Thinking about German, I decided to watch some Bundesliga highlights and a slogan came up:

Menschen, Autos und was sie bewegt

I thought, this slogan seems a bit strange.

I thought that the golden idea of German was for the verb to be second i.e.

Menschen, Autos und was bewegt sie

I know that this translates as:

People, cars and what drives them

but I couldn't understand why bewegt was after "sie" - I thought "sie" was referring to the article "die" in "die Menschen" and "die Autos".

Why is the slogan written with the verb at the end?

2 Answers 2


Because it's not a sentence at all but a fragment at best. Your correct translation attempt is also a fragment!

Wir zeigen Menschen, Autos, und was sie bewegt.

Wir zeigen, was sie bewegt.

The second part is a relative clause and those have their finite verb in last position as all dependent clauses in German have. (CAVEAT: apart from those exceptions with infinitive/participle rows at the end)

  • 1
    The first part of your answer seems misleading. Fragmentariness does not explain the syntax. The second part is correct, though: the verb is in the final position because it is a relative clause.
    – mach
    May 25, 2019 at 10:03
  • That part being a fragment explains very well why its word order does not follow the rules for a main clause.
    – Janka
    May 25, 2019 at 10:11
  • So it's a relative clause because I'm making reference to the items I made previously in the sentence, correct? @Janka
    – vik1245
    May 25, 2019 at 11:54
  • Yes, you just had to add Wir zeigen or something similar do make it a complete sentence.
    – Janka
    May 25, 2019 at 12:04
  • Everything needed for a main clause is there: Menschen Autos bewegt was. There's a bit more, admittedly, and it seems that sie could be ambiguous, "you" or "them"; The Noun Phrase is the answer to the question was bewegt Menschen, Autos und Sie? or Menschen, Autos: Was bewegt Sie?, in a kind of circular Argument, Autos bewegen Autos [und Menschen], which ironically is what auto-mobile literally means. The inverted verb position is best explained as a relative clause, sure, but it could also be seen as having a modifier, "sie", cp. X allein kann das nicht erklären. ...
    – vectory
    May 25, 2019 at 22:48

The answer is simple: the clause "was sie bewegt" is a relative clause (to be exact, it is a free relative clause). The rule that the finite verb must come in the second place is a rule for main clauses. In relative clauses (and most other types of subordinate clauses), the finite verb does not come in the second place, but in the last place.

German has three different types of clauses with regard to the verb position:

  • Verb in second position – typical case: main clauses (e.g. "etwas bewegt sie heute")
  • Verb in first position – typical case: yes-no-questions (e.g. "bewegt etwas sie heute?")
  • Verb is last position – subordinate clauses (e.g. the relative clause "was sie heute bewegt")
  • It's rather Bewegt Sie heute etwas? though Belästigt er Sie? has the word order that you implied. It seems question words like jemand, etwas, woanders (maybe better called indeterminatives?) wanna coincide with the raised voice at the end of the question.
    – vectory
    May 25, 2019 at 23:00

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