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I am new to German and this site.

I am trying to learn to utter my first phrases in German, and I have learned that the verb is actually placed at the end.

Currently, being a beginner the way I am forming sentences is by saying them in English first (in my head) and converting these words to German later.

So, here is one example:

My friend sent me a card.
Mein Freund hat mir geschickt eine Karte.

The above is wrong, at least to Google Translate, as "geschickt" should be placed at the end.

My question is very simple. Aside from constructing questions, if I want to build a sentence, should the verb always come at last? If not, then is there a pattern to learn or is there an exception?

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    Ach, wäre es nur so einfach :) – Stefano Palazzo Apr 3 at 15:59
  • Which verb? I see two verb forms, hat and geschickt. – Carsten S Apr 3 at 16:09
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    In this case (Perfekt), "hat" would be the verb and "geschickt" would be called a Partizip. (Mein Freund hat mir eine Karte geschickt). – Stefano Palazzo Apr 3 at 16:27
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    When you have a postcard, you give it to the cardpost and they cardpost it for you. Thus, your friend has you a-card- posted. You were card-posted. You were postal-served. Dir wurde post gesendet. – vectory Apr 3 at 18:17
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    I hope your friend had not sent you a-packin', nor had you sent a-packin'. I'm sure though, he had, just for you, packages enough. This whole thing is more or less still vivid in English. It is just less productive, – vectory Apr 3 at 18:30
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There are basically two places for a verb.

1) In the second position of a clause or sentence. 2) At the end of a clause or a sentence.

A variation of the above is in "both" the second and last positions. Let's take a few examples.

Mein Freund schenkt mir eine Karte. My friend sends me a card. This is in the present tense with the verb in the second position.

The other time a (single) verb is in the last position, is when it is at the end of a subordinate clause. (Note that the second position is occupied by another verb, "lese.")

Ich lese die Karte, die mein Freund schenkt. I read the card that my friend sends.

Let's look at some variations in the past tense:

Variation 1: Mein Freund hat mir eine Karte geschickt. There are TWO verbs, a "helping" verb, hat, and a past participle, geschickt. The helping verb, hat, is in the second position, and the past participle is in the last position.

Variation 2: Ich lese die Karte, die mein Freund geschickt hat. I read the card that my friend has sent. Because of the subordinating conjunction, the helping verb, hat, is in the last position, and the past participle, geschickt is in the second to last position. Again, the second position is occupied by the verb "lese."

  • So I took my time with these answers, and all are good, but I like yours exceptionally for the clarity and putting the English counterpart aside the German. and showcasing the variations. I am about to write this in my notebook, cheers :) – samayo Apr 9 at 16:46
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Your method won't work. Though both German and English are in the same language family and thus, share a lot of basic vocabulary (with slight modifications), German grammar is much different from English grammar.

My friend sent me a card.

Mein Freund hat mir eine Karte geschickt.

The first thing you notice is English uses the simple past for past events, while German uses Perfekt. That is because tenses in German aren't about the series of events but the intent of speech. So while English has the same auxiliary+participle construction

My friend has sent me a card.

it means a different thing.

In addition, the word order of German sentences is all build on the idea of braces. In English, every item in the sentence has a fairly fixed position. In German in contrary you have a lot of freedom pushing sentence pieces around to get one or another additional emphasis.

To make that work, things belonging together are often split up into two pieces creating an open and close brace. The pieces that are related to those embracing piece are kept inside. And of course, these braces do nest.

Mir hat gerade gestern Abend mein Freund eine Karte geschickt.

This is an alien concept to English speakers. A lot of English speakers consider it counter-intuitive. It makes a lot of sense though as soon as you start thinking in German. You have to embrace it to be able to create beautiful German sentences.

  • The bracketing may be there, still, but the syntax and morphology changed a lot. "You need to embrace (it for beautiful German sentence) creation". One up for the glorious pun that is embrace. – vectory Apr 3 at 18:35
  • I mean German zu-infinitives often correspond to English gerunds, ie. zu kreieren > creating. I haven't figured out when that winds over to-infinitives, andI might be blind on one eye because the analogy to German has me biased for to. After all it's not much of a stretch from creating to creation. Just by the way. – vectory Apr 3 at 18:39
  • to be able to cries for an infinitive, not for a present participle/gerund. – Janka Apr 3 at 18:41
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I don't think there is any helpful rule of thumb for this. In a regular declarative sentence, the verb is in the middle:

Ich lerne Deutsch.

In a subordinate clause, it's at the end:

Wir erschrecken über unsere eigenen Sünden, wenn wir sie an anderen erblicken.

Conditional clauses (and questions as you said) have the verb first:

Wär ich ein wilder Falke

There are a lot more cases (types of sentences).

2

In German language, predicates can consist of multiple parts (using auxiliary verbs). In general, the inflected verb is in second place, and all other predicate parts are at the end of the sentence.

This is what you have here: The predicate hat geschickt consists of the inflected auxilary verb hat and the past participle main-verb geschickt.

Note: The inflected verb does not always come on 2nd place, this is only true for main-sentences. In inverstion-style questions, it is on 1st place, and in side-sentences, it is on last place (even after the non-inflected predicate parts).

Mein Freund hat mir eine Karte geschickt

Hat mir mein Freund eine Karte geschickt?

Ich weiß, dass mein Freund mir eine Karte geschickt hat

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Your exampe is an example of Perfekt, one of the many times something might have happend. To get an overview:

  • Futur II: "Mein Freund wird mir eine Karte geschickt haben, wenn ich zurück bin." Something that you expect to have happend by the point in time your are talking about.
  • Futur I: "Mein Freund wird mir eine Karte schicken." something you expect to happen
  • Präsent: "Mein Freund schickt mir eine Karte." right now
  • Präteritum: "Mein Freund schickte mir eine Karte" Something that happend in the past
  • Perfekt: "Mein Freund hat mir eine Karte geschickt" Something that happend in the past (difference to Präteritum is subtile enough that I can't explain it - feel free to edit)
  • Plusquemperfekt: "Mein Freund hatte mir eine Karte geschickt, danach bin ich in den Urlaub gefahren." Something happend before something else, that also happend in the past.

The verb shifts, depending on which time is used. If the verb shifts a Hilfsverb is placed on second place of the sentence. Either a form of "haben" or "sein".

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    Thanks for your answer, but the question wasn't about times, it was about the position of the verb. – Robert Apr 3 at 22:36
  • In spoken German, Perfekt is used as the universal past tense. In literature, Präteritum is used when the entire book is written in the past tense. – adhominem Jun 5 at 10:15

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