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I'm having some trouble getting used to placing the second verb in a phrase at the end.

Sie kann sehr gut deutsch sprechen

Taking the above sentence as an example, I find it hard to read because you don't know that "sprechen" is involved until you reach the very end, and only then does the sentence make sense. Before that, it reads as "She can very good German…" Is this OK or should I look at the final position to see what the verb is?

Is this something that I'll just get used to as I practice more German and read more? Are there any tricks that will make the process easier?

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2 Answers 2

You definately have to get used to it :). Anyway, when I observe myself I have to say that I can anticipate the second verb most of the time. In your example I would assume sprechen as soon as I hear Deutsch. If I knew the person and we are talking in a context of languages anyway I would probably know by the gut. This is mainly because I have heard this pattern many times and I am used to it :). Sometimes I try to dub my girlfriends sentences to piss her of, and at latest at the end of a phrase we are talking at the same time because I know by then what exactly she is saying.

But of course the guess can be wrong which will give me a moment of surprise... I sometimes find that a bit amusing. There are millions of examples where you really can't tell what's gonna come or if there is to be a nicht at the end. This is the reason why politicians in Germany do not interrupt one another as often as in other countries. I think they would love to but they can't. They also know how to delay the verb as long as possible and cram more and more information into their sentence and the opposing politician is on the edge of his seat, but he can't do anything...

So you need not be scared. Read a lot and read out loud to yourself. You will get the flow and eventually you will be an expert.

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I had a question related to that.

It's one of the aspects of the German language that may be strange for foreign people learning it - sometimes you don't know the meaning of the sentence until you reach the end - or even worse, the meaning is different before you reach it.

I guess you know the German rock band Rammstein and their famous song Du hast:

Du hast

Du hast mich

Du hast mich gefragt

Someone from the US aked me to translate the song for him and I said, that it's not translatable, since it intentionally plays with this aspect of our language to suggest different meanings:

You have / You hate (hast has the same sound than hasst from hassen = to hate)

You hate me

You have asked me

So it's ok to look at the end of such sentences, but I fear there isn't any trick to deal with it. If you read, you'll get used to such constructs even with long sentences and in spoken language sentences are usually not long enough to forget what it started with.

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Could be worse, in Japanese the verb comes always at the end :-) –  Landei Mar 6 '12 at 9:07

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