How to figure out the German Word Order?
First, you can read information about the German word order in main sentences, then you learn more about the German word order of a subordinate clause, German word order of a main sentence as the 2nd sentence, German word order of a question sentence, German word order when you use a modal verb and German word order of an imperative sentence.
The German word order of a main sentence
The main verb (predicate) stands normally at the 2nd position of the sentence. Often the subject is placed at the 1stposition and at the end there you can see the object.
- Der Junge geht in den Park. The boy goes in the park.
Der Junge is the subject and placed at the 1stposition. "geht" is the predicate and in the park is an accusative object. You could also say:
- In den Park geht der Junge. In the park goes the boy.
- The 1st sentence is more common and the focus of the 1st sentence is on the boy, the 2nd on the park. In both sentences you can see that the predicate keeps at the 2nd position.
- Die Kinder fahren nach Hause. The children go home.
- Der Student kocht für seine Freundin. The student cooks for his girlfriend.
- Die Jugendlichen gehen ins Kino. The teenagers are going to the cinema.
- Die Freunde spielen Fußball. The friends are playing football.
- Das Mädchen hört Musik. The girl is listening to music.
The German word order of a subordinate clause
In a subordinate sentence the verb stands always at the last position.
Der Junge geht in den Park, wenn das Wetter schön ist. The boy goes in the park if the weather is nice.
The word order of the 1st sentence is the same like in a normal main sentence. So the verb keeps standing at the 2nd position. The 2nd sentence is a subordinate clause in which you find the predicate „ist“ at the end of the sentence.
- Die Kinder gehen in das Schwimmbad, weil das Wetter sehr gut ist. The children go to the swimming pool because the weather is very good.
- Die Studentin hilft ihrem Freund, weil sie ihn mag. The student helps her boyfriend because she likes him.
- Die Jungen gehen ins Kino, wenn es einen guten Film im Kino gibt. The boys go to the cinema when there is a good film in the cinema.
- Die Männer spielen Fußball, wenn es nicht regnet. The men play football when it does not rain.
German Word order of a main sentence as the 2nd sentence
The sentence construction gets more complicated when you 1st start with a subordinate clause and continue with a main sentence.
- Wenn das Wetter schön ist, geht der Junge in den Park. If the weather is nice, then the boy goes in the park.
The 1st sentence is the subordinate sentence in which the predicate is placed at the end of the sentence. In case that we 1st use a subordinate sentence then the verb comes at the 1stand not at the 2nd position in the main sentence.
- Da die Sonne scheint, gehen die Kinder in den Park. Since the sun is shining, the children go to the park
- Wenn es regnet, spielen die Jungen kein Volleyball. When it rains, the boys don't play volleyball.
- Obwohl der Junge viel für die Klausur glernt hat, hat er eine schlechte Note bekommen. Although the boy has learned a lot for the exam, he has received a bad grade.
German Word order of a Question Sentence
When you build a question then you often use a question word like was (what) or wann (when). In this case the predicate shows up also at the 2nd position.
Wann kommt Peter? When does Peter come?
- Gehen wir gleich nach Hause? Are we going home soon?
- Wie geht es dir? How are you?
- Was machst du? What are you doing?
- Gehst du in das Kino? Are you going to the cinema?
- Magst du Sport? Do you like sports?
German Word order with Modal Verbs
When you use a modal verb, then the modal verb is counted as the predicate so it is placed in the main sentence normally at the 2nd position. In a subordinate sentence it comes at the end of the sentence.
Die Jugendlichen sollen um 22 Uhr nach Hause gehen. The teenagers should go home at 10pm.
The infinitive (in this case gehen) shows up in a main sentence at the end of the sentence and the predicate (sollen) at the 2ndposition.
- Das Mädchen kann sehr gut Geige spielen. The girl is very good at playing the violin
- Die Jugendlichen dürfen nicht rauchen. The young people are not allowed to smoke.
- Der Junge spielt oft Fußball, weil er sehr gut Fußball spielen kann. The boy often plays football because he is very good at playing football.
German Word order with an imperative sentence
When you form an imerative then the verb stands at the 1st position. You only use a subject in the formal "Sie" (you) form, all the other forms of a German imperative do not need any subject.
- Geh nach Hause! Go home!
- Geht nach Hause! Go home! (plural)
- Gehen Sie nach Hause! Go home! (formal)
- Gehen wir nach Hause! Lass uns nach Hause gehen! Let us go home!