is a Sentence?
Subject / Objects
is a Sentence?
A sentence has a subject (an implied one, at least) and a verb and
expresses a complete thought.
German, the verb is the dictator of the German sentence. It provides
the major structure of the sentence or the torso that determines
what can be added. The verb says how many nouns are required in
the sentence. For instance, let's think about the verb eat.
For eat to occur in real life, there are certain roles that
must be filled. There must be someone or something that eats, i.e.
an eater. But that is not enough. We can have an eater, but eat
won't happen until there is something or someone to be eaten. These
are the minimum roles that must be filled whenever eat is
look at the verb, give. When giving takes place, there is
someone giving someone or something to someone else. In other words,
there are three roles required to be filled by the verb give:
a giver, a given, and a givee.
that all the different ways of saying give (donate, present, send,
hand, throw, mail, pass, etc.) have the same basic pattern as giver,
given, givee. These patterns converge with the concept of case
structure in German. The giver and eater forms are in the nominative
case. The eaten and given forms are in the accusative case. The
givee is in the dative case.
is very important and gives German flexibility in word order that
English doesn't have. That is primarily because we recognize what
role the noun is playing by the form (nominative, accusative, or
dative) and so aren't tied to position. Take a look at the two English
sentences: "The dog bites the man" and "The man bites the dog."
Both sentences have exactly the same words. The only difference
is the position of "dog" and "man." The position tells us who is
doing the biting and who is bitten. Not so in the German sentence:
"Der Hund bei§t den Mann" and "Den Mann bei§t der Hund." In both
of these sentences the dog (der Hund) is doing the biting. To change
who is doing the biting, we have to change the case of the noun.
"Den Mann" would have to become "der Mann" and "der Hund" would
have to become "den Hund" for the man to be biting the dog.
uses word order differently than English. Because English has lost
most of the different case forms for nouns, we are more limited
in the positions we can use. But German has some set positions:
the conjugated verb (the form with the endings that agree with
the subject) is in first position in the sentence, then the sentence
is either a command or a yes/no question.
second place, the verb indicates that the sentence is a statement
or an information question.
last place, the verb indicates that the sentence is a clause and
is dependent on a second sentence for its meaning. A subordinating
conjunction usually signals this (wenn, als, ob, obwohl, etc.).
usually follow the noun they are connecting.
the dative and accusative objects are both nouns: dative first,
the dative and accusative objects are both prounouns: accusative
first, then dative.
When one object is a noun and one a pronoun: pronoun goes first.
the conjugated verb and objects, other elements are placed in
order of time (first), manner (second), and place (third).
first position in the German sentence can be occupied by just
about any element: subject (normal word order) or direct object,
indirect object, prepositional phrase, adverb, and even a whole
clause (these take inverted word order which means the subject
goes in third place after the conjugated verb).
14: Word Order
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