German Cases — Understanding verbs, subjects, and objects

If you’re reading this, you’re under 40 years old, and you’re from an English-speaking country, you probably have at least two things in common with most of the readers of this blog. You’re interested in learning German or improving your German. The other thing is that you never really learned English grammar. Sure you just know it, you grew up with it and now you’re learning German and it all seems so confusing.

The good news is that German grammar isn’t that difficult in the big scheme of things. The start is hard, because there are more rules, but there are fewer exceptions to those rules. And again, I want to emphasize that you simply try. Speak whenever and wherever you can.

We’ve moved. You’ll find the full article here:



  1. There is always an exception… I am nearly 50, from Switzerland but brought up in England and in my days at school we were taught grammar! I love your blog and brilliant explanations, much clearer than any text book! Thank you!

  2. That is a tough subject to tackle… even more so when it it boiled down into one article… so chapeau for that.
    A minor nitpick though: I think that for sentences with a transfer the general order would have time before the direct object, if the subject is in position one.

    Ich habe meiner Mutter gestern ein Buch geschenkt.
    Ich gebe meinem Bruder ein bisschen Geld heute abend.

    Shifting the time behind the direct object sounds even a bit wrong to me. Also manner and place after the direct object do not feel that natural but it is not as strong.
    I don’t really know how to modify this general structure, … I always just say “time as early as possible and place as late as possible, but not even that will guarantee for a nice sounding sentence. I think the verb wants to have exactly 1 object (indirect or direct) very close by and then can come all the manner and place stuff before the other object (if there is one) closes the “object-parantheses” … It is really complex because there are so many special cases and I think one has to just get used to it… but the system you suggested (S-V-iO-O-T-M-P) will lead to weird sounding phrases ALL the time and I think you should change it.
    But appart from that good article, and I think it’s great that you include exercises 🙂

  3. […] German Word Order  47.395098 8.510153 Share this:EmailPrintFacebookTwitterDiggStumbleUponLinkedInRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. […]

  4. Joan Dolan · · Reply

    I’m a native English speaker just starting to study German. Is there any place I could the correct answers to the exercises. That would help me so much.

  5. Joan Dolan · · Reply

    Sorry. I left a word out of my question. The question is is there any place I could find the correct answer to the exercises.

    1. Will post the answers in the morning. Gute Nacht 🙂

      1. Lösungen:
        1. Verb = mag
        2. Subjekt = (Der Schweizer Akrobat) Freddy Nock
        3. Frage: Was mag Freddy Nock?

        1. Verb = ist
        2. Nein, sein braucht kein Objekt
        3. Nominativ & Genitiv

        1. Verb = ist … gelaufen
        2. Subjekt = Nock
        3. Ort = In fast 3000 Metern Höhe

        1. Verb = hat … gebraucht
        2. Subjekt = er
        3. Frage: Was hat er gebraucht?

        1. Verb = tut
        2. Subjekt = der 47-Jährige
        3. Frage: Was tut der 47-Jährige?

        1. Verb = machen
        2. Subjekt = sie
        3. Objekt Frage: Was machen sie?
        4. Indirektes Objekt Frage: Wem machen sie Spass?

  6. […] Understanding German Sentence Structure […]

  7. […] Before we start, remember the first thing about understanding a German sentence is understanding the verb. Isolate the verb, see how it’s conjugated and then you’ll be easily able to locate the subject. (Read this post for a full lesson on understanding German sentences). […]

  8. maya menon · · Reply

    Excellent site – this really helps – I am struggling to learn this language at the age of 45 😦

    1. Danke fürs positive Feedback. Wenn Du Fragen hast, kannst Du sie uns per E-Mail senden. Wir tun unser Bestes sie schnell zu beantworten. Toi toi toi beim Lernen.

  9. Vielen vielen dank! Mein Gehirn ist ein bisschen großer. Das ist SO schwer für mich…und Sie haben das besser gemacht. xoxo -Julie

  10. Thank you, that is by far the clearest explanation of the 4 cases I have read. I have been really struggling with this but thanks to you I think I will finally get my head around this. Thanks again for taking the trouble to explain it in such a clear way! 🙂

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