I'm an undergraduate student learning German as the third foreign language. Yesterday I came across Fridericus-Rex-Grenadiermarsch, which contains the following lines:

Die Kais’rin hat sich mit dem Franzosen alliiert,

und das Römische Reich gegen mich revoltiert,

die Russen sind gefallen in Preußen ein,

auf, lasst uns zeigen, dass wir brave Landeskinder sein.

I am perplexed by the last word here. Why "sein," not "sind"? It makes no sense to me. "Sein" is the infinitive form of the German equivalent of "to be" and thus seems to make the whole sentence as absurd as "c'mon, let's show that we be brave sons of our land." I'd put the verb in the third person present plural form - "sind," the German equivalent of "are."

The third line - about the Russians - seems to be against the rules, too. I was taught to always put the participle at the end: "Die Russen sind in Preußen eingefallen." According to what I was taught, this is the only correct way to say, "The Russians have invaded Prussia." Sure, I can move the participle to the beginning, "Eingefallen in Preußen sind die Russen," but I think it will make the whole sentence sound rather as, "Those who invaded Prussia are the Russians." What the author of the song did with the participle seems unthinkable to me. He threw the participle in the middle of the sentence, tearing the prefix off and attaching it at the end of the line.

I cringe to think what my German teacher would do if I wrote my essays like the author of that song. Would be a good illustration of "rotsehen," I guess.

How can such apparent grave grammar mistakes in one of the most known German military marches be explained?

  • 2
    I'm reminded of the American "Battle Hymn of the Republic"; there's lots of language there as well that's incorrect by today's standards as well. People tend to ignore grammatical liberties in songs (poetic license), especially old, traditional ones. Let's not even mention "Waltzing Mathilda".
    – RDBury
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 6:40
  • 7
    I have two quite unfounded hypotheses, so only a comment: sein could be a contracted form of seien, Konjunktiv I, which sounds not entirely incorrect at that place in such antiquated language. Or it could be a dialectal form of sind; e.g., there are forms like mir san or mir sein for wir sind, different realisations of (IIRC) an older form consisting of "s" + long vowel + "n". Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 8:10
  • 2
    The Versmaß (metre) is all over the place, too. I sense a vague reference to the Knittelvers tradition. de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knittelvers
    – HalvarF
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 9:50
  • 1
    I agree with all comments "it is because of rhyme scheme" (remember: soldiers must march and sing this song the same time!). If you would write an essay that way, for sure you get bad feedback. If you would write a poem/song/march that way - you might succeed. Maybe one or two words I would change or not. Having limited experience in "personal rhyming" only, it is difficult to decide. Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 11:17
  • It might be an oblique allusion to the fact that Fridericus Rex did not actually speak German particularly well (he usually spoke and wrote in French, although his French was allegedly pretty bad, too), and that he liked to write pretty awkward poetry. Had he actually spoken those verses himself, they probably would not have sounded much different or better.
    – user2508
    Commented Oct 23, 2020 at 17:01

2 Answers 2


You are right, the grammar is miserable. As the comments say, the simple reason for the misuse is that the verses form a rhyme. You will also notice that some unnessary words are included to achieve that the verses have a nice meter.

Perhaps the best explanation for this phenomenon is the poem "Das ästhetische Wiesel" by Christian Morgenstern from 1899:

Ein Wiesel
saß auf einem Kiesel
inmitten Bachgeriesel.
Wisst ihr
Das Mondkalb
verriet es mir
im Stillen:
Das raffinier-
te Tier
tat's um des Reimes willen.

Another aspect, at least in my opinion, is that the verb "einfallen" has the conjugated form "sie fallen ein" (simple present), which turns to "sie sind eingefallen" (present perfect). The variant "sie sind gefallen ein" imitates the strucure of simple present, and although it is not correct, it does not sound really bad and gives it a "poetical touch". This means that you wouldn't use it in narrative prose, but in poems it seems to be acceptable, especially if you get a rhyme. A recent example for the similar case "einladen" is an invitation by "Vokswagen Automobile Stuttgart" with the heading

Liebe Freunde groß und klein, Ihr seid geladen ein!

Remark 1:

A better variant of the text would be

Die Kais’rin hat sich mit dem Franzosen alliiert,
und das Römische Reich gegen mich revoltiert,
die Russen sind eingefallen in Preußen geschwind,
auf, lasst uns zeigen, dass wir brave Landeskinder sind.

Remark 2: As we can guess from your profile and your questions in this forum, you are Japanese. As far as I know (please correct me if I am wrong) traditional Japanese poems do not have rhymes in the end of verses. Perhaps this is the reason why you focus on the poor grammar and not on the rhyme. Native German (or European) speakers would stumble upon the absence of an expected rhyme and therefore accept incorrect grammar.

See also here.


a) die Russen sind gefallen ein in Preußen

evokes in the first half the idiom "fallen" (to die, fall in battle) and thus subliminally preempts the terrible consequences of the actual attack (viz. ein-fallen, über etwas her fallen).

b) dass wir brave Landeskinder sein.

"we be" in English would be potential subjunctive, formally not an infinitive. The same goes for sein, in this case, as the author wants us to believe. It is not correct and might never have been correct in 1860, but it could at least evoke an historic appeal to the unknowing. It's archaising. (It might have been correct, cp. En. seen, driven as remnants of an archaic perfect, cp. Kunjunktive "wir seien", also sei'n).

Both instances take poetic license, because it is a poem.

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