The word order in German is rather strict. We'll explain the type of components that a sentence has in detail and how they are organized.
The parts of a sentence in German to have in mind are:
The subject usually is in [POSITION 1] in the sentence:
Ich habe einen Hund
I have a dog
To emphasize a complement or an object, it can be placed in [POSITION 1], which makes the subject move to [POSITION 3]:
Einen Hund habe ich
I have a dog
This complement can be even a subordinate clause:
Während meiner Kindheit war ich sehr zufrieden
During my youth, I was very happy
With interrogative sentences, the verb takes [POSITION 1] which is why it moves the subject to [POSITION 2]
Hast du einen Hund?
Do you have a dog?
The 2nd person singular and plural of the imperative do not have a subject.
Komm jetzt her
Come here now
|2nd person singular||komm||come|
|2nd person plural||komm - t||come|
In forms added to the imperative, the verb and the subject are organized like in the interrogative sentences:
Trinken wir noch ein Bier
Let’s drink one more beer
|1st person plural||trinken wir||let’s drink|
|Polite form||trinken Sie||drink|
If there is just one verb, it is placed in [POSITION 2]
Ich bin 30 Jahre alt
I am 30 years old
If there are several verbs, the conjugated verb is placed in [POSITION 2] and the unconjugated one (an infinitive or a participle) in the [LAST POSITION] of the sentence.
Ich möchte Deutsch lernen
I want to learn German
In interrogative sentences, the conjugated verb takes [POSITION 1] and, if there is an unconjugated one, it takes the [LAST POSITION]
Haben Sie Deutsch in der Schule gelernt?
Did you study German at school? (formal)
In subordinate clauses or relative clauses, the conjugated verb is placed in the [LAST POSITION], moving the unconjugated verb (infinitive or participle) to the [SECOND TO LAST POSITION].
Ich glaube nicht, dass du heute kommen darfst
I don't think that you may come today
"Darfst" is the conjugated verb [LAST POSITION] and "kommen" is the unconjugated verb [SECOND TO LAST POSITION].
The subordinate conjunctions are those which make the conjugated verb go to the end of the sentence and are the following:
als (when), bevor (before), bis (until), dass (that), damit (so that), ob (if), obwohl (despite), seit (since), sobald (as soon as), sofern (as long as), soweit (as far as), sowie (as soon as), während (while), weil (because), wenn (if), wie (how), wo (where)
Das ist das Mädchen, das ich in der Schule gesehen habe
This is the girl that I saw at school
"Habe" is the conjugate verb [LAST POSITION] and "gesehen" is the unconjugated verb (second to last position).
"Particles of position 0" means that they do not influence the order of the sentence.
There are some conjunctions that do not take a grammatical position in the sentence.
Let’s look at an example:
Ich bin müde denn ich habe wenig geschlafen
I am tired because I slept little
Let’s analyse the clause in yellow:
|POSITION 0||POSITION 1||POSITION 2||LAST POSITION|
The following conjunctions take position 0 in the sentence:
Interrogative particles take position 0. Therefore, the verb takes position 1 and the subject takes position 2:
Wie alt bist du?
How old are you?
The following particles do not take a position in the sentence:
Objects are organized in the following order:
Let’s see some examples to get a clearer idea of this:
DATIVE OBJECT + ACCUSATIVE OBJECT
Ich schicke meiner Mutter einen Brief
I am sending a letter my mother
DATIVE PRONOUN + ACCUSATIVE OBJECT
Ich schicke ihr einen Brief
I am sending a letter to her
ACCUSATIVE PRONOUN + DATIVE OBJECT
Ich schicke ihn meiner Mutter
I am sending it to my mother
ACCUSATIVE PRONOUN + DATIVE PRONOUN
Ich schicke ihn ihr
I am sending it to her
Complements are placed between the conjugated verb and the unconjugated verb:
|Herr Meier||hat||gestern aus Liebe im Geheimen in München||Blumen||gekauft|
Out of love, Mister Meier secretly bought flowers in Munich yesterday
Complements are organized amongst themselves by following the mnemonic rule TEKAMOLO:
Let’s see an example:
|gestern||aus Liebe||im Geheimen||in München|
As we’ve seen in German negation, the adverb "nicht" is the most common type of negation. By placing "nicht" in a different position, the meaning can change.
It makes the verb of the sentence negative when placed right before the unconjugated verb (if there is one) or at the end of the sentence:
Ich möchte nicht essen
I don’t want to eat
Ich esse nicht
I don’t eat
When placed before any complement, it negates the complement
Ich möchte nicht jeden Tag Nudeln essen
I don’t want to eat pasta every day (every day is negated)
Ich möchte nicht zu spät essen
I don’t want to eat so late (so late is what is negated)
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