1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. Word order: trinken und wein?


Word order: trinken und wein?

I am wondering if the following two sentences are correct in either format:

Mit dem Mittagessen trinken wir wein.


Mit dem Mittagessen wir trinken wein.

Duolingo said the second sentence was incorrect. Why should "trinken" come before "wir" in this sentence?

August 27, 2012



Because, in German, the Verb is almost always in the second position in the sentence. There are exceptions, of course: 1. Ja/Nein Questions - Bist du Alex? (Are you Alex?) - Nein, ich bin Michael. (No, I am Michael.) 2. Imperative - Essen Sie! (Eat!) In all the other cases the verb that you conjugate stays in position 2 in the sentence. Enough with the theory, I will explain on your sentence.

Mit dem Mittagessen trinken wir wein.

"Mit dem Mittagessen" is the time of the action, and this is considered to be in the first position. Then comes the verb in SECOND position. And then the subject of the sentence and the direct object. You should know that a sentence in German always has a verb. And always has a subject. You will never find a sentence without the verb or without the subject that does the action. To exemplify further:

Wir trinken (verb position 2) wein mit dem Mittagessen. (the reverse sentence). Am Morgen trinke ich Milch. (Again, am Morgen is position 1 and the verb ALWAYS - see exceptions - position 2). Let's try, for example, the verb tense Perfekt.

Am Morgen habe ich nichts gegessen. (In the morning i have eaten nothing.)

Here we have the following: have is the verb we conjugate (here is the first person singular) and gegessen (eaten) is the participle of the the verb essen (to eat). The verb you conjugate is in position 2. Change the word order and you have:

Ich habe am Morgen nichts gegessen. (I have eaten nothing in the morning.)

The same goes with modal verbs:

Ich kann um 7.00 Uhr dich trefen. Um 7.00 Uhr kann ich dich trefen.

Um 7.00 Uhr is the time object - position 1. kann is the verb - position 2.

Hope this was helpful! :)


There is one more rule: when there is a subordinate clause, the verb of the subordinate clause always comes at the end-- not second. For example, "Ich esse nichts am Morgen, weil ich zu faul bin." The clause starting with "weil" is the subordinate clause, where the verb (bin) comes last.


I'm not quite getting what you mean by a "passive sentence". The rule in a normal sentence is simple-- the verb comes second. The exceptions, as previously mentioned are: questions and commands (verb first) and subordinate clauses (verb last).

As for the "bin ich" question. I'm not quite sure what you mean. If the word "bin" is second in the sentence, then it is following the normal rule. If you see a sentence (not a question) beginning with "bin ich", it is probably a colloquial abbreviation for something like "das bin ich"". For example, if someone asks: "Bist du müde?" and you answer "bin ich", it means "Das bin ich". I.e., "Müde bin ich" (the rule again!)


There is no difference of "voice" (passive or active) in the following sentences: 1. I drink wine in the afternoon. and 2. In the afternoon, I drink wine. It's just different word order! If the sentence was in passive voice it would have been 1. Wine is drunk (by me) in the afternoon. and 2. In the afternoon, wine is drunk (by me). There is no need to speak about voices in English, at least not regarding the simple sentence. The only rule applied here for the German sentence is verb takes position 2. It is obvious that the sentence is in active voice because the subject wir does this action (trinken). In the passive voice I suppose the sentence would be Mit dem Mittagessen wein ist getrunkt ..., or something like that. The wine cannot drink itself so it is obvious that someone else is drinking the wine, and the person drinking the wine is the logical subject of the sentence. That is the definition of passive voice: the existence of a logical subject (which in the sentence is seen as an object - By whom is the wine drunk?) The other considerations about verbs in position 1 or last (in subordinate clauses) are valid, but have nothing to do with the question.


Thanks! I understand about placing verbs at the end of sentences when there are two verbs in the sentence (though not sure what the correct term is called for that). The correct sentence seems similar to a "passive" sentence in English. For example, since English prefers active sentences in English we would rarely say, "In the afternoon, I drink wine." but rather "I drink wine in the afternoon." So this is similar, I suppose, only in the German "passive" sentences the verb comes before the subject? I hope I explained that right, even though I may not have used the correct terminology (still learning all that). At any rate, I think I get it now...and I hope you get that I get it! Thanks again!!


Would this rule also explain why sometimes I see sentences with the phrase "bin ich" despite it not being a question?


@wthielke: In English there are passive and active sentences. English prefers the active form. Yoda from Star Wars is famous for only speaking in the passive form, and while technically not incorrect, it definitely not how a normal English person would speak. A simple active sentence would be, "Peter builds a house." The passive form would be, "A house is built by Peter" In the active form, the subject, Peter, is doing the verb (Peter builds). In the passive form, "The house is built" the object becomes the subject from the active form.

Same with the sentence I used as an example above. In the active form you would say, "I drink wine in the afternoon" Subject first, then verb, then time. That's is the preferred English form. However, you could use the passive voice and say, "In the afternoon, I drink wine." Time first, then subject, then verb. Another version of the same sentence in the passive form is, "Wine is drunk in the afternoon (by me)." "I/me" becomes the object of the sentence, rather than the subject. English prefers that the person or thing does the verb.

I don't know if German recognizes the passive form, but these types of sentences do look like passive construction. I don't know if this would be correct but it seems like a German active sentence would be something like "Ich bin Müde." and the same sentence in the passive form would be, "Müde bin ich." That seems to follow what you've said in regards to my "bin ich" question too.


@kynaland: Yep, you are right about the wine sentence. My bad.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.