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In today's German course, we learned the order of "Dative" and "Accusative" after a verb. The four sentences below, 1.1 - 1.4, are correct and have the same logical meaning:

1.1 Frau Schneider schenkt ihrem Vater einen Hund.

1.2 Frau Schneider schenkt ihn ihrem Vater.

1.3 Frau Schneider schenkt ihm einen Hund.

1.4 Frau Schneider schenkt ihn ihm.

Accordingly the four sentences below are also correct (correct me if wrong) with the same logical meaning:

2.1 Schenkt Frau Schneider ihrem Vater einen Hund?

2.2 Schenkt Frau Schneider ihn ihrem Vater?

2.3 Schenkt Frau Schneider ihm einen Hund?

2.4 Schenkt Frau Schneider ihn ihm?

I wonder since the subjective, when as a noun in a question sentence, should exchange with a pronoun dative (eg, Gefällt mir die Farbe?), in the second group (2.1 - 2.2), should or could "Frau Schneider" swap its position with the nouns or pronouns behind it?

For example, is

Schenkt ihm Frau Schneider einen Hund?

a correct sentence with the same meaning as 2.3?

A group of these examples which I do not know if right or wrong include:

3.2 Schenkt ihn Frau Schneider ihrem Vater?

3.3 Schenkt ihm Frau Schneider einen Hund?

3.4.1 Schenkt ihn Frau Schneider ihm?

3.4.2 Schenkt ihn ihm Frau Schneider?

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As long as you respect the verb position, the word order in a German sentence is generally free. All you want to be aware of, is that some word orders introduce tension or emphasis into the sentence — and some sentences are so full of tension that they sound ‘wrong’ although they technically aren’t. Thus, all your examples are correct. And funnily enough, they don’t even carry much tension in them either, so they sound rather natural.

What you want to do is keep track of a set of generalised rules that serve to reduce tension by fulfilling expectations a German has towards a sentence. Some of these would be:

  • Subject before object. Usually, the subject is expected to be before the object to reduce tension.

  • Theme before Rheme. The Theme is what is already established, the rheme is the new information. Put the theme (which is often the subject) first, to reduce tension.

  • Short before long. Because pronouns are usually context dependent, they are often considered known and can thus be put earlier. But this rule is not restricted to pronouns, it applies to all sorts of things.

  • Dative before accusative. I can’t really explain why here, but it seems more natural, generally.

  • If you want to emphasise one single thing only, put it in its most unusual position (for everything that’s not the subject that would be in front).

Going by these rules:

  • 3.2 Is fine. Theme before rheme and short before long allow the placement of the object before Frau Schneider.

  • 3.3 Equivalent discussion as above.

  • 3.4.1 Here, short before long refuses and says that one short fragment is before one long fragment. Theme before rheme is also confused because we have so many possible themes. Subject before object is also unhappy. And dative before accusative likewise. The sentence is possible, and guessing emphasis I would put it on ihm — yes that is a contradiction of emphasis first.

  • 3.4.2 Short before long is content, dative before accusative and subject before object are not. Theme before rheme may be. It is still possible but even less likely than the former one. Emphasis would be on Frau Schneider.

  • Die Variationen "Schenkt einen Hund/ihn Frau Schneider ihrem Vater/ihm?" und "Schenkt einen Hund/ihn ihrem Vater/ihm Frau Schneider" all sound wrong. And I'd never suggest that this could be acceptable (much less to a non-native speaker), but your answer does. It's correct, though, that the sentence are technically possible and understandable, but they are very clumsy and you need to read them a second time to understand them. – Em1 Dec 18 '15 at 8:16
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Yes, the question is also correct. The meaning is quite similar but 2.3 focusses more on Frau Schneider and your example rather concentrates on the Dativ object. But the exact meaning still depends on the pronounciation.

Schenkt ihm Frau Schneider einen Hund?

-> Asks whether Frau Schneider is the one who gives him a dog

Schenkt ihm Frau Schneider einen Hund?

-> Asks whether Frau Schneider's present is a dog or anything else.

But with this order you cannot concentrate the question on the Dativ object so on the person that is given the present. However, this is possible with 2.3

Schenkt Frau Schneider ihm einen Hund?

-> Asks whether he (ihm) is the one that Frau Schneider gives the dog to.

  • Thanks~ What about: "Schenkt ihn Frau Schneider ihrem Vatter?" "Schenkt ihn ihm Frau Schneider?"? Are these correct? Any other order allowed other than these? – YNG Dec 17 '15 at 22:15
  • "Schenkt ihn Frau Schneider ihrem Vater?" is correct, It's similar to the last example that I've mentioned so it focuses on the father so whether he is the one who gets the dog. "Schenkt ihn ihm Frau Schneider" is indeed wrong. Btw: Vater is spelled with just one t – Giraffe Dec 17 '15 at 22:17
  • Thanks! "2.1 Schenkt Frau Schneider ihrem Vater einen Hund? 2.2 Schenkt Frau Schneider ihn ihrem Vater? 2.3 Schenkt Frau Schneider ihm einen Hund? 2.4 Schenkt Frau Schneider ihn ihm? 3.2 Schenkt ihn Frau Schneider ihrem Vater? 3.3 Schenkt ihm Frau Schneider einen Hund? 3.4.1 Schenkt ihn Frau Schneider ihm? 3.4.2 Schenkt ihn ihm Frau Schneider?" which of there are right? Any rules here? :) – YNG Dec 17 '15 at 22:27
  • Everyone except for 3.4.2 are correct but 3.4.1 is rather a bad style. As a rule of thumb, it is rare that 2 pronouns follow directly. There are cases in which that happens but these sentences tend to be more complicated. – Giraffe Dec 17 '15 at 22:31

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