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Which is the correct word order in written and spoken German for

She must earn money by July?

Is it subject, modal verb, object, time phrase, action verb:

Sie muss bis Juli Geld verdienen.

or subject, modal verb, time phrase, object, action verb:

Sie muss Geld bis Juli verdienen.

  • The most natural one is "Sie muss bis Juli Geld verdienen". That is, without any emphasis this is the best word order. Though, the other one is correct, too, as mentioned in answers. So, why is the former one the most natural? A comprehensive answer to that isn't that simple. It's tricky. I could claim that the temporal information has to precede the object; however, with a bit of searching you would probably find an example where the most natural, non-emphasis-based sentence would disagree with my claim. Because German is prone to exceptions. Kinda. It's disappointing, I know. – Em1 Sep 7 '16 at 9:54
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Both translations are ok. The emphasis is slightly different, however (which would be emphasized while speaking even more than by the word order):

Sie muss bis Juli Geld verdienen.

Money, not fame or anything else. Money.

Sie muss Geld bis Juli verdienen.

After July it is too late! It must be before the end of July.

In spoken language the emphasis can be shifted in the first sentence by emphasizing the important part:

Sie muss bis Juli Geld verdienen.
Sie muss bis Juli Geld verdienen.

For the second sentence, however, it would sound strange to a native's ear (at least for mine :-)) if you said:

Sie muss Geld bis Juli verdienen.

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There are two constants, both regarding verbs. The first is that the modal verb must be in the second position. The second is that the infinitive must be at the end.

All the other three parts of speech can be placed in the first slot. The remaining rule is that the subject cannot go into the fourth slot. So two out of the possible six permutations are not allowed. They are:

Geld muss bis Juli sie verdienen.
Bis Juli muss Geld sie verdienen.

The remaining permutations are allowed. They include:

Geld muss sie bis Juli verdienen.
Bis Juli muss sie Geld verdienen.

And in your examples:

Sie muss bis Juli Geld verdienen.
Sie muss Geld bis Juli verdienen.

The emphasis is on the word closer to the infinitive.

  • And how are these different from each other? – Robert Sep 7 '16 at 3:21
  • @Robert: The basic meanings are more or less the same, but the emphases differ. In German, the main "constant" is the position of the verb forms. You have a lot more leeway with non-verbs. – Tom Au Sep 7 '16 at 3:26
  • Yes, I know that, I am a native speaker. Instead of adding comments, why don't you improve your answer to include that information? Maybe give examples? – Robert Sep 7 '16 at 3:39
  • To make the answer complete, should note that the subject cannot go into the fourth position. That is, "Geld muss bis Juli sie verdienen" is not grammatically acceptable. (Unless you're writing a poem.) – Em1 Sep 7 '16 at 6:58
  • @Em1 Die Grammatik stark in ihm ist. (Master Yoda) – Thorsten Dittmar Sep 7 '16 at 6:59

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