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Verb Position rule

In German the verb always come either at the 2nd position or at the 1st position in a sentence.

i) Verb at the 2nd position

In simple sentences, statements and W-question (questions starting with question words like what,
why, where, how many, how long etc…… Such questions expect specific information in answers)
verb comes at the 2nd place in a sentence.

Zum Beispiel (for example):

1 2 3

Ich wohne in Vellore.

Was studierst du?

In German, subject’s position can be flexible. It may come at the beginning of the sentence of
immediately after the verb. This mean the sentence can start with any word other than the subject
also. Consider following examples:

Am Montag gehe ich nicht zur Uni. (On Monday I’ll not go to the university)

Zur Uni gehe ich nicht am Montag. (To the university I’ll not go on Monday)

Ich gehe nicht zur Uni am Montag. (I’ll not go to the university on Monday)

In all the above sentences other than the verb all other words are changing their position. Only
verb’s position has remained constant.

ii) Verb at the 1st position

In yes/no questions (questions which unlike w-que do not expect any specific information, and can
be answered in just yes or no) and imperative sentences (sentences to give command, suggestion or
to make requests) verb comes at the 1st position.

Zum Beispiel:

1. Yes/no que

1.1 Studierst du Deutsch? (Do you study German?)

1.2 Kommt dein Bruder heute? (Is your brother coming today?)

2. Imperative sentence

2.1 Lesen Sie den Satz! (Read the sentence!)

2.2 Kommen Sie zum Unterricht puenktlich! (Come to the class on time!)
Things to remember:

1. It is important that when you count verb position do not count word-wise, rather unit-wise.

Zum Beispiel:

Ich spiele Fußball.

In this sentence even if we count word wise, the verb is at the right place, which is 2nd place. But
consider the following example:

Meine Schwester schwimmt gern. (My sister enjoys swimming or she loves swimming)

In this sentence if we count the position of the verb word-wise, then it appears to be at the 3rd place,
which is not the case. ‘Meine’ and ‘Schwester’ make one unit of subject. They will not be considered
as two distinct words but as one unit of subject to determine the position of the verb. Even in
English or any other language you cannot say like ‘My likes sister swimming’. ‘My sister’ is one unit
and whatever comes after it will be considered at 2nd place.

Another example:

Zur Uni gehe ich nicht morgen. (Tomorrow I’ll not go to the university)

Again in this sentence ‘Zur Uni’ (to the university) is one unit, which cannot be separated.

2. In German there is no concept of helping verb in present tense (and also in future tense). So, while
translating a sentence from English to German, you will not translate the helping verb.

Z.B.

He is playing – Er spielt.

Some students may translate this sentence as ‘Er ist spielt’, which will be wrong. So, while
translating you have to think this sentence as ‘He palying’.

Some more examples:

I do not live in Kerala – Ich wohne nicht in Kerala.

Here you will not look up for the German equivalent of the helping verb ‘do/does’. Same will be the
case with all English helping verbs.

Now consider the following two sentences:

A. He is playing – Er spielt.
B. He is a teacher – Er ist Lehrer

In sentence (A) we have not translated the verb ‘is’, because it is a helping verb, but in the sentence
(B) ‘is’ is the main verb and not the helping verb, that is why we have translated it here.