I’m currently studying German and ran across this sentence:

Wer nicht zu Fuß gehen will, nimmt die U-Bahn.

It had been brought to my attention many many times that the verb should always be the second part in a sentence, even if the first part is not the subject of a sentence. By that logic, shouldn’t the sentence be Wer will nicht zu Fuß gehen, nimmt die U-Bahn?

2 Answers 2


Just to add to this, if the subordinate clause has one of the following words, the verb will remain as usual because they take up 0 (null) position:

U - und
S - sondern
A - aber
D - denn
O - oder

For example:

Ich bin gerade im Unterricht, aber ich schreibe hier.


Ich lerne Deutsch, weil ich es schön finde.

  • This does not answer the question; it should possibly have been a comment. However, it’s also factually wrong: … aber ich schreibe hier is a second main clause, not a subordinate clause.
    – chirlu
    May 16, 2016 at 10:21
  • I've tried to write it as a comment, but it does not let me yet. May 16, 2016 at 10:25
  • So, "Ich bin gerade im Unterricht, aber schreibe ich hier" is not acceptable? May 16, 2016 at 12:23
  • No, because there 'aber' is at position #0 and 'schreibe' at #1. May 16, 2016 at 13:59

The rule stating that the verb is put in second position applies to main clauses. For subordinate clauses, however, there is a different rule: The verb is generally in the final position, just as in your example.

  • Now I see the point, so I also ran into this sentence: "Kurz, man darf machen, was erlaubt ist, und nicht machen, was verboten ist" If I decided to swap "darf" and "man" so it reads: "Kurz, darf man machen, was erlaubt ist, und nicht machen, was verboten ist." Would that be wrong? May 16, 2016 at 12:20
  • @user268569 That’s almost a different question but here’s your answer: As you wrote it with a comma it would turn darf man machen into a question. If you left out the comma it would mean one can do for a short or limited time. The kurz seems to be some kind of drastically reduced other thing that does not occupy any position in the sentence when separated with a comma. I don’t know the grammatical name.
    – Jan
    May 26, 2016 at 8:50
  • It's good you mentioned that Kurz takes up null position, that would explain why one shouldn't use verb right after that. Thanks a lot May 26, 2016 at 23:24

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