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I am confused about the word order for

Glücklicherweise hat mich jemand hereingelassen.

In English, you would say:

Luckily, someone has let me inside

but then why isn’t the German sentence:

Glücklicherweise hat jemand mich hereingelassen?

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4 Answers 4

up vote -2 down vote accepted

The standard order for German sentences is Subject Verb Object. That would be

(S)Mich (V)hat (O)jemand (V)hereingelassen.

Usually the subject (mich) always comes first.

Ich schreibe ein Buch.

You could say.

Ein Buch schreibe ich.

But that would only be valid if somebody was asking

Was schreibst du denn?

And even then you’d only use that to stress that it’s a book that you are writing. Rather than stressing that you are busy writing, a book.

Glücklicherweise hat mich jemand herein gelassen.

This is also passive and past tense.

Active would be.

(S)Jemand (V)ließ (O)mich herein.


(O)Mich (V)ließ (endlich) (S)jemand herein, (nachdem ich zwei Stunden gewartet hatte).

Which again is still possible. But only if you wanted to stress that somebody finally let you in and in relation to the other sentence part.

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Two things grossly wrong here. "Mich" is NOT the subject in your example sentence, it is still the object, it just happens to be in initial position. Also, all the examples are ACTIVE voice, there is no passive in any of them. – wolfgang Mar 13 '14 at 1:44
SVO is not the standard word order in German. Not even close. – Jan Jun 10 at 20:29

Both forms are grammatically correct. However, the first one sounds more natural to me (as a native speaker). I would guess the reason is focus. Since jemand is not specific, it is odd to put focus on it. This is what the second version does. Things would look different if the sentence were

Glücklicherweise hat Maria mich hereingelassen (and not Hans).

In this case it sounds completely natural, even though switching Maria and mich would still be OK.

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You can get a version that only works for subject first if you replace Maria by "sie" – Emanuel Mar 5 '14 at 10:02
I'm not sure if I agree. Of course, the "mich sie" combination would be very conspicuous, but if you put a lot of emphasis on "SIE" (and add in your mind "und nicht ER"), it sounds OK to me. But obviously, this is a quite artificial scenario. I just wanted to make the point that both word orders are conceivable. – Matt L. Mar 5 '14 at 10:06
I agree - both word orders are possible, but they are quite different in emphasis. – Hulk Mar 5 '14 at 10:12
I also think rhythm plays a role here. I find "HAT mich JEmand" easier to pronounce than "HAT JEmand mich", because the capitalized syllables are stressed, and it makes pronunciation easier to separate them with the unstressed "mich". The first version produces a nice up-and-down rhythm. – elena Mar 5 '14 at 10:20
As a native speaker, "Glücklicherweise hat jemand mich herein gelassen?" would sound to me as if you want to emphasize the almost surprising fact someone let you in, e.g. if you are in a bad mood because you hat to wait too long, or if you didn't expect someone to be there. – Marcus Bitzl Mar 5 '14 at 10:25

Different combinations of the parts of a sentence are possible and correct.

These sentences are usual:

Glücklicherweise hat mich jemand herein gelassen.

Jemand hat mich glücklicherweise herein gelassen.

Mich hat glücklicherweise jemand herein gelassen.

You start the sentence with the part on which you want to put emphasis.

Also, you can say:

Glücklicherweise hat jemand mich herein gelassen. (Because it is so important, that I am here now.)

This would be correct too, but sounds a bit strange:

Herein hat mich glücklicherweise jemand gelassen. (Hinaus muss ich selber finden.)

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Good to see the full spectrum including that Jemand hat mich glücklicherweise herein gelassen is possible. That structure is easier for an English native to construct in regards to the jemand/mich order. – user5105 Mar 12 '14 at 2:54
Am I right in saying the sentiment could be expressed as 'glücklicherweise, war ich von jemand hereinlassen'? – Cochrane Jun 10 at 11:34
@Cochrane No, not correct, but almost. The correct version would be: "Glücklicherweise wurde ich von jemandem hereingelassen." – splattne Jun 10 at 11:59

The word order in German sentences is essentially free, as long as the finite verb occupies the second position and the remaining part of the verb the last position (with exceptions). So all of these and more are valid:

Jemand hat mich glücklicherweise hereingelassen.
Herein hat mich glücklicherweise jemand gelassen.
Mich hat glücklicherweise jemand hereingelassen.
Glücklicherweise hat jemand mich hereingelassen.
Glücklicherweise hat mich jemand hereingelassen.
Mich hat jemand glücklicherweise hereingelassen.
Jemand hat glücklicherweise mich hereingelassen.

And I’m too bored now to carry on.

The basic picture is: If you want to put emphasis on something, you would usually pull it before the verb (into the Vorfeld). In your example, the main emphasis is on luckily so that should be first.

There are subtle guidelines as to which order may or may not seem more natural for the remaining components. For example, I wouldn’t separate hereingelassen unless I was pulling herein into the Vorfeld. But apart from that it’s really ‘anything goes’ with some variants more common and others less common.

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