1

I thought the position of the subject in a sentece had only three different position:

  • The first word on the sentence. This is by far the most popular one.

Ich habe einen Hund

  • Inversion of subject. This is done to give emphasis to another word, and the subject takes the 3rd position

Einen Hund habe ich

  • Question. In this case it takes the third position.

Hast du einen Hund?

But today I heard a sentence that did not follow any of these rules.

Schließlich helfen ihm seine Freunde.

In this case it takes the fourth position. Is this really allowed? Am I missing a rule for position of the subject?

  • The term inversion should be avoided when talking about word order in German, as it is not helpful at all. – RHa Sep 13 '18 at 9:29
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In general, only one item in a declarative sentence is fixed in German, and that's the core of the predicate verb. It's always second position.

Und am ersten des Monats rennen jedes mal wegen des frischen Geldes die Leute den Supermärkten die Türen ein.

  • 0 – Und – filler item.
  • 1 – am ersten des Monats – adverbial of time
  • 2 – rennenpredicate verb core ← the only fixed item!
  • 3 – jedes mal – adverbial of repitition
  • 4 – wegen des frischen Geldes – prepositional object
  • 5 – die Leute – subject ← finally!
  • 6 – den Supermärkten – dative object
  • 7 – die Türen – accusative object
  • 8 – ein – separated prefix of predicate verb

Shuffle?

Und am ersten des Monats rennen die Leute jedes mal den Supermärkten wegen des frischen Geldes die Türen ein.

Und am ersten des Monats rennen die Leute jedes mal den Supermärkten die Türen wegen des frischen Geldes ein.

Und den Supermärkten rennen wegen des frischen Geldes jedes Mal am ersten des Monats die Leute die Türen ein.

etc. etc.

All other items, including the subject, don't follow rules that are simple enough to be worth to remember. Mostly, this is a matter of emphasis and avoiding ambiguity (or creating it by purpose).

  • 1
    There are some other rules regarding word order in German, e.g. pronouns tend to go before other nouns, and the dative object usually precedes the accusative object. But these are not as important and rigid as the verb-second rule. – RHa Sep 13 '18 at 9:28

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