I know there is a question like this posted here on a regular basis, and there were too many for me to give links to all of them, but I didn't see any that were relevant to this specific situation. This line appears in Försters Pucki by Magda Trott (Projekt Gutenberg):

Mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite, jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten.

which I render as

With great leaps, the dog always at her side, Pucki raced though the large garden.

To my ears, "mit tollen Sprüngen" and "immer den Hund zur Seite" are two different phrases, so I don't understand why the verb "jagte" comes after both of them given the second position rule. My theory is that there is an implied "und", making "mit tollen Sprüngen und immer den Hund zur Seite" the entire phrase taking up first position; is this plausible?

Side note, in case anyone cares to comment, I took "jagen" to mean "race" rather than the more literal "hunt" or "chase". Pucki isn't actually hunting or chasing anything, just running fast.

4 Answers 4


The part

mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite
with great leaps, the dog always at their side

is one part of speech. It is an enumeration that consists of two adverbial clauses. And this is true in German and in English. If you want you can insert a conjunction between the two parts:

mit tollen Sprüngen und immer den Hund zur Seite
with great leaps and the dog always at their side

  • 2
    Which means: Yes, the verb is still in 2nd position. Mar 25, 2021 at 10:35
  • I think I see what you're getting at, so Schnell, freudig, rannte er durch den Wald. would be another example. In English, enumerations normally require an "and"; you can't say "Dog, cats are mammals." But apparently exceptions can be made depending on the part of speech: "The tall, young, blond man is talking." Enumerations are unlimited though; "Though the large garden, with great leaps, the dog always at their side, Pucki raced," is possible. Does Durch den großen Garten, mit großen Sprüngen, den Hund immer an ihrer Seite, jagte Pucki, also work?
    – RDBury
    Mar 25, 2021 at 17:24

There seem to be at least two ways to interpret immer den Hund zur Seite in a way not violating the V2-rule:

A) Two co-ordinated adverbials

As suggested by @HubertSchölnast and supported by @DavidVogt in the comments, mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite could be considered as one part of speech, consisting out of two co-ordinated adverbials. Then the second comma would be orthographically optional and these permutations would be possible:

  • {Mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite}(,) jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten.
  • Pucki jagte {mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite} durch den großen Garten.

I'm not so sure if this would also explain Pucki jagte durch den großen Garten {mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite}, since Pucki jagte durch den großen Garten immer den Hund zur Seite without pause when spoken or comma when written sounds and reads kind of odd. For this word order, I would prefer the second interpretation below.

If considered two co-ordinated adverbials, they could also be separated:

  • {Mit tollen Sprüngen} jagte Pucki {immer den Hund zur Seite} durch den großen Garten.

Again, we encounter the 'problem' that some word orders usually possible sound odd for immer den Hund zur Seite:

  • ?{Mit tollen Sprüngen} jagte {immer den Hund zur Seite} Pucki durch den großen Garten.
  • ?{Mit tollen Sprüngen} jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten {immer den Hund zur Seite}.

These cases of doubt are the reason why I would favour the second explanation that is applicable to every word order:

B) Parenthesis

When considering mit tollen Sprüngen the obligatory first part of the sentence, immer den Hund zur Seite can be regarded as a parenthesis that can occur at several places inside the sentence:

Basic sentence: Mit tollen Sprüngen jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten.

with parenthesis:

  • Mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite, jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten.
  • Mit tollen Sprüngen jagte, immer den Hund zur Seite, Pucki durch den großen Garten.
  • Mit tollen Sprüngen jagte Pucki, immer den Hund zur Seite, durch den großen Garten.
  • Mit tollen Sprüngen jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten, immer den Hund zur Seite.

The pair of commas that separates the parenthesis from the rest of the sentence would then be obligatory, because it indicates orthographically that the parenthesis is not syntactically integrated into the rest of the sentence. Because it is not integrated into the rest of the sentence (Matrixsatz), it does not violate the V2-rule.

C) Discussion

For the word orders mentioned in (A), it seems impossible to 'prove' that mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite couldn't as well be two co-ordinated adverbials. In those cases, among them the original sentence from the question, both interpretations must be considered valid.

However, if we take epistemology into account and follow the problem-solving principle of Occam's razor that was developed for such cases of doubt, explanation (B) seems favourable from my point of view.

