I know that when adverbs are used in the first position, at the beginning of the sentence, the verb and subject position in German is inverted, such as in these examples with adverbs of place and time:

  1. Hier bin ich.
  2. Gestern war ich in der Schule.

But is it also true with other types of adverbs? Such as with leider/glücklicherweise, etc.?

Leider darf ich nicht gehen ...

I'm not asking about only these two adverbs, but about any adverb except time/place.

(if there are mistakes, feel free to correct, I'm not that fluent in German yet.)


4 Answers 4


The positioning of adverbs in a sentence can be tricky as the word order is quite specific in German. If you place an adverb (or an adverbial phrase) at the beginning of the sentence, then the predicate (verb) must come next followed immediately by the subject of the clause (inverted word order).

Leider kenne ich sie nicht.
Unfortunately I don't know her.

Manchmal gehen wir ins Kino.
Sometimes we go to the cinema.

Hoffentlich wird er bald gesund.
Hopefully he'll get better soon.

Im Moment ist das Wetter schön.
At the moment the weather is fine.

Genauso in adverbialen Phrasen:

Die ganze Zeit fotografierte er Häuser.
He made pictures of houses all the time.

Note: adverbial phrases are not separated from the rest of the clause by a comma when put at the beginning of the sentence.

  • 1
    +1 because I usually put commas after a position-1 adverb.
    – Tim
    May 30, 2011 at 10:39
  • So it works basically with any adverb or anything that works like an adverb (adverbial phrase)?
    – Alenanno
    May 30, 2011 at 10:44
  • @Alenanno that's right. I added an example to my answer.
    – splattne
    May 30, 2011 at 10:50
  • Please apologize, but I don't see what's specific about placing Adverbs in German? What you say about adverbial phrases is true for any kind of phrase apart from the predicate itself.
    – ladybug
    May 30, 2011 at 12:31
  • @ladybug I think it's not obvious to non-native speakers. In English you don't have to invert the order of subject and predicate.
    – splattne
    May 30, 2011 at 12:39

Yes, in all these cases, when you want to put any adverb (not just time/place) at the beginning, the subject/verb order is inverted.

The positions are not necessarily inverted though:

Ich bin hier.

Ich war gestern in der Schule.

Ich darf leider nicht gehen.

In all mentioned cases, both orders are fine.

  • You're right, but I meant using the adverb at the beginning :D Sorry, maybe it wasn't clear... I'll add that to be clearer!
    – Alenanno
    May 30, 2011 at 10:19
  • So the question was actually just whether the order is also inverted for non-time/place adverbs, when written at the beginning? If so, I edited my answer. May 30, 2011 at 10:28

The reason for the inversion is that you decide to put another word part in the first place, the fact that it is an adverb (or an adverb of time/place) does not come into it.

In your examples "In der Schule war ich gestern." would also be possible.

To get a feeling for the different nuances of the word order:

"Was hast du gestern gemacht?"

(What did you do yesterday?)

"Gestern war ich in der Schule."

(Yesterday, I was in school.)

Am zweiten Schultag (on the second day of school) (not a very realistic example because school is too regular)

"Wach auf, mein Schatz, du musst in die Schule."

(Wake up, darling, you have to go to school.)

"Was? In der Schule war ich gestern."

(What? I have been to school yesterday.)

"Gibt es etwas Neues?"

(Anything new?)

"Ich war gestern in der Schule."

(Yesterday, I was in school.)

(This is the most neutral phrase.)

  • You can say In der Schule war ich gestern. Meaning in this one and not in another one. It is not suitable to tell that you were at school at all.
    – bernd_k
    May 30, 2011 at 11:04
  • Depends if you stress "der" or "gestern". Stressing "der" means "this certain one", stressing "gestern" has the effect described by thei. The point is that you can mix the Satzglieder (phrases) like you want, as long as predicate comes second. Has nothing to do with adverbs at all. Some constructions might sound a bit strange or answer pretty special questions (as thei has shown), but none is really "wrong".
    – ladybug
    May 30, 2011 at 12:27

Nothing tricky about it, the answer is a straightforward yes. All adverbs, when used in first position, are followed by a verb in second position which is followed by the sentence subject.

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