German Word Order – Part 2

Hello everyone,

and welcome to the second part of our look at the mess that seems to be

German Word Order

And before we get to it let’s do a super quick recap what we learned in part one. (find it here) we’ve learned three things.
Number one:
The rules you can usually find are … not very good. And how could they. Because number 2:
There are no rules. And there’s not one correct order. There’s a default order which is  the result of a fascinating interplay of several forces, pulling the elements in different directions. And the speaker has a lot of freedom to rearrange stuff for emphasis. Problem is that these interactions are  uber complex and dynamic. We cannot really “learn” that.  Which leads us directly to number three:
In linguistics there is the concept of a head of a phrase and we learned that German is at it’s soul a head-final language. You know… like its close relatives Korean and Japanese. They’re head final too.
Today, we’ll find out how this head-final-ness of German can help us explain everything. Well, not everything, but a lot. It’s going to be tough and I’m not saying that every sentence you’ll ever say will be correct. But at least things will make sense. Promise!

One quick word before we start. When they do structure analysis in linguistics they actually use the side sentence form. So instead of analyzing

  • Ich gehe in den Park.

they analyze

  • (Ich sage), dass ich in den Park gehe.

The reason is that position 1 is kind of special, as is the verb in position number two. The real order of stuff is much clearer in the side sentence structure. But it’s a bit unnatural and we want to know how “normal” sentences are built, so we won’t go that far. But we’ll ignore position 1 here for now. It’s kind of special and it would just make things a lot more confusing. I’ll just put a very natural element in there.  I know the legend says that stuff gets put there for emphasis but that is about as accurate as the TeKaMoLo-garbage… oh. Ops… I guess you know my real opinion now.
Anyway, let’s see if head-final is any better.
That’s what she said, by the way.

Head-final basically means knowing what your beer tastes like before you even know it’s a beer.

  • Ich trinke ein kaltes, leicht bitteres, im Abgang ein wenig an Zitronen erinnerndes Bier.
  • I’m drinking a cold, slightly bitter beer reminiscent of lemon in the finish.

The specifics come before the main thing. And all we have to do is to generalize that a bit to get the fundamental principle of German sentence structure:

The more interesting, relevant and defining something is, the later it comes.

This is quite long and we can’t make a cool acronym so we’ll refer to it as … unicorn wisdom. We could call it fundamental principle, I guess, but that term makes me tired and my mouth dry. So… unicorn wisdom. There’s really not much to explain about the sentence itself. But it’s really powerful. Watch.

  • Ich bin  blah blah yada yada yada blah blah gegangen.
  • I went blah blah blah ……
    (the English version nicely shows that English is head-first)

Tadahhh… now we know why the verb is at the very end. Because the verb is the most important, most interesting and most defining part of a sentence. And now we also know why the prefix is at the end.

  • Ich mache das Fenster ____ .

Because besides the verb itself, the prefix is the next most defining part. We can’t even translate the example yet because we effectively do NOT know what’s going on.
So this is head-final at it’s best. And it doesn’t stop there. Next to the verb or the prefix is the element that is most defining, most important for it.
So what say we look at a few examples to get a feel for it.

Getting comfy with it

Let’s take the verb to be.If I walk up to you and say

  • I am

A first question you might ask could be where or what … but certainly not when or why. So if if we want to say “I was in the park yesterday” the most natural order in German is this:

  • Ich war gestern im Park.

while:

  • Ich war im Park gestern.

is quite odd. Not wrong. There’s just a lot of tension because where is much more relevant for to be than when.  So we’d really need a strong context to move around the boxes like this.
Now take a look at this example

  • Ich war müde im Büro.
  • Ich war im Büro müde.

Here, we have where and what (how), both quite relevant questions for to be. And here we can move around the elements WITHOUT creating all that much tension. We’re just shifting the focus.

  • I was at the office, all tired.
  • I was tired at the office.

The first sentence tells us where I was with an added specific about how. The second tells us how I was with an added specific where.
All right. The next example is a little more clear. Here are the parts:

  • trinken
  • ich
  • ein Bier
  • im Park
  • gestern.

Beside the verb and the subject (which we’ll ignore) we have information about when, where and what in here.  And by default the most relevant part is… what. Just imagine I come to you and completely out of the blue I say

  • I drink.

