I need help with German

I've just started german, and in the notes for acc case, the flexible sentence order section says, "

However, take note that in German, the verb always has to be in position 2. If something other than the subject takes up position 1, the subject will then move after the verb.

Normally, I drink water. Normalerweise trinke ich Wasser."

I don't understand what flexible sentence order is.

September 13, 2018


You need to think a little abstract. Different words or groups of words fulfill different roles within the sentence. Each word/group of words that fulfills a role takes one position within the sentence.

Only position 2 is fixed, everything else is flexible (and there are many small rules for all kind of groups, but then they most often have exceptions).

Normalerweise (adverb, takes one position), trinke (predicate, also gets his own position, ich (subject, also gets his own position), Wasser (object, Akkusativ, also gets his own position).

Now you can swap these words.

Normalerweise trinke ich Wasser. (emphasis on normalerweise)

Wasser trinke ich normalerweise. (emphasis on what you drink)

Ich trinke normalerweise Wasser. (neutral)

Ich trinke Wasser normalerweise. (this one is already far more uncommon than the three above. It shifts the emphasis on normalerweise but also indicates somehow that today is an exception from the normalerweise)

Now to the rule If something other than the subject takes up position 1, the subject will then move after the verb. You should stick to it, until you are very very confident in german. It might be useful to know that not all sentence follow this. You can encounter rare sentence that do not follow this rule like the one below.

Wasser trinke normalerweise ich. (Subject is neither on P1 or P3, this sentence indicates that usually I and not someone else drinks the water)

The most easy way might be, just stick to the english word order (without putting any adverbs in the front!) and use that for german. Subject, predicate, object(s), adverbs works for all german main clauses and is most of the time a common order.

September 13, 2018

Thank you! Your explanation was amazing!

September 14, 2018

Ja, Ja!

September 14, 2018

In English, word order is Subject Verb Object (S V O). If the words are placed in any other way, it will change the meaning or not make sense. E.g.:

"I see the dog" (S V O) cannot be expressed as "The dog see I" (O V S). It doesn't make sense.

In German, however, the word order is more flexible. This is because the case system tells you which word is the Object and which is the Subject. E.g.:

"Ich sehe den Hund" (S V O) and "Den Hund sehe ich" (O V S) both mean "I see the dog," with just a slight difference in emphasis (see MortiBiRD's comment).

The only rule is that the Verb must occupy the second position in the sentence: S V O, O V S, etc. This note is saying is that if any word other than the sentence's Subject is first in the sentence, then by default the Subject will come after the Verb, as the Verb has to be in the second position.

In the example provided by Duolingo, the word order is Adverb Verb Subject Object (Advb V S O). It CANNOT be Adverb Subject Verb Object (Advb S V O), since the Verb must occupy the second position.

Hope this made sense!

September 13, 2018

Thanks! This really helped!

September 14, 2018

Conjugated German verbs go in one of two places: in 2nd position or at the end. That doesn't mean the verb is the second word, since the first position can be filled by a phrase (Der kälteste höchste Berg der Schweiz ist...). Also, some words don't count at all, like the little conversational fillers: Ja, Nein, Hallo, Entschuldigung, usw. You can consider them as being in position zero.

Since you're just starting, all you need to know for now is "conjugated verb in 2nd position".

Later on you'll learn about situations where there is some form of a second or even third verb at the end but still have the conjugated verb in the 2nd position, as well as situations where the conjugated verb itself has to be moved to the end.

But for now, baby steps :)

September 18, 2018
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