I’m a native speaker and the above problem is not very important, but interesting to me. Also I’m almost sure that you can, but want to hear other opinions on it.

I think that it is correct because in spoken German you can leave out es at the end, so spoken werf would correspond to written werf’, which resolve to werfe (subjunctive I). Subjunctive I in German is used e.g. to give instructions, mostly in 3rd person, like “Man nehme …” in cooking recipes.

Knowing this, one could interpret the spoken werf as short term for “werfe er”, adressing the other person in 3rd person singular, which feels oldfashioned but valid to me. Since imperative and instruction share the meaning (maybe with different strength), both choices seem correct in spoken German. (Note that this could have been applied to most other words with irregular imperative in the same way.)

Do you agree or have I made a mistake?

  • 3
    Kleiner Hinweis: Hier dürfen Fragen auch auf Deutsch gestellt werden. Auf Englisch gestellte Fragen werden aber in der Regel auf Englisch beantwortet – was seltsam ist, wenn man es auf allen Seiten mit Menschen zu tun hat, die des Deutschen mächtig sind ;)
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 10, 2017 at 1:20

1 Answer 1


What you traced back as subjunctive I – werfe – can also be interpreted as a genuine imperative in third person. Some languages, e.g. Finnish, feature such a form (to throw: heittää; 3rd person singular present indicative: hän heittää, 3rd person singular present conditional: hän heittisi. 3rd person singular imperative: heittäköön). Given its use in German especially in cookbooks as man nehme, I think it can be considered a third person imperative in German, too.

The thing about imperatives in German that are not in a grammatical second person, is that they need a subject. Compare:



Werfen Sie!

Werfe Er!

Werfen wir!

Therefore, I feel your analysis crumbles and fails at the point where you implicitly assume that the subject — Er in medievalistic formal language or er in a more contemporary variation — has been dropped. It shouldn’t be; German hardly ever drops subjects; the exception being the passive form of intransitive verbs and second person imperatives (i.e. sentences that don’t have a subject in the first place).

Finally, although this is only partially relevant, note that not every terminal shwa can be dropped in German. If all could be the typical Rapunzel clause would be ambiguous and could mean both your hair (the singulare tantum of the entirety of hair on your head) and your hairs (every single individual hair). However, when saying this, it’s clear that it can only be the singular because the plural would have terminating shwas:

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, lass dein Haar herunter!

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, lass deine Haare herunter!

  • Interesting answer, I took some time to think examples where subjects get dropped. The first I found was "Den Anweisungen ist Folge zu leisten." but I think it falls under your exception. However, what about: "Schön, dass du kommen konntest".
    – borartr
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 22:19
  • Also note that we are discussing spoken German, otherwise every dropped e has to be marked.
    – borartr
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 22:23
  • @borartr Zu deinem zweiten Kommentar: Rechtschreibregeln, § 96(2): Man setzt den Apostroph bei »Wörter[n] mit Auslassungen, die ohne Kennzeichnung schwer lesbar oder missverständlich sind.« Das schließt sehr viele fallengelassene Schwas aus.
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 22:35
  • @borartr Zum ersten: »Schön, dass du kommen konntest«, ist kein vollständiger Satz; ihm fehlt das Verb. Aber man kann ihn zu einem vollständigen machen: »Dass du kommen konntest, ist schön.« Der Nebensatz erfüllt die Funktion des Subjekts. Bei »Den Anweisungen ist Folge zu leisten«, ist die Sache komplizierter und spontan weiß ich gar nicht, wie ich das zu interpretieren habe. Die Standarderklärungen (Passiv intransitiver Verben; anderes Satzglied ist Subjekt) scheinen auszufallen.
    – Jan
    Commented Jan 11, 2017 at 22:38

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