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Und kaum zu Hause angekommen, war der Himmel blau und das Wetter herrlich.

Here the first part is supposed to be subordinate since it does not form a full statement. But why does the main part of the sentence start with the verb war?

As far as I know: When the subordinate clause starts with (or contains?) und, sondern, aber, denn, oder, they take up null position so no change of position is required for the verb. But since this is the main part we are talking about. I’m confused …

So if I had to say, Und kaum zu Hause angekommen, der Himmel war blau and das Wetter herrlich. would that also be correct?

  • No, the second sentence is incorrect. – wernersbacher May 17 '16 at 19:48
  • How about, Der Himmel war blau and das Wetter herrlich kaum zu Hause angekommen? – Evil Racehorse May 17 '16 at 20:11
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    Also broken. In fact, the whole question is based on at least two incorrect assumptions: That und changes the word order, and that kaum zu Hause angekommen is a subordinate clause (note that there is no finite verb). – chirlu May 17 '16 at 21:52
  • I actually mentioned that I am aware that Und will NOT change the verb order. But I now realize that Und kaum zu Hause angekommen is actually an adverb so is that the reason it makes the verb go into the second position as it should? Der Himmel war blau and das Wetter herrlich kaum zu Hause angekommen Then what makes this sentence wrong? – Evil Racehorse May 17 '16 at 22:00
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    Another one: Kaum zuhause angekommen is an adverbial participle construct that will always relate to the subject of the sentence - So what you're saying is that it was actually the weather and the sky that arrived at home... "Kaum zuhause angekommen, sah ich, dass das Wetter..." would work as intended. – tofro May 20 '16 at 7:22
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The finite verb is always in second position. The phrase "Und kaum zu Hause angekommen" takes the first position.

The und at the beginning connects to a previous sentence that isn't given in your question. You can drop it entirely for the sake of your question.
The und in the main clause, however, connects "Der Himmel war blau" with "Das Wetter war herrlich". You drop the redundant verb, i.e. "Der Himmel war blau und das Wetter (war) herrlich".

So in a normal word order S-P-O, the full sentence (also having a subject and finite verb in the relative clause) would be:

Der Himmel war blau und das Wetter herrlich, kaum dass ich zu Hause angekommen war.

Moving the relative clause to the beginning, requires a change in word order to have the verb in the second position.

Kaum dass ich zu Hause angekommen war, war der Himmel blau und das Wetter herrlich.

In your sentence above the relative clause is simplified. It's a participle clause, a special kind of subordinate clause.

1                         2   3          4
Kaum zu Hause angekommen, war der Himmel blau.
Kaum zu Hause angekommen, war das Wetter herrlich.

1                         2   3          4    Conj 3         4
Kaum zu Hause angekommen, war der Himmel blau und  das Wetter herrlich.
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The participle construction at the beginning of your sentence indeed replaces a subordinate clause. But that is not relevant for the question whether the finite verb considers that fragment as occupying position zero or position one in the main clause; both cases will lead to the same conclusion.

In case of a participle construction, we merely have a fragment of the sentence which is placed before the finite verb because it is considered important enough. The same would happen if we placed an inifinitive there.

Zu gehen{1} erlaube{2} ich{3} dir{4} nicht{5}.

Kaum aus dem Haus gegangen{1} musste{2} ich{3} wieder{4} hinein{5}.

(Note that I did not add a comma after the participle construction. It is optional as of § 78 (3) of the official German orthography rules.)

In the case of a subordinate clause, it is one that is dependent on its main clause. If one of those is preceding its depending main clause, it is considered to occupy the Vorfeld, i.e. position one.

Wenn das Wetter umschlägt,{1} kriege{2} ich{3} immer{4} Kopfschmerzen{5}.

Als er nach Hause ging,{1} wurde{2} es{3} dunkel{4}.

This type of preceeding subordinate clause is the most important. I can’t think of a preceeding subordinate clause that does not occupy first position at the moment.


As others have mentioned, the participle construction in your sentence is somewhat sketchy. Typically, the subject should be the same for the subordinate clause that the participle construction replaced and for the main clause. However, in your sentence that is not the case:

Und kaum dass ich zuhause angekommen war, war der Himmel blau und das Wetter herrlich.

You see that we have three different subjects here. I think the only reason why it just works is because typically neither the sky nor the weather ‘arrive at home’.

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The first part is an own sentence which is grammatically wrong and hard to understand because the subject and verb is missing, correct it has to be:

Kaum war ich zu Hause angekommen, war der Himmel blau and das Wetter herrlich.

But:

Und kaum zu Hause angekommen, war der Himmel blau and das Wetter herrlich.