You’d probably ask what. Well, okay…  you might also be like “I’m sorry. Are you going to meetings?”, but anyway. The what is more interesting, more defining than when or where and that’s why in the default order the beer comes final

  • Ich habe gestern im Park ein Bier getrunken.
  • I drank a beer yesterday in the park.

We can move something after the beer. For instance the park. But that would create quite some tension and we’d need a proper context to “hold” the pieces there.

  • Ich habe gestern ein Bier im Park getrunken, (aber nicht in der Bar.)
  • I had a beer in the PARK yesterday, but not in the bar.

And what about time and place. Could we switch them up here? Yes, we actually could

  • Ich habe gestern im Park…
  • Ich habe im Park gestern…

The first version sounds a little bit more natural though. Now, this might sound crazy but I think it’s because for a human being, or for any animal for that matter  location is more important than time. You can see location. If you’re not able to orient in a 3-dimensional space, you’ll have serious problems catching your food or building a house or walking through a door. But you can live without the notion of time just fine. Sure, these days  time is tremendoublah blah blah… language is so old that it would make sense that place has a notch of importance more than time.
It certainly does in the next example which represents a big group of verbs: the  movement verbs. Again, here are our parts:

  • gehen
  • ich
  • am Freitag
  • in den Park
  • zum Trainieren (for a work)
  • mit Maria

Besides the verb and the subject we have when, where, why and how(with whom). And now guess what’s the most important… of course. The where. If I walk up to you and tell you without ANY context

  • I’ll fly.

your reaction would probably be “Oh, where?”. Well okay, you might also be like “Have you been drinking?” but anyway. When we talk about a movement, and also about a position-verb by the way, the most defining thing is naturally the location. And so in the default version of the sentence the park has to come as far right as possible. And in this case, since there are no left-overs of the verb, it’ll be at the very end.

  • Ich gehe  am Freitag zum Trainieren mit Maria in den Park.

We can move one of the other behind it.

  • Ich gehe am Freitag  mit Maria in den Park zum Trainieren.

But that would create quite some tension and again, we’d need a special context for the why to be more important than the where.

  • … in den Park zum Trainieren. Nicht zum chillen.

So.. park has to be final. But what about the rest. The info about  when I go, why I go, and how (with whom) I go. Well… the truth is these elements  are all equal. None is automatically more interesting than the other. It totally depends on my personal focus. And that’s why we can arrange them in all possible orders and we’re barely creating any serious tension or emphasis. Whatever comes later just sounds a bit more defining for the verb.

  • Ich gehe mit einer Freundin zum Trainieren am Freitag in den Park.
  • Ich gehe mit einer Freundin am Freitag zum Trainieren in den Park
  • Ich gehe zum Trainieren am Freitag mit einer Freundin in den Park.
  • (I’ll just skip the rest but it’s 6 in total)

They all mean exactly the same and they all feel perfectly natural. And the emphasis on the later element is really just a nuance here.
Cool.
Now before we go on into trickier territory let’s do one more example. I just told you my theory about how time is generally not as important as place. But in the right context it can be.

  • aufgehen
  • die Sonne
  • in Berlin
  • um 7.

Aufgehen, among other things, means to rise and in context with the sun, the more interesting question is when. Because the sun rises everywhere. But not at the same time.

  • Die Sonne geht in Berlin um 7 auf.
  • The sun rises at 7 in Berlin.
    (English again has the reverse order, because it is head first)

We could say

  • Die Sonne geht um 7 in Berlin auf.

But we’d have some tension and thus a rather strong focus on Berlin as opposed to elsewhere. It’s not wrong, but it’s not the most natural way to say it.
All right.
So I hope you got a first impression of the whole unicorn wisdom-approach. But of course it’s not quite that simple.

Getting less comfy with it

Let’s start right with an example:

  • geben
  • ich
  • einen Kuss
  • meiner Freundin
  • im Supermarkt
  • gestern

In English, we could assemble that to

  • I gave my girlfriend a kiss in the supermarket yesterday.

