I am trying to understand the construction of this following sentence:

Traditionalisten ist aber das St.-Martins-Fest einige Tag später lieber.

from this article: https://learngerman.dw.com/de/feste-und-traditionen-im-jahreskreis/l-40588953/rs-39364347

I understand the translation is something like:

But the traditionalists prefer St. Martins festival a few days later.

I'm trying to understand what are the grammatical components of this sentence. Just from where the verb is and the conjugation of the verb I believe that the nominative is das St.-Martinsfest and the accusative is Traditionalisten. I don't understand the placement of the aber and the lieber. I tried to look for examples of it online, but couldn't find anything derivative.

From my understanding of the grammar, I would have written that sentence something like this:

Aber das St.-Martinsfest ist lieber Tradionalisten einige Tag später.

But I am not sure if it makes sense or if I am losing emphasis on the Traditionalisten portion. I feel a more direct translation would result in something like the following sentence:

aber traditionalisten sind lieber das St.-Martinsfest einige Tag später.

But again not sure if it is 100% grammatically correct and if it has the same emphasis or not.

  • Do you have a context? The sentence you quote sounds as if it is preceded by one or two sentences the word aber refers to. Dec 31, 2019 at 0:24
  • 1
    @BernhardDöbler i added the link to the article.
    – mjl007
    Dec 31, 2019 at 1:11
  • It's einige Tage not einige Tag Dec 31, 2019 at 7:06
  • The placement of aber can vary. One option is after the verb, which is the case in the example sentence.
    – RHa
    Dec 31, 2019 at 16:41
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    Word order in German is very flexible. If you rearrange the sentence it's much easier to understand: "Aber das St.-Martins-Fest einige Tage später ist Traditionalisten lieber". It just loses the emphasis on Traditionalisten.
    – PiedPiper
    Dec 31, 2019 at 21:57

1 Answer 1


Aber can be used as an adverb, so you will often hear it in various sentence positions, especially from my experience directly after the initial verb. Think of it I suppose like the English 'however'.

As for your attempt at the sentence, you changed 'ist' to 'sind', but you were actually right to say that 'das St Martins Fest' is the nominative, and that is singular so the verb should be too. 'Traditionalisten' is dative, which is not entirely clear because of the lack of article/adjective.

I suppose a more direct (but still rather loose) translation would be

to traditionalists St Martins Fest (that takes place a few days later) is better.

Lieber is a comparative that shows how people like to do things, so 'ich wohne lieber hier als dort' means 'I prefer to live hear rather than there'.

Your version would translate to 'traditionalists are better a few days later', traditionalisten is the indirect object here because the festival is better a few days later to them.

As for the rest of the word order the rules are pretty loose, but often the first 'idea' will be something that you will get more information on later in the sentence, it sort of sets the tone for the rest of the sentence.

  • Your "direct" translation sounds rather strange in logic, better use parenthesis for the explanatory part: to traditionalists St Martins Fest (that takes place) a few days later is better Dec 31, 2019 at 1:40
  • Traditionalists prefer the St. Martin's Fest to be celebrated a few days later. Jan 1, 2020 at 9:57
  • @ChristianGeiselmann that would be ambigous again: it could be understood as Traditionalists prefer the St. Martin's Fest to be celebrated on the 14th of November instead of the 11th Jan 1, 2020 at 17:24
  • So i understand that lieber is a comparative, but is the placement of that word also very loose?
    – mjl007
    Jan 2, 2020 at 17:43
  • Yeah word order is generally pretty loose, but often lieber with a dative object like that will go to the end of the sentence, in sentences of that structure anyway. Can be different if you are more directly 'comparing' the verb (so with verbs other than sein) Jan 6, 2020 at 22:18

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