proper sentence "Die Katze isst den Hund" (The cat is eating the dog) could be poetically rewritten as "Den Hund isst die Katze" (The dog is what the cat eats), but because of "den" in front of "Hund" you would know it must be the object in both sentences – even though the word order in the 2nd sentence is unusual.
In either case: In a main clause the verb does always come in 2nd position, which is what's wrong with the 2nd and 3rd sentence of the original post.
Good reply. One comment:
The proper sentence "Die Katze isst den Hund" (The cat is eating the dog) could be poetically rewritten as "Den Hund isst die Katze" (The dog is what the cat eats),...<
In everyday language this language construct is used for emphasis, pointing out that this particular dog is or will be eaten by the cat. If used so, the sentence, while being in the present tense, actually expresses (imminent) future.
"That dog will be eaten by the cat."
Anyhow, I guess it must be a big cat, or a very small dog. ;)