And in German? Well, the most relevant info for geben is certainly the answer to what. Like… if I said

  • I give

You’d probably ask what. So the kiss should be at the end, right before the verb. Cool. Now about the other stuff. Imagine I walk up to you and say

  • I gave a kiss.

the most natural question would be to whom. So my girlfriend should come right before kiss because the question-test suggests that it’s the next most rele… oh hold on, there’s the solution already.

  • Ich habe meiner Freundin gestern im Supermarkt einen Kuss gegeben.

Oh. Okay. … uhm…. the girlfriend comes kind of prematurely… I mean early. This is weird… uh… and what would happen if we moved her

  • Ich habe gestern im Supermarkt meiner Freundin einen Kuss gegeben.

Uh-huh…. I see. So there’s a slight emphasis there. So both positions seem to work okay and the first one, the one with the early girlfriend seems a teeny tiny bit more natural to me.
This is a bit irritating.
And in fact it’s not only here. Any example where there’s a transfer of sorts will have the receiver rather early in the default order.

  • Ich habe meinem Boss gestern beim Meeting  meine Meinung gesagt…. most natural
  • Ich habe gestern beim Meeting meinem Boss meine Meinung gesagt…. slight emphasis on boss.
  • I told my boss my opinion at the meeting yesterday.
  • Ich habe meiner Freundin vor zwei Wochen zum Geburtstag eine Waage gekauft…. most natural
  • Ich habe vor zwei Wochen zum Geburtstag meiner Freundin eine Waage gekauft…. sounds wrongish
  • I bought a scale for my girlfriend’s birthday two weeks ago.

This raised her eyebrow. And for us it raises some questions. Let’s raise some more.

 Getting quite uncomfy with it

It was stupid idea. The scale. My girlfriend wasn’t amused at all. And so I gave it away.

  • I gave the scale to a friend

It’s just geben and two elements so we should be good, rigtht? We can do that. The scale is the most defining element for geben so the natural order must be….

  • Ich habe die Waage einem Freund gegeben.

WHAT? This is totally the reverse of what I expected. And this is the default? What about the other way around?

  • Ich habe einem Freund die Waage gegeben.

Whaaaaaaat? Tension on friend?!?! I’m really starting to think German is trying to mess with me.
And there’s more. Take this example.

  • Ich habe am Montag im Supermarkt ein Brot gekauft.
  • I bought a loaf of bread in the supermarket on Monday.

This is nothing surprising. The most defining element for buying is certainly the info about what I buy and it comes where it should… at the end. What happens if we move it?

  • Ich habe ein Brot gestern im Supermarkt gekauft…unnatural

This isn’t a surprise either. We have a lot of tension here, which creates a lot of emphasis which only makes sense if we want to contrast the supermarket with something. Like… I bought my bread IN THE SUPERMARKET as opposed to THE BAKERY. But…All it takes to change everything is changing one little word.

  • Ich habe das Brot gestern im Supermarkt gekauft.

Poooooooof. All the tension unnatural tension is gone. The supermarket is the most relevant item here too. It’s at the end after all. But this is the default order now and having das Brot final is the version with unnatural tension.

  • Ich habe gestern im Supermarkt das Brot gekauft.

Everyone would be wondering  … “What bread?”.
And then, there’s of course that thing we’ve ignored all the time. The subject.  I mean… if I just said

  • drinks

wouldn’t be the natural reaction to ask who? Okay, well… I guess the most natural reaction is “Sure thing.”. But you know what mean.
So… at this point I think it’s totally natural to have reservations regarding unicorn wisdom. I would have them for sure. But unicorn wisdom isn’t to blame. It’s us. We’ve made a mistake. We forgot something. Because where there’s light, there is also shadow. Where there’s left, there’s also right. And where there’s late, there’s also early. Everything has two sides. Yin and Yang. We need to find the other side of unicorn wisdom. We have one part of the magical gem. We need the other part. For only together we can unlock their full power. So we shall venture out and meet again…. next week :).
Sorry for pulling a Hollywood franchise on you and making a part 3. I actually wanted to do just one post but that would have been really really superficial. And then I wanted to do just two posts but I am really bad at planning and I think we’ve done enough for today anyway.
I really hope this was not too detailed or too nerdy, so let me know in the comments if it was at least a little bit  helpful.  And of course if you have any questions please bombard me.
So… this was part two of our look at German word order and what we’ve done is… raise more questions than we answered :)
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

If you want to get to part 3, then head over here:

German Word Order – part 3 – “The pesky details”

If you need a break… go to your fridge. There’s a beer waiting.

