2

Today I came across the following paragraph in a newspaper article:

Wer in West Virginia politischen Erfolg haben will, sollte nicht allzu sehr auf Distanz gehen zu [Donald] Trump. Vor allem beim Thema Kohle. Ojeda [a Democrat] holte bei den Midterms mehr als 43 Prozent. Im Wahlkampf hat er für den Erhalt der Minen geworben, die Teil der Identität dieses Bundesstaats sind. Anders, sagen manche, hätte Ojeda in der Trump-Hochburg wohl gar keine Chance gehabt.

In the first sentence of the above paragraph, it's written auf Distanz gehen zu Trump. Somehow, I feel that auf Distanz zu Trump gehen would read better. So, are the two versions interchangeable, and, if so, which one is better and why?

3

The following variants share the same meaning but differ stylistically.

  1. [...] | sollte | auf Distanz zu Trump | gehen |
  2. [...] | sollte | zu Trump auf Distanz | gehen |
  3. [...] | sollte | auf Distanz | gehen | zu Trump

The first variant is the stylistically neutral variant. The second one shows that the prepositional phrase "zu Trump" can be moved away from the noun it modifies, "Distanz". The third variant is less popular in written language and more popular in spoken language.

Notice the vertical bars. They mark out topologische Felder (see https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feldermodell_des_deutschen_Satzes):

Vorfeld | linke Klammer | Mittelfeld | rechte Klammer | Nachfeld.

In the third variant, "zu Trump" has been moved to the Nachfeld. (In the other variants, the Nachfeld is empty.)

The differences are subtle. A native speaker might not even pay heed to them. But 1. is definitely the regular or default order.

1

Everything David wrote is perfectly correct, thus 'true'. However, he has not mentioned another aspect.

3.: ... sollte | nicht allzu sehr | auf Distanz gehen | zu Trump keeps things nicely together that closely belong together. Thus, the journalist avoids the splitting up we observe in 1. and 2.

Thus, although "The third variant is less popular in written language and more popular in spoken language." is perfectly 'true' again, version 3 is the more pragmatic one as it is übersichtlicher and easier to conceive than 1 and 2.

Cheers!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.