The sentence: "Vor allem in größeren Städten entscheiden sich deshalb immer mehr Menschen gegen ein eigenes Auto". I thought at first that the subject should follow the verb and the two words "sich" and "deshalb" should be after the subject. In this sentence what does the position of "sich" and "deshalb" tell us about the meaning of the sentence?

1 Answer 1


These are the items of your sentence:

  1. Vor allem in größeren Städten
  2. entscheiden
  3. sich
  4. deshalb
  5. immer mehr Menschen
  6. gegen ein eigenes Auto

The deshalb item may be placed between any other two items behind the verb, it just goes with the flow. The exceptions are first position, it occupies that one when placed there, and the end – it may not be placed at the end.

Deshalb entscheiden …

Pronoun placement is one of the most irritating things in German word order.

Immer mehr Menschen entscheiden sich gegen ein eigenes Auto.

Gegen ein eigenes Auto entscheiden sich immer mehr Menschen.

Gegen ein eigenes Auto entscheiden immer mehr Menschen sich.

These are all valid, though the third sentence sounds clunky. You can heal this by putting a longer item at the end of the sentence, for example this way:

Es entscheiden immer mehr Menschen sich gegen ein eigenes Auto.

It gets interesting as soon two subject pronouns fight each other for that special position behind the verb:

Sie entscheiden sich gegen ein eigenes Auto.

Gegen ein eigenes Auto entscheiden sich sie.

Gegen ein eigenes Auto entscheiden sie sich.

Now, the second sentence with sich directly following the verb sounds not just clunky but just wrong. You cannot heal it by the method above either. The third sentence sounds as perfect as the first.

As always, the first item in a sentence gets most emphasis and the last item second most emphasis. For item ordering of the inner parts of the sentence, the emphasis melts away from end to front.

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