Word Order - V2
German word order ("Wortstellung") is very different from English. Remember this rule to be sure you have everything in the right place.
The V2 rule: The finite verb (i.e. the verb that is conjugated to match the subject) belongs in the second position. As in English, the most common word order in German is Subject - Verb - Direct Object (as in "Der Mann isst den Apfel," "The man eats the apple"). In contrast to English, however, when bringing a word or phrase to the beginning of the sentence (known as topicalization), that word or phrase fills the first position, and the verb follows it. While topicalization is possible with practically any phrase in German, it is especially important to remember the V2 rule when using adverbs (e.g. "deshalb," "therefore," or "danach," "after that") because:
- they are frequently placed at the beginning of the sentence, and
- when they are topicalized in English, they are inserted without any impact on word order. See the examples in the table below.
|also ("so," "therefore")||Causation|
Ich bin müde. Ich gehe ins Bett.
Ich bin müde. Also gehe ich ins Bett.
I am tired. I am going to bed.
I am tired. So, I am going to bed.
[Ich]1 [bin]2 [müde.]3 [Ich]1 [gehe]2 [ins Bett.]3
[Ich]1 [bin]2 [müde.]3 [Also]1 [gehe]2 [ich]3 [ins Bett.]4
|deswegen ("because of that")||Causation|
Deswegen habe ich meine Hausaufgabe nicht gemacht.
Ich habe meine Hausaufgabe nicht gemacht.
Therefore, I did not do my homework.
I did not do my homework.
[Ich]1 [habe]2 [meine Hausaufgabe]3 [nicht gemacht.]4
[Deswegen]1 [habe]2 [ich]3 [meine Hausaufgabe]4 [nicht gemacht.]5
For more about word order in German, please consult Grimm Grammar.
*While this grammatical feature applies to all German sentences (except for questions where subject and verb are inverted, e.g. "Gehst du jetzt?" "Are you going now?"), this grammar note will only appear with lexical units that pose particular difficulty for English speaking learners of German, such as adverbs that can be placed at the beginning of sentences in English.