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Question about word order

I would like to know why one should say:

"Das Telefonbuch hast du"

rather than

"Du hast Das Telefonbuch"

I could understand if the first translation was a question, but it doesn't seem to be. It's a statement.

Can anyone help me with this? Thanks so much.

October 5, 2012



English relies a lot on word order to allow one to identify the subject, direct object, and/or indirect object in a sentence. In German, case (nominative, accusative, dative, genitive -- which can be discerned by examining the definite/indefinite articles, etc.) can be used for this instead. So, in German, the word order is not as important as it is in English, and you often find sentences that (from an English perspective) appear inverted. That's not to say word order is completely unimportant! Like elae said, in a statement, you always expect to find the verb in the second grammatical slot. Anyway, both of your examples ("Das Telefonbuch hast du." and "Du hast das Telefonbuch.") are correct. I believe which one you decide to use is a matter of preference. However, there may be subtle differences in stress (as elae indicated) between the two that I'm not advanced enough to pick up on.


German works in the way that whatever comes first is the stressed part of the sentence. In English we would go "You have the BOOK" (as opposed to the magazine, say). Or "YOU have the book", if the stress were on the person rather than the object. In German, they just put the word with emphasis first. Both sentences mean the same thing. (Just make sure you remember that a verb almost always goes in the second position!)

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