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I'm trying to translate this sentence into German:

If all the other players were like him, the team would have solved all its problems.

The possible alternatives I can think of are:

  1. Wenn all die anderen Spieler wie er wären, hätte die Mannschaft alle ihre Probleme gelöst.
  2. Wenn all die anderen Spieler wären wie er, hätte die Mannschaft alle ihre Probleme gelöst.
  3. Wenn all die anderen Spieler so wie er wären, hätte die Mannschaft alle ihre Probleme gelöst.
  4. Wenn all die anderen Spieler so wären wie er, hätte die Mannschaft alle ihre Probleme gelöst.

I'm having trouble with the last part of the if-clause, as it seems to me that the order of the words is determined by two conflicting rules. On the one hand, in a subordinate clause (in this case, the if-clause) the verb (wären) should take the last position. On the other hand, the second term of the comparison (wie er) should also be at the end. So which one "wins"? Moreover, do I have to say "so wie er" or simply "wie er", without the "so"?

My ear (which is far from being reliable) tells me that among those without "so" the best one is the first one (with the comparison before the verb), but with the "so" the best one is the fourth one (with the verb before the comparison). This seems contradictory, but as I said my ear isn't reliable.

Are these alternatives correct? Would native speakers choose one of these, or would they express it some other way?

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All four are fine. The reason is an exception to the rule the conjugated verb comes last in dependent clauses:

  • If a clause has Nachfeld supplements (as comparisons are) these may stay in the Nachfeld.

There are some more of those exceptions. For example if the verb phrase at the end has both auxiliaries and infinitives introduced e.g. by modals, the conjugated auxiliary may lead the row of infinitives instead of following it. The only "hard" rule on word order in German is the V2 one. All other word order rules are more or less strict tendencies.

For your example, whatever word order you choose, it should be because of the emphasis on the last item in the clause. If you put wären there, you focus on the irreality. If you put wie er there, you focus on that one player.

  • Thanks, just one thing: when you say that "the conjugated auxiliary may lead the row of infinitives instead of following it", do you mean that to translate "He said that I should have come earlier" I have to say "Er sagte, dass ich früher hätte kommen sollen" instead of "..., dass ich früher kommen sollen hätte"? Do you refer to this? Funny... It's another thing I've never fully understood, and I wanted to ask about it sooner or later! :-D – Fabio says Reinstate Monica Apr 19 at 0:20
  • Yes. I addressed it here: german.stackexchange.com/questions/49676/… – Janka Apr 19 at 0:21

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