Sentence structure of main clauses in German
A main clause can stand alone as a full sentence. A main clause contains at least a subject, a verb and an object. The four cases are the reasons why we can identify the different role (subject or object position) of pronouns or nouns. Further, the German cases lead to a various range of ordering the parts of a sentence. This is important, if we are writing texts.
- Der Lehrer fragt den Schüler. - The teacher asks the student.
- Den Schüler fragt der Lehrer. - The student is asked by the teacher.
The basic rules of sentence structure
There are two different ways of forming the sentence structure. The first is for basic sentences, the other for compound tenses and sentences with separable prefixes.
Regular word order with Subject and Verb
The regular word order used in basic sentences in German is as follows.
|subject||conjugated verb (finite verb)||object|
Word order of compound tenses and separable prefixes
- The finite verb is always second in a sentence.
- The infinite verb is always at the end of a sentence (could be a infinitive, past participle, prefix)
|type of the first position||first position in the sentence||finite verb||subject||indirect object||time||place||direct object||infinite verb|
|subject||Der Lehrer||hat||dem Schüler||heute||im Unterricht||eine Frage||gestellt|
|indirect object||Dem Schüler||hat||der Lehrer||heute||im Unterricht||eine Frage||gestellt|
|time||Heute||hat||der Lehrer||dem Schüler||im Unterricht||eine Frage||gestellt|
|place||Im Unterricht||hat||der Lehrer||dem Schüler||heute||eine Frage||gestellt|
|direct object||Eine Frage||hat||der Lehrer||dem Schüler||heute||im Unterricht||gestellt|
If the direct object is a pronoun, it is places before the indirect object:
sie (die Frage):
Der Lehrer hat sie dem Schüler heute im Unterricht gestellt.
Different types of objects
There are different types of objects in German.
|Example||category of object|
Maria wirft den Apfel.
(Maria throws the apple)
|accusative object (Wen/was?)|
Der Apfel gehört ihr.
(The apple belongs to her)
|dative object (Wem?)|
Der Apfel ist ihrer.
(The apple is hers)
|genitive object (Wessen?)|
Sie denkt an ihn.
(She thinks of him)
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