For the sentence: "but we almost never argue"

Which translation is better:

"aber wir streiten uns fast nie"


"aber wir streiten uns nie fast"

Is there a rule behind which one should come first ?

2 Answers 2


It depends on what you want to say.

Let's pick those sentences apart and use only one adverb:

Wir streiten uns fast (we almost argue )

Wir streiten uns nie (we never argue)

If we use two adverbs in a row, the first adverb describes the second one

fast nie (almost never)

nie fast (never almost, in the sence of that you are never close to arguing, either you don't argue, or you argue full on)

The second version is definitely contrived and rarely appears in real life context.

In conclusion: Yes, the order matters. The first adverb describes the second, not the other way around, so your sentence should read

Wir streiten uns fast nie (we almost never argue)

  • 3
    The rule is the same in English so I'm not sure what's causing the confusion. It is, however, perfectly possible that two (or more) adverbs describe the verb, in which case word order becomes more of a puzzle. Consider "We never ate excessively here yesterday." There are four adverbs and I have no idea what would be the most natural ordering in German; presumably some permutation of Wir haben hier gestern nie übermäßig gegessen. I can't even state the rule in English, just which order "sounds right".
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 20:24
  • 2
    @RDBury The confusion might arise because English is not the native language of OP either. Your example sounds contrived in both English and German, mostly because it contains 'never' and 'yesterday' which seems a weird combination.
    – quarague
    Commented Dec 25, 2020 at 11:51
  • 1
    @quarague: Yes, even if the OP is a native speaker the question might still be useful for those who aren't and I should have taken that into account. I think any sentence with four adverbs would sound contrived because it probably would be. But if you remove two that's six possible examples for the price of one :)
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 25, 2020 at 20:35
  • @RDBury Replace "nie" mit "zu kienem Zeitpunkt" to resolve the conflict with "yesterday". I'd then say "Wir haben hier gestern zu keinem Zeitpunkt übermäßig gegessen" or "Wir haben gestern zu keinem Zeitpunkt hier übermäßig gegessen". Perhaps because "übermäßig" is the one that most directly describes the way of eating. I'd very preferably place "gestern zu keinem Zeitpunkt" (still somewhat weird) in that order and close because they relate closely. Finally, there is no "place before time" or similar rul ein German and the prefered order may depend on context. Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 11:43
  • @Hagen von Eitzen: In English, "never" combined with a period of time means that something does not occur in that period of time. For example "Flowers never bloom in December," mean flowers may bloom, but only in months other than December. I didn't think that Blumen blühen nie im Dezember might mean something else in German. Grammars often talk about "neutral" word order, for example Wiki books, with the "time, order, manner, place" rule, but there seem to be more exceptions to it than instances of it.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 28, 2020 at 14:25

The fast relates to nie the same way as nearly would refer to never.

Only the sequence fast nie is appropriate for the intended statement. If hard-pressed one could interpret

Wir streiten uns nie fast

could state, that you either argue terribly or not at all, so there is no grey zone, where you nearly argue. (Most likely this would be phrased slightly different, as Wir streiten uns nie nur beinahe.)

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