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German Sentence Structure

Understanding grammar will help you on your way to learn the language fast. In the German Language, word order differs greatly from that of English. Before you can get in depth and discuss world issues you need to start by having a conversation and to do that you’re going to need to know how to structure a basic sentence.

Table of Contents

The Position of Verbs in the Sentence

Word order  in German is usually driven by the placement of the verb. The verb in German can be in the second position (most common), initial position (verb first), and clause-final position.

First Rule: Main Clauses

In a basic German sentence the main verb must always be the second element of the sentence. If the subject does not precede the verb it must follow it immediately. as sentences following this rule follow a word order similar to that of English

Subject + modifiers [Position 1] — main verb (+adverbs, if applicable) [Position 2] — objects + phrases [Position 3].

Below are examples that illustrate this rule:

  • Wir gehen heute ins Kino (We go today to the cinema)
  • Heute gehen wir ins Kino (Today, we go to the cinema)

Second Rule: Negation

Negative sentences in Germany are formed by using “nicht” with verbs and “Kein” with Nouns.

For example:

  • Ich habe genung Zeit (I have enough Time)
  • Ich habe keine Zeit (I don’t have time)
  • Ich habe die Hausaufgabe gemacht (I did the homework)
  • Ich habe die Hausaufgabe nicht gemacht (I didn’t do the homework)

Third Rule: Asking Questions

Two simple rules for asking a question. Direct Questions (Yes/No) are asked by inverting the word order.

  • Hast du hunger? (Are you Hungry)
  • Bist du am Wochende Frei? (Are you free on the weekend?)

Second way is to ask W- Question like:

  • Wann bist du heute angekommen? (When did you arrive today?)
  • Wieso hast mich nicht telefoniert? (Why didn’t you call me?)

Below are the most common W-question in German:

  • Wie —– How
  • Wann —– When
  • Wo —– Where
  • Wer —– Who
  • Wieso —– Why
  • Warum —– Why
  • Was —– What
  • Wie viel —– How much

Fourth Rule: Dependent Clauses

Dependent clauses, also known as “Nebensätze” in German cannot stand alone as sentences, they always depend on a main clause. The verb takes the last position in the dependent sentence. Dependent Clauses have many cases, such as Conjuctions, Indirect Question, Infinitve Clauses, Participle Clauses, Relative Clauses, Conditional Clauses.

  1. Conjunctions: You can connect main clauses with dependent clauses using conjuctions:
  • Ich lerne deutsch, weil ich in Deutschland studieren möchte. (I learn german, because I want to study in germany)
  • Er spricht Englisch und Sie spricht Spanisch. (He speaks English and she speaks Spanish)
  1. Indirect Question: Indirect questions are formed in German with a complex clause formed by a main clause and a subordinate clause.
  • Er fragt, ob er morgen zur Arbeit kommen muss. (He askes, if he must come tomorrow for work)
  • Ich weiß es nicht, wann die Bahn kommt. (I don’t know when the train is coming.)
  1. Infinitive Clauses: They are dependent clauses constructed with the infinitive form of a verb and the preposition zu.
  • Ich freue mich, dich kennenzulernen. (I am happy to get to know you.)
  • Ich treibe Sport, um fit zu sein (I do sport to be fit.)
  1. Participle Clauses: In German, past and present participles are used to form a participle clause.
  • Zu spät losgegangen, haben Nino und Anna den Bus verpasst. (Leaving too late, Nino and Anna missed the bus.)
  1. Relative Clauses: Relative clauses are formed by combining two main clauses, you provide additional information about a noun without starting a new sentence.
  • Er ist der Junge, der fußball spielt. (He is the boy who plays soccer.)
  • Thomas ist meinen Freund, dessen Eltern Ärzte sind. (Thomas is my friend whose parents are doctors.)
  1. Conditional Clauses: Conditional Clauses express that an action will only take place under certain conditions. Main clause is connected with independent clause using wenn.
  • Ich fliege nach Asien, wenn ich Zeit habe. (I fly to Asian when I have time.)

There is much more in the German grammar, that can’t be covered in one single post. If you want to learn German quickly, Check our online academy platform and our professional teachers will help you learn the language fast.

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