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xyotox
xyotox
6 months ago

Regarding the comment I left on the very first article about word order… I think I should have read all of this things before asking if people are supposed to always follow the time-manner-place-rule.. Great articles! I think this stuff is the real key for starting talking German and make even the most complex grammar rules easy to digest. Thanks!

Adrian
Adrian
1 year ago

I’m hoping head final will start to come more naturally…

How does it work with “Es kam bei dem Feuer niemand ums Leben.” Normally the ‘um’ would come at the end? Is it because the ‘das Leben’ is merely adding to the umkommen? (assuming I’ve parsed the sentence correctly…)

Ich wunsche dir viel Spaß im Norwegen….

Adrian
Adrian
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

OK that makes a lot of sense – vielen Dank.

( secretly thinking MORE PREFIXES!! AARGH!!! …. :) )

NxOne
NxOne
1 year ago

Wow. This makes so much sense! Thank you so much for the unicorn wisdom, I think I understand german a little better now

chien.yuying
chien.yuying
1 year ago

Thank you for the posts. This clears out the major chaos stuck in my head for months… it hurts. Thanks for the unicorn magic even though it’s not perfect but so does Albus Dumbledore.

Esther
Esther
1 year ago

Thank you so much for such a thorough explanation on this topic. I learned the usual rules of sentence structure and grew frustrated when I was met with so many exception. It’s starting to make so much more sense to me now and explain all the exception I’ve encountered.

michele
michele
1 year ago

Oh my goodness, this sure explains why I (a native English speaker) feels so backwards reading German. How will I ever get used to the Head-last order!

Eldar
Eldar
2 years ago

Hey Emanuel, another awesome post. Just a minor error i noticed, you should flip the order of the two “I was tired in the office” examples to match the order of the equivalent German examples above. Greetings from California!

Yup
Yup
2 years ago

So my german life was a lie. I always thought that the general order for stuff (no noun or verb) is unless one is in first place

Time, manner, place, akk obj, dative obj (unless pronoun), verb seperable part. I was like right. This.

I never knew you could swap them or that thier instances where it needs to be swapped or swapping may cause word order struggle. So to check I got the post.

The tension part still confuses me though, really do. The last few sentences with the Freunde and gf especially. The bread instead of a bread. Mabye part 3 holds all the keys ;)

Here is a test of my understanding, it will belong so bear with me

1) Ich esse Im Hause einen Apfel (normal sentence)

1a) ich esse einen Apfel im Hause ( Help tension ), 1b and 1c, 1d will save the day

1b) ich esse den Apfel im Haus

1c) Ich esse einen Apfel Im Hause,aber keine Kartoffel

1d) Ich esse Im Haus den Apfel ( You destroyed it again 1d)

1e – a question) With reference to eating, if included an element of time, would it be equally relevent to the loction and swapping their order wont change a thing or cause tension?

I dont know what “Zum Frühstück” would count as. Time?

2) Ich schlafe um 7 uhr auf einem Bauernhof (okay)

2a) Ich schlafe auf einem Bauernhof um 7 uhr (not okay)

2b) Ich schlafe auf dem Bauernhof um 7 uhr und nicht Im Haus. (okay)

2c)Ich schlafe auf dem Bauernhof um 7 uhr (okay)

2d) Ich schlafe um 7 uhr auf dem Bauernhof (not okay)

3) General notes and questions

3a) if there is a tension, the sentence is still correct but wierd?

3b) Look forward to an equell painfully long comment on part 3 ;)

Yup
Yup
2 years ago
Reply to  Yup

This sentence is from your Sentence structure explained post. Did we chose me mir here first since it’s a personal pronoun?

Gestern hat mir Maria ein Buch gekauft.