  • The assumption that the given phrase is a parenthesis requires some sort of justification. Punctuation is not sufficient, as participle constructions that are syntactically integrated also may have a comma. What about immer den Hund zur Seite (,) jagte sie durch den Garten?
    – David Vogt
    Mar 25, 2021 at 14:02
  • @DavidVogt I also see a need for justification, but I think I gave the main argument by showing that immer den Hund zur Seite can occur as it is on different positions, which is strong evidence that it is at least an independent part (and maybe not even integrated in the sentence). The interpunctuation is a side note: it does not constitute, but reflect that the phrase is a parenthesis. Yes, there can be a comma after an adverbial, but can you give an example where a comma merges two adverbials into one? Instead of making these two assumptions, I go with Occam and choose the simplest. Mar 25, 2021 at 14:49
  • I think the true test of this would be if the real first position phrase,Mit tollen Sprüngen, can be removed or moved. DeepL seems to prefer Den Hund immer an ihrer Seite, jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten over Den Hund immer an ihrer Seite, Pucki jagte durch den großen Garten, but it's just an algorithm so this isn't really conclusive.
    – RDBury
    Mar 25, 2021 at 16:15
  • @RDBury This is a relevant consideration, but unfortunately it is not possible to test whether something is a parenthesis this way because parentheses can never precede their so-called Matrixsatz in general. Since the parenthesis hypothesis is the simplest one, I think the best approach would be to find an counterexample where two adverbials are unambiguously one and the same part of speech when they are only separated by a comma and not connected by a conjunction. I cannot think of such a counterexample. Mar 25, 2021 at 16:37
  • @DavidVogt Regarding your example: would you deem Mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten. (without the second comma) orthographically possible? That would only be the case if immer den Hund zur Seite is not a parenthesis. Mar 25, 2021 at 16:40

i'm afraid it is not exactly an enumeration nor a paranthesis, although the analysis as enumeration should suffice for convenience sake.

Namely, if it were an enumeration, then both adverbial phrases would modify jagen. That's arguably still the case if the second phrase modifies the first, which modifies the main verb.

In chronological and logical order, the referent closest to "Hund" is "tolle Sprünge", which is an attribute of the grammatical subject. Arguably though Hund is not directly a noun adjunct to Sprünge. It rather indirectly belongs to the subject.

This internal logic would be severed when treating both adverbial phrases to the same type analysis, as may be required for an enumeration. Enumerations create order and thus types, in principle, but the simplest order is unorderd, ironically speaking, which we want to avoid.

  1. The emphatic adjective toll stresses the importance of Sprünge.

    • Topic-Focus structure is the only reason for using V2 here.
  2. Although @amadeusamadeus section B third example maintains the topic front and center, it leads to an unfortunate blooper. Indeed, reordering means effectively analysing a different sentence:

* Mit tollen Sprüngen jagte Pucki, immer den Hund zur Seite, durch den großen Garten.

  • After all, den Hund zur Seite jagen would mean pretty much "to chase the dog away". Intonation and punctuation alone hardly save it from potential misunderstandings. Logical reasoning might, but the economic speaker may avoid complicated logic if reasonably possible. Therefore I will elaborate not too much.

The preposition zur is a morphemically underspecified contraction, where an unambiguous interpretation is available in this case depending on the noun adjunct Seite, which is however semantically underspecified. The second preposition durch may take precedent, leaving the only logical interpretation for zur Seite = zu seiner Seite hin, an seiner Seite.

  1. That's why the paranthetical can be moved around to the--from the speaker's perspective, as we might have to pressume--only logical position.

Mit tollen Sprüngen, immer den Hund zur Seite, jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten.

  • This is logical because of Topic-Focus structure (1) as becomes clearer in the bare Matrix clause Pucki jagte durch den Garten, which is the focus, clearly, because durch _ jagen is a fixed expression for energetic movements.

Maybe that's also why (2) is a potential garden path sentence likely to be avoided, because the order implies den Hund zur Seite were topical.

  1. adverbs typically follow the verb

* Immer den Hund zur Seite jagte P mit tollen Sprüngen durch den Garten

  • This suffers from the same blooper as (3), only worse, and the adverbial phrase may be misconstrued as commitative instead (cp. mit seinen Freunden).
  1. mmer den Hund zur Seite may be an anaphora

Mit tollen Sprüngen jagte Pucki durch den großen Garten, immer den Hund zur Seite.

  • This is admissable and shows that it really is anaphoric.

The V2 requirement coerces it to a paranthetical in (3). The object of the verbal phrase should finalize the sentence, as it brackets the subject. The dog is in every sense included in the verbal phrase of the subject and not just as an after thought. The already established topic-focus predicts that it is however an after thought to the Sprünge.

In that sense, I am willing to be wrong if the dog was actually topical in a raised position. This minute difference might warrant a comma/pause.

