In German, most sentences have a simple structure: subject, verb, object.

Ich liebe dich.

But there are some verbs such as gefallen or gelingen, where this structure doesn't apply. Instead, the word order is Es gefällt mir or Es gelingt mir, with the object es in the first position, and the subject mir in the third position, and the DATIVE case. (The verb is still in the second spot.)

What is this kind of construction called in German?

Is it true that most of these verbs begin with ge-, and would there be a reason for this?

Are there more common examples of such constructions? How might I look them up?

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    Can you back up your claim about most sentences with some numbers? – user unknown Sep 6 '11 at 13:27

Is it true that most of these verbs begin with ge-, and would there be a reason for this?

For your examples, I always find a counterexample with 'miss-':

  • es misslingt mir
  • es missfällt mir

aber auch ein

  • Dir misstrau ich

without Dir getrau ich, but Dir vertrau ich, which leads to many more constructs with ver~. But I didn't count them.

Other constructs:

  • es reicht mir
  • es langt mir
  • es schmeckt mir
  • es schmeichelt mir ...

without prefix.

  • OK, perhaps the "operative" words are "lingen" and "fällen," which can take on a either a positive "ge-" or a negative "miss-" prefix. – Tom Au Sep 6 '11 at 13:36
  • Interesting examples. Do at least some of them take ge- Gesmäckt, gelangen, or do I have wrong forms of your words? – Tom Au Sep 6 '11 at 14:21
  • Zu einer besseren Antwort hat es nicht gereicht. Nur über Übung gelangt man zur Meisterschaft. Es hat mir geschmeckt. Ich fühle mich geschmeichelt. - All examples need restructuring, to allow a prefix 'ge-', in case of geschmeckt, geschmeichelt and gereicht for the past tense. But I'm very unsure. I guess I'm quiete good in language usage and examples, but poor in rules, terms and explanation. – user unknown Sep 6 '11 at 14:49

The structure also applies to your samples. In "Es gefällt mir", Es is the subject, and mir is the object. You can even reverse the order to "Mir gefällt es", and still es is the subject in nominative and Mir is the object in dative case. There is no strict subject-predicate-object order in German.

  • exactly - for details on Wortstellung, see here and here. – tohuwawohu Sep 6 '11 at 15:56
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    No, this answer is a little disingenuous. Tom has a legitimate question which you are turning around on a technicality. This structure is indeed a bit peculiar, and the fact that we cannot easily and precisely describe what that structure is, does not make it any less so. – Marty Green Sep 6 '11 at 21:33
  • "There is no strict subject-predicate-object order in German." Sums it up nicely. – Stephie Nov 18 '14 at 9:14

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