Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Which of the following has the proper syntax?

Ein Mörder er ist!

Ein Mörder ist er!

Er ist ein Mörder!

share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The first is wrong. That's something Yoda would say.

The other two are correct. You'd use the second one if you want to emphasize that he's a murderer as opposed to, say, a nice guy.

share|improve this answer
english.stackexchange.com/questions/25858/… what-term-can-be-used-to-describe-yodas-speech –  Hauser Aug 7 '11 at 22:22

The first one is not correct, at least not in conversations nowadays.

If it's from a medieval context or similar, that might be appropriate to use. "Herr, ein Mörder er ist, wisset darum!" I am not sure how this kind of speech is called, it's an overformalized way, bards or heralds would've used it I think.

share|improve this answer
Sehet, wie gut ihm diese Antwort gelungen ist! Seems like the language of the Jedi was inspired by this... –  Hauser Aug 7 '11 at 11:48
@Hauser. No Yoda would say: Seht, wie gut diese Antwort gelungen ihm ist. –  bernd_k Aug 7 '11 at 12:28
@bernd lol right, i referred it to the general Jedi. Afaik only Yoda uses this abnormal syntax(?), the other Jedis and medieveal Knights in movies use this 3rd Person stlye to speak in dialogues. Quite funny when they court a woman :) –  Hauser Aug 7 '11 at 15:10

The first case is not too uncommon as a special for of topicalisation, although it is rather used with a definite article and possibly with punctuation markers between the topic and its pronoun. Ie. you could say

Der Axtmörder, er ist wieder da.

Another example from http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topikalisierung:

Das Buch, das lese ich bestimmt nochmal.

Similar, but this time not with the subject but with the accusative object. (Note the obligatory use of das instead of a pronoun as accusative es may not precede a finite verb: ‘*es lese ich bestimmt nochmal.’)

There is a thread which discusses its use in an article of Der Spiegel:

Der Vater der drei jüngsten Brüder – er brach schluchzend zusammen.

I this thread, the construction is also more specifically referred to as casus pendens. A google search reveals that it is rather common in bible translations as it seems to be a rather common language feature of (biblical?) hebrew and other semitic languages.

share|improve this answer

The first form is incorret. The finite verb is always at the second position in a German sentence. Usually the first position is obtained by the subject, although it can also be another part of the sentence to emphasise that part. Then the subject is positioned right after the finite verb.

@Debilski: Your reasoning is not correct - just look at your examples: those are parataxises with the "topic part" being ellipsises.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.