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I was looking to translate the following sentence, which describes a state, then lists several actions that are carried out:

Exhausted from her perilous flight, she sheds her wings, …

I got to

Ermüdet durch ihren gefahrvollen Flug, sie wirft ihre Flügel ab, …

when my grammar senses started tingling. I’ve Googled to the moon and back, and checked in a couple of grammar books but can’t be sure what to look for: should the sie wirft be wirft sie?

My gut says yes, but I’m still not sure. What “grammar rule” does this fall under?

  • Welcome to the German Language StackExchange. You can take a look at the tour and the help center if you need assistance with this site. Have fun :-) – hiergiltdiestfu Dec 3 '15 at 14:14
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    Your gut is absolutely correct, btw.! – Stephie Dec 3 '15 at 14:44
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    Thanks Stephie. I've come to believe this is because of the "verb in second position" rule, and that, because it is closed by a comma, "Ermüdet durch ihren gefahrvollen Flug," effectively takes up position 1. – Matt Dec 3 '15 at 14:54
  • @Stephie y u no answer :( – hiergiltdiestfu Dec 3 '15 at 15:03
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Yes, you need to write wirft sie.

If you deconstruct the sentence, you will realise that durch ihren gefahrvollen Flug is superfluous and we could shorten it to:

Ermüdet wirft sie ihre Flügel ab, …

And then we realise that ermüdet is nothing more than a participle which functions as an adverb here and can be moved around like anything else:

Sie wirft ermüdet ihre Flügel ab, …

Sie wirft ihre Flügel ermüdet ab, …

Since the extended participle ermüdet … occupies the first position, the finite verb must be in second.

By the way, it is not necessary to add a comma between Flug and wirft. The comma would only be mandatory if the participle construction is inserted or appended to the main clause as per § 77 (7) of the official German orthographic rules. Thus:

Sie wirft, ermüdet durch ihren gefahrvollen Flug, ihre Flügel ab, …

Sie wirft ihre Flügel ab, ermüdet durch ihren gefahrvollen Flug, …

The comma is optional for preceding participles as per § 78 (3):

Ermüdet durch ihren gefahrvollen Flug(,) wirft sie ihre Flügel ab, …

Leaving out the comma makes it clearer that we are dealing with a single sentence and the verb is required to be put before sie. But beware: Even if we extend the participle into a subordinate clause (which has an obligatory comma after it), the main clause’s verb must come next:

Weil sie durch ihren gefahrvollen Flug ermüdet ist, wirft sie ihre Flügel ab, …

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It should be wirft sie: This puts the verb in second position as it should be, if you regard the phrase Ermüdet durch ihren gefahrvollen Flug as one part of speech.

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  • Thanks Martin, when Stephie commented on my post to say that I was right, this was the justification I began to take on board. Glad to have it confirmed. – Matt Dec 3 '15 at 14:55
  • @Matt Great, I saw your comment one second after I posted my answer. – Martin Peters Dec 3 '15 at 14:56

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