Yup
Yup
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I suppose the reseon that all sentences in 2-series are that both time and location are very relevant while 1-series has more tension since “What” is much more relevant to “Essen” than “where”

Dankeschön

shauser31416
shauser31416
2 years ago
Reply to  Yup

Wunderbar explanation and examples. I came over from your 2019 advent calendar to read this. I find it amusing that rule-loving Germans do not have actual rules for word order. :)

Hans
Hans
3 years ago

Hallo Emmanuel,
ich habe einige Fragen von meine Übungen, die ich noch nicht klar finde. Es sind die Lösungen :
1. Sie hat gestern ihre Tasche im Zug vergessen.
2. Er brachte mir den geliehenen Mantel ins Hotel.
3. Der Gast überreichte der Dame des Hauses einen Blumenstrauß an der Wohnungstür.
4. Die junge Frau gab ihrem Mann zum Abschied einen Kuss an der Autotür.
5. Die Versammelten verurteilen einstimmig den Einmarsch fremder Truppen in ein ünabhängiges Land.
6. Du hast mir diese Geschichte schon gestern in der Mensa erzählt.
Warum ist die Position von ‘Lokal’ immer am Ende und nach dem Akkusativ-Objekt?

Hans
Hans
3 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Nein, Meine Lehrerin hat mir das gegeben. Das verwirrt uns sehr. Sie hat uns TeKaMoLo unterrichtet, aber gleich danach hat sie diesen Übungen gegeben.

Wie kann man wissen, dass der Ort relevanteste Information In Beispiel 1 ist? Wenn ich “vergessen” sage, soll man “was” fragen, nicht “wo”.

Außerdem habe ich noch einige Fragen.

1. Wir mussten schon bald wegen eines Unfalls eine ganze Stunde lang im Stau stehen
-> Warum steht “eine ganze Stunde lang (wann)” nach “why”, aber “schon bald (wann)” steht gleich nach dem Verb? Beides ist “wann”, aber warum ist die Position anders?

2. Andere Autofahrer haben sich mit uns lang und breit über die Verkehrsverhältnisse während der Urlaubszeit unterhalten
-> Warum steht “wann” am Ende? Ich glaube, das ist nicht die interessanteste/relevanteste Information.

3. Wir haben unterwegs eine längere Pause wegen einer Reifenpanne machen müssen
-> Warum ist die Wortstelleung so? Kannst du mir bitte erzählen?

4. Wir haben in der letzten Minute allen unseren Freunde eine hübsche Karte von unserem Urlaubsort geschrieben
-> Warum steht “allen unseren Freunde” nach “wann”?

5. Wir haben uns unseren Urlaub genau so immer vorgestellt
-> Warum steht “immer” am Ende?

Vielen Dank!

Yup
Yup
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Sie hat gestern ihre Tasche im Zug vergessen.

I was reading this (the Beispel from the original sentence) and I cannot really understand why “Location” is more important here. When I hear the word “forget”. I would normally think of “what” first.

I think the reason is “im Zug”. Since if it was at home, it wouldn’t be as big of a deal?

I can understand the reasoning in Beispeil 2 (transfer of things therefore object first)

However, I got no clue on hint 5

tbhatti
tbhatti
4 years ago

Emmanuel, I got super confused with the training in the park example because I thought that the (second/other) verb always came at the end and then we work backwards to put the most important element of the sentence before the verb. But this example is obviously an exception? Otherwise, I found it super useful to understand it based on how you explained the head last concept. Thanks!!

tbhatti
tbhatti
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ah got it and yes it does! thank you!

Michael_Classical
Michael_Classical
4 years ago

Hi Emmanuel,

You lay down the general principle: “the more interesting, relevant and defining something is, the later it comes.”

So how does this apply to following?

(1) Schön ist es hier.
(2) Hier ist es schön.

Apparently (1) emphasizes more the pleasantness of the place, whereas (2) emphasizes the location of the place (as opposed to elsewhere). Based on your article, I thought it would be the converse?

Thanks :)

Michael_Classical
Michael_Classical
4 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thank you, Sir!

Sharonloh
Sharonloh
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Hi Emmanuel,

Schön ist es HIER 

So I understand that moving “schön” to the beginning where it’s not its natural habitat creates a special emphasis. And I also understand that since “hier” is moved to the end of the sentence, it’s also more defined.

I am a bit slow here, sorry – which is emphasized in this sentence then? Does it mean that it entirely depends on the tone when speaking?

Thank you!

