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The German Sentence Structure (#1)

Hello everyone!

I found an amazing video from German with Jenny explaining the word order or sentence structure in the German language!

This is part 1 of 4 of her Word Order lessons and it's about the "Position of Main Verbs in Main Clauses".

(I will write down her exact words as far as possible)

Note for clarification: Google's explaination of a Main Clause is 'a clause that can form a complete sentence standing alone, having a subject and a predicate.' (a Predicate is 'the part of a sentence or clause containing a verb and stating something about the subject (e.g. went home in John went home).' - Google)

[Jenny] Today I want to talk to you about the German sentence structure, and this is a quite complex topic, so we're going to have to devide it up into several episodes. We're going to start with the verb position in main clauses.
So in main clauses the verb is in the second position.
I'm going to give you an example: Ich fahre morgen nach Berlin (I am driving to Berlin tomorrow).
So you have ich which is the subject of the sentence, it's in the first position, then you have the verb, fahre in the second position, and then you have the adverb morgen in the third position.

(She showed this chart on the screen (below))

1 2 3
Ich fahre morgen
Subj. Verb Adverb

The adverb in this case is a time indication.
I'll give you another example: Ich habe morgen frei. Which basically means "Tomorrow is my day off".
So in general, in main clauses, the time indication is either in the 1st position or in the 3rd position, so in the sentence that I just gave you it's in the third position.
Ich habe morgen frei, morgen's in the third position.

(She showed this chart on the screen (below))

1 2 3
Ich habe morgen
Subj. Verb Adverb

Now, you can also rotate the word morgen into the first position. So you can say Morgen habe ich frei (Tomorrow's my day off.)
So you can see that the verb stays in the second position but the subject moves to the third position.

(She showed this chart on the screen (below))

1 2 3
Morgen habe ich
Adverb Verb Subj.

So basically the adverb (which is the time indication in this case) and the subject...they rotate around the verb in the main clause, so it doesn't really matter if you say Morgen habe ich frei or Ich habe morgen frei.
It means the same thing.
I'll give you another example: Jeden Tag jogge ich 10km. (Every day, I jog 10km.)
So the first element, or the first position is
Jeden Tag - The second position is jogge - and the third position is ich*.

(She showed this chart on the screen (below))

1 2 3
Jeden Tag jogge ich
Time Verb Subj.

So you can also say Ich jogge jeden Tag 15km. (Every day, I jog 15km.).

So it doesn't matter whether you say Jeden Tag jogge ich 15km or Ich jogee jeden Tag 15km. - it's the same thing.

It's important that you keep the verb in the second position.

In the sentence that I just gave you (Jeden Tag jogge ich 15km.) you have an element that is made up of more then one word...Jeden Tag...two words, so this is very common, elements in a sentence can be made up of more then one word.

I'll give you an example where one element is made up of three words: Auf dem Balkon steht ein Tisch (A table stands on the balcony), so the first element of the sentence is Auf dem Balkon.

In den Sommerferien steht man oft im Stau (In the summer vacation, one is often stuck ina traffic jam.)
So the first element of the sentence is In den Sommerferien.
So, when? In the summer vacation. The piece of information indicates When.

(She showed this chart on the screen (below))

1 2 3
In den Sommerferien steht man
Time Verb Subj.

So In den Sommerferien is element number one, steht is element number two, man is element number three.

You can also say Man steht in den Sommerferien oft im Stau.
Man is in the first position, steht is in the second position, and in den Sommerferien is in the third position.

Morgen fliegt meine Schwester nach Thailand. (Tomorrow, my sister flies to Thailand.)
The first element in the sentence is a time indication: morgen, the second element is the verb: fliegt, and the third element is meine Schwester, which is made up of two words, but it's still the subject. So this is just to show you that the subject can be made up of more then one word.

Now I just want to sum up what we've learned today: So the verb, in main clauses, takes position number two, and the subject takes either position number one or position number three.
Now when an adverb, like the time indication, or another piece of information, like the location, can go either in the first or in the third position.
So it can be: Adverb, Verb, Subject or Subject, Verb, Adverb.

Have fun! AP4418

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June 14, 2018



Thanks for that. It must have taken you ages to type out. The thing i find impossible to understand is the bit about jogging 10km every day...

: )


You're welcome! Lol! Yeah!


Wow, you put a lot of effort into this. I have one comment on Jenny's original video: While it is correct that you can kind of "rotate" the subject and the adverb around the verb, it is not true that they are (always) the same in meaning. There is some sort of shift in emphasis. Example:

Morgen stehst Du bestimmt im Stau. (Emphasis on "Morgen", possibly because it is the beginning of a holiday. It kind of implies that there might be alternatives.)

Du stehst morgen bestimmt im Stau. (No real emphasis, but just a factual observation or expectation.)

But this is rather subtle, and depending heavily on context. This is the one area where Duo (and other computer based courses) are lacking: Context.

I'm just doing the French course, and I find the stories (under the 'Labs' tab) very, very useful. But I have not tried any of the German stories, so I can't tell if they are any good.


This is true. Whatever is in first position receives a bit of emphasis.


You may have a mistake. You need to use TVMP, which means Time Verb Manner and Place. Here the subject goes with Manner. If there is no time, then the subject may go first (Which then become SVMP) Example: TVMP Um 15 Uhr lese ich im eine Bibliothek.


Hi J.Cassar, where to place a verb in a main clause is explained in this video/transcript, and the Time, Manner and Place is explained in Part 3. Part 3 is currently in progress but will be out really soon.

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