This is a special construct which is common used in literature. The first part relates to a context, that is why a native german does not misunderstand it. Unfortunately I don't know the correct name of a saying like this, probably someone else can name it.

The word "Und" is binding this context substituting verb and subject, sorry for being german so hard. ;-)

  • I actually find it quite logical :) When you add war ich it is much better understood 1) So und is the reason for war being in the first position? I thought Und, Sondern, Aber, denn, oder does take up null position thus not affecting the word order? War der Himmel blau and das Wetter herrlich. is a full sentence right? Not subordinate, so I'm confused as to why und would even affect the verb's position here 2) Also how can I say the original sentence while having war in the second position? – Evil Racehorse May 24 '16 at 19:34
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Short answer no.

Long answer. "und" can be used optional and using "und" that way is often considered bad german especially if used in written form.

In your clause this "und" replaces an information that was given shortly before and thus making the sentence incomplete but still valid for spoken german. If it is to be translated you have to first transmute this "und" back into proper written german and then translate it, or it will mess up your translation.

  • Thanks for the answer, my concern is the following conundrum: So und is the reason for war being in the first position? I thought Und, Sondern, Aber, denn, oder does take up null position thus not affecting the word order? War der Himmel blau and das Wetter herrlich. is a full sentence right? Not subordinate, so I'm confused as to why und would even affect the verb's position here 2) Also how can I say the original sentence while having war in the second position? Und kaum zu Hause angekommen, der Himmel war blau and das Wetter herrlich Why is this sentence wrong? – Evil Racehorse Jun 3 '16 at 16:48
  • German has a quite free SPO order, so there are multible right ways to say something, but some a rare and outdated (not commonly in use anymore). but your second exaple is wrong, becaus it contains a suborinated half sentence "angekommen" is the predicat in endposition, so the main half sentence will begin with "war" as predicat in first position. <br> Und kaum zu Hause angekommen, war der Himmel blau und das Wetter herrlich. <br> This would be the rigth order. – Kupferdrache Jun 3 '16 at 21:08
  • Damm it, I hate that you cann't format comments properly. – Kupferdrache Jun 3 '16 at 21:11
  • So verb fill occupy the first position if it is followed by the predicate? Is that the case here? Then how can you say this sentence without putting war in the first position? P.S. What exactly do you mean by me formatting comments improperly? Can you please explain what was wrong? – Evil Racehorse Jun 5 '16 at 19:19
  • It just a long paragraph, no linebreaks, or quotes, that make it easier for others to read. – Kupferdrache Jun 6 '16 at 10:02
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No. I think the word order here is triggered by kaum not by und, which has no impact on word order.

"Kaum war ich zu Hause angekommen" = "No sooner had I arrived home". Funnily enough English uses the same inversion of the verb in this kind of clause as German.

Without the 'war ich', the sentence is grammatically poor, because you shouldn't have an abbreviated sub clause unless the main part of the sentence has the same subject. "After coming home, the sun shone" is poor likewise.

  • The word "kaum" does not trigger any word order, either. You can leave it out, and your other points still remain valid. – wolfgang Jun 16 '16 at 8:32
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Similar to "Es heißt", "Ich heiße euch", "Ich heiße es", "mir ist", "mich wundert" this construction can be seen as having a recipiect in the front and the actor in the back.

Zuhause war der Himmel Blau.

No doubt "Himmel" is the subject, but "Zuhause" is the theme. Comparing similarly "Mir war das Glück hold", "Das Glück war mir Hold", this seems to be a clear case. Your variant is inadmissable, "* Mir das Glück war hold" is not grammatical in modern usage, and at best reminds of archaic phrases (for which I have no example at hand).

The original phrase using "Und kaum zuhause angekommen" is interesting in its own right, but hardly matters here. Indeed, *Zuhause angekommen war der Himmel ..." would sound as if the sky had arrived. This can be seen in a transformation analoguous to "Glück above". "* Der Himmel war kaum zuhause angekommen blau". Of course, personal genitive pronouns bind stronger, and move differently than adverbs of place, let alone participles, so the example is a bit contrived. This does not impede the verdict. Arguments from transformation have little relevance overall.

Adding Und in front magically changes the expression into a formulaic verse with a zero-pronoun. We can imagine that Und draws it in from the context. I will also note that und in this place very much reminds of end-lich. While "Ende zuhause angekommen" sounds odd, the semantics are reasonable.

I will also note that auxiliary "haben" could be left out in some archaic construction (Nathan der Weise "Wer hat je gehört, dass Saladin ... bestraft" [Todo: link]), and that English "has come, has arrived" indicate that this could have been the case in a precursor of this formular.

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