As a start-at-the-beginning refresher, I am working through translation exercises in "A Complete German course", by Leslie John Russon, a book that I used at high school many years ago. The exercise that I am currently doing is mostly concerned with word order in the presences of various conjunctions rather than a focus on modern German usage etc. The English sentence at issue is:

As you say, I have not worked.

Following the specific advice in the linked instructional section of Russon that, "When the subordinate clause precedes the main clause, the finite verb stands first in the main clause", I translate the sentence as

Wie Sie sagen, habe ich nicht gearbeitet.

It sounds odd to me! I want to say

Wie Sie sagen, ich habe nicht gearbeitet.

I say this as someone whose German was once around B2 level rather than a beginner's level and a search on Google for "Wie Sie sagen" throws up numerous examples where the following clause commences in subject-verb order instead of verb-subject order.

I'd appreciate some guidance as to what is correct.

  • 3
    So you think your textbook is wrong? :)
    – David Vogt
    Aug 26, 2020 at 12:02
  • "numerous examples where the following clause commences in subject-verb order instead of verb-subject order" - can you cite some of those, please? It would help to determine whether there are maybe any additional factors that could further influence word order. Aug 27, 2020 at 8:21
  • If the correct phrase sounds off, you need to re-tune your correctness indicators.
    – Jan
    Sep 9, 2020 at 13:57
  • @Jan I agree. That is precisely the reason for wanting to check ... before self-recalibration! Sep 10, 2020 at 12:09

1 Answer 1


Wie Sie sagen, habe ich nicht gearbeitet.

is clearly preferable since only with that word order it is one truly transposable compound sentence:

Wie Sie sagen, [so] habe ich nicht gearbeitet.

Ich habe [so], wie Sie sagen, nicht gearbeitet.

Ich habe [so] nicht gearbeitet, wie Sie sagen.

So is the implicit reference point of the relative clause wie Sie sagen.

The reason for that is that the relative clause, when part of the sentence, can occupy the prefield (Vorfeld), that means be the sentence part that comes before the verb in a V2-sentences where the finite verb takes the second position. The Vorfeld, however, may only take one part of the sentence. Thus you simply can't squeeze a subclause and the subject into the Vorfeld.

[Es ist,] wie Sie sagen: Ich habe nicht gearbeitet.

makes two different main clauses out of those, the first being elliptic. Wie Sie sagen would not longer be part of the sentence Ich habe nicht gearbeitet, but stand on its own.

  • So, wie sie sagen, habe ich nicht gearbeitet and Wie sie sagen, habe ich nicht gearbeitet have not the same meaning. The former means I didn't work the way you say. The latter means As you say, I have not worked as mentioned in the question.
    – RHa
    Aug 26, 2020 at 16:54
  • 1
    @RHa Changed it a little bit, but can mean both in my opinion. Aug 26, 2020 at 18:36
  • 1
    The English original has only one reading, and it's not the one where the subordinate clause is an adverbial of manner. Therefore inserting so changes the meaning.
    – David Vogt
    Aug 27, 2020 at 7:42
  • I don't understand the explanation but I do appreciate the advice that the translation I had, but felt slightly uncomfortable with, was correct. Upvoted. Sep 2, 2020 at 5:57

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