Sharonloh
Sharonloh
1 year ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Okay! I get it now! Thank you so much for your explanation! :)

Fabrice Ward
Fabrice Ward
6 years ago

Super, that’s fun. I’m currently studying B1.2 and trying to get my head around the very strange german sentence structure. I’ve been randomly organising sentences according to what sounded best to me, but haven’t had any kind of rule. I came across TEKAMOLO and so thought to find out about it as something potentially useful, and a Google search got me to this article. I’m delighted to hear that there are no rules though, as having them seems like a surefire way to take all the fun away. English and French are languages that you can play with and be creative, so I’m glad to hear that German is too. In England we advise to “learn the rules first and then break them”, so there’s definitely a place for ideas like TEKAMOLO. It’s just nice to know that they’re not set in stone. Thanks for the unicorn approach. It definitely makes sense to me.

Andy Law
Andy Law
7 years ago

Hilarious. I’m enjoying learning German word order. Never thought I’d say that.

shero1234eg@yahoo.com

After the tekamolo rule and its modifications, you said “there’s no rules to order words in a sentence ”! Do you mean “No valid rule”,or“No optimal rule ”?

Wayne
Wayne
7 years ago

Hello,

I also really enjoy your blog. This blog is by far the most informative, insightful, and fun to read blog out there! Great job on making learning German extra fun!! I’d like to say that this is my favorite blog from your site, but I’d be lying because I do love them all. :-)

I have, however, a question regarding the unicorn wisdom & its reverse counterpart. I love these two guidelines, but I still wonder how they explain the non-side sentence structure, e.g. Ich gehe in den Park. Is there any explanation or insight that you could share on this topic?

Brightstar
Brightstar
7 years ago

I REALLY appreciate your comparison of German sentences with their English version and pointing out the differences in their construction. It no only enlightens me on the new German concept but it also helps me understand what it is behind the English construction that I hadn’t questioned before.

For me, awareness of the differences helps me during the storage and retrieval process.

Thank you for your dedication and excellent blog. Looking forward to having access to the compilation of your work.

Brightstar

sam
sam
7 years ago

I love your blog. It is a cavern of wonderous space-unicorn wisdom.
One thing-the infix in “de-freaking-nitely”I dunno why but defi-freaking-nitely feels better (like abso-fucking-lutely). Not to be a pedant- your English is sublime and replete with expert whimsy- the infix thing just struck me as curious.
Thank you for the word order intuition bomb. Much needed!

Jo
Jo
7 years ago

Thanks, Emanuel, this is another great post! The word order makes sooo much more sense now!
Oh and by the way while you’re fixing typos, “I bought a bred” should be either “I bought bread” or “I bought a loaf of bread”…
…which I’m sure you know, it’s the kind of mistake one makes when tired. :) Actually I’m heartened to know those little differences like “ein Brot” vs “bread” sometimes trip up even really fluent speakers like you – I’m one of those people who is afraid to speak at all until I can do it perfectly, but I can see now that thinking like that would mean I’d never speak German at all…

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I’m not sure if there’s much logic to which nouns are count and non-count in English, either. None of the ones you list work in English – you need an item name for all of them (a carton/jug/bottle of milk, a stick of butter, a jug/carton of cream, a tub of cream cheese). Of course, you can always use “some,” or “a thing of _____” (my personal favorite).

That said, you actually can say “a bread” or “breads” – you’re just referring to one or more kinds of bread.

– I found a sunflower-seed bread at the bakery that looked tasty, so I picked up a loaf.
– My favorite breads tend to be dark with a thick crust.

You can apply that principle to a lot of non-count stuff and some countable nouns too – “more wine” vs. “another wine,” or “many fish” vs. “many fishes.”

Hmm… das hätte ich auch auf Deutsch schreiben sollen…

alexviajero
alexviajero
7 years ago
Reply to  berlingrabers

Just a note on fish vs. fishes. Plural “fish” can mean many of one type or of several types of fish. “Fishes” is always only used if you’re trying to make the point that you have a variety of “types” of fish. Many fish in the sea = fish in general. Many fishes in the sea = lots of varieties (trout + sharks + salmon etc). There are five goldfish in a tank could never be “there are 5 fishes” but rather “there are five fish.” Best to not use the word “fishes” unless it is very clear that you’re emphasizing the point that there are lots of different varieties of the animal, otherwise it sounds awkward (since “fish” can also be plural for describing multiple varieties), so “fishes” always sounds awkward or wrong unless it’s very clear that a main point is that there are multiple types of fish, and not just multiple fish. :-)

berlingrabers
7 years ago
Reply to  alexviajero

This is true – it’s really interesting that “fish/es” is so like a lot of non-count nouns in that way. “Wines” never means units of wine (bottles or glasses); it always refers to different types. (“Beers” is hazier territory – a bottle or glass of beer is very commonly called “a beer,” at least in American usage, a lot like what Jo describes below.) But you wouldn’t talk about “many sheeps in the pastures” or “many deers/mooses in the forest” to indicate a variety of species.

Jo
Jo
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

lol – “half bred”! :D
Ok you got me there! (“Du hast mich da”?? Kann man das sagen?) Ich werde auf Deutsch schreiben… ich kann nicht viel sagen aber ich werde es versuchen. Ich brauche sicher die Praxis. :)
Ich bin peinlich bewusst, dass ich wie zu sagen etwas nicht weiß. Ich weiß, dass etwas falsch ist aber ich weiß nicht wie zu richtig sagen. So entschuldige bitte mein furchtbares Deutschglisch… Ich hoffe, dass du es verstehen kann.

Jo
Jo
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Das ist interessant über die zählbaren Substantive. Ich wusste nicht, dass man sagen kann, “eine Sahne” etc. Auf Englisch, ist meist nur wenn Essen und Getränke bestellen. So kann man sagen, “a milk”, meint “ein Glas Milch” (und “a water”, “a beer”). Auch kann man sagt, “I’ll have a garlic bread”, meint das “eine Portion Knoblauchbrot”. (Aber man kann “a toast” oder “a bread” nicht bestellen – es ist willkürlich.) Aber ich würde “a soup” nicht bestellen. (Obwohl als anderes sagen, “a bread” order “a soup” meint “ein Art dem Brot” oder “eine Art der Suppe”; Kürbissuppe, Tomatensuppe, etc. Also könnte ich sagen, “I’ll have one of the soups, but I’m not sure which”)

aliaaliaalia
aliaaliaalia
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

I’m pretty sure I’ve ordered “a soup” before. Or at least used it in the context of, “What do you want to eat?” “I don’t know, probably a soup.” or, after someone else ordered a soup, “Oh! I want a soup too!” I think more often it’s “the soup,” or something else to distinguish it (“Can I have a carrot soup and…..?”).

jag041
jag041
7 years ago

Hey Emmanuel,
In letzter Zeit habe ich ein deutsches Buch gelesen, in dem es häufig “als ist der…” statt “als der… ist” geht, und das finde ich ein bisschen verwirrend.
Was ist eine akkurate Übersetzung dafür? (auf Englisch auf jeden Fall)
Das Buch ist eigentlich schon eine Übersetzung von englischen Vorträgen, die von einem amerikanischen Komponist ausgeführt werden, aber da ich Deutsch lerne, lese ich den deutschen Text.
Manchmal schreiben sie auch “ich aber bin Komponist” oder so… Steht Wörter manchmal zwischen dem Verb und dem Subjekt so? Oder ist das nur sehr umgangssprachlich? Das ist noch was neues für mich.

Vielen Dank wieder im Voraus!

jag041
jag041
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ich suche ein Beispiel, es aber ist ziemlich häufig in dieses Buch. ;)
Es ist ein neueres Buch (von 2013 oder so) aber es ist auch ziemlich akademisch.

jag041
jag041
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

haha
Ich habe die “Box-Model”-Post ein paar Mal gelesen, ich verstehe, dass das auf Deutsch möglich ist.
“Betreten kann man den Mond nicht ohne eine Rakete”
“Schwimmen kann man nicht ohne Wasser”
Geht so?

Ashish Vinayak
Ashish Vinayak
7 years ago

This has been super helpful, and an interesting read. I look forward to more. I like some logic of this sort to word order in German. Although it has confused the shit out of me I think this one post has been more helpful to me, than 1.5 years of German learning. Not exaggerating.