Besides, the rhythmic prosody created by pause or comma does allow a sound symbolic reading in analogy to the explained up and down movement as much as the dog restricts freedom of movement by virtue of following around, driving the leader while almost getting into the way. It's quite poetic really. The topicalization of großen Garten with the big adjective in agreement with the first adjective creates positive polarity spanning the whole phrase, which seals the deal.

With great leaps, the dog always at her side, Pucki raced though the large garden.

  • The reason this does not work so well in English is the lack of case marking on the determiner. A conjunction seems needed to extend the scope of the adverbial "with".

Disclaimers and caveatemptors apply. I'm judging only from native (and ESL) speaker understanding, not as a linguist or anything.

  • Well, I certainly didn't expect this level of detailed analysis when I posted the question. It is, after all, from a children's book. The enumeration interpretation seems simplest explanation, but I agree that there are certain aspects of the situation which make analysis as a an enumeration questionable. Analysis as parentheses, as you point out, also raises possible issues, so perhaps the relationship is more complex.
    – RDBury
    Mar 26, 2021 at 4:36
  • At that level of detail I introduced to many mistakes. I was afraid I would mix up topic, focus, etc. Although I looked it up now, I think I cannot fix it and will leave it at that, since I wrote assuming the idea may become clear irrespective of the wording (cf. information structure). thanks for your comment
    – vectory
    Mar 26, 2021 at 23:05
  • an idea I didn't pursue would be reading "immer den Hund zur Seite" as the verb, exemplified by "To the hills!". The fact that preverbs have been noted to cover the second slot in older Germanic languages may be notable.
    – vectory
    Mar 26, 2021 at 23:13

This question generated much more of a response than I was expecting, so I thought it would be useful, for me if for no one else, to post what I thought were the most important takeaways. This is going to be too long for a comment so I'm putting it in an answer, though I think at this point the original question has already been answered sufficiently.

We have a situation where there seems to be more than one "phrase" or "idea" or "thought" placed in front of the verb, which seems to violate the verb second (V2) rule. There were several explanations offered, but I think the most important thing going forward is that each explanation can be generalized, and each generalization is set of circumstances in which the V2 rule might seem to be violated but is, in fact, followed.

An enumeration is when multiple phrases of the same type are strung together. For example "Thomas, David und ich" is an enumeration of three nouns. In English, enumerations of nouns normally require an "and", and apparently German requires an "und", but this is optional for adjectives and adverbs. The first takeaway is:

An enumeration counts as a single phrase for the V2 rule.


Thomas, David und ich gehen ins Kino.
Langsam, bedächtig, vorsichtig schlich ich in ihr Zimmer.
Fröhlich, mit Anna an meiner Seite, spaziere ich die Straße entlang.

In the last example, the second phrase is also analyzable as a parenthesis, an explanatory phrase inserted into a sentence, and this interpretation is strengthened by the commas on either side. This interpretation would be clearer with different puntuation:

Fröhlich - mit Anna an meiner Seite - spaziere ich die Straße entlang.

In any case, this brings up the second main takeaway:

Parenthetical phases do not affect the word order in the rest of the sentence, so they do not affect the V2 rule.

The English Wikipedia article on Parenthesis has a good selection of examples, not all of which are relevant here, but I'm going to try to invent my own with the parenthesis in bold:

Nina, meine Schwester, ist verheiratet. (This is an example of apposition.)
Ich, nicht Karl, liebe Maria.

I have the impression that the function of parentheses is often handled differently in German than it is in English; German tends to use relative clauses where English uses present participles in parentheses.

This brings up the third takeaway:

Relative clauses and certain other clauses attached to another phrase do not count for the V2 rule.

For example:

Hanna, die sehr groß ist, liebt mich leider nicht.
Mein Vater, der sehr wütend war, stürmte aus dem Haus.
Naomi, wenn sie mich sieht, läuft weg.

Again, the last example might be analyzed as a parenthesis. In such cases where multiple interpretations are possible, it doesn't actually matter since the result, multiple phrases combining to form a single phrase, is all that counts when it comes to the V2 rule.

I'm just a learner so my examples may not be entirely correct, if not then please let me know or just fix them. Hopefully the rest of the information is correct and useful.

  • It's actually much simpler than you think. "Verb second" doesn't mean the verb needs to be the second word in a sentence - It simply means it needs to be the second semantical element of the main clause. Lists of adverbial extensions, like your examples, "collapse" semantically into one.
    – tofro
    Mar 28, 2021 at 9:16
  • @tofro: Yes, I know that a semantic element can be more than one word. The issue is WHEN can multiple semantic elements be joined to form one. Two noun phrases, usually no but yes if they're playing the same role in the sentence. Noun phase and prepositional phrase, usually no. Adverb and prepositional phrase, usually yes. The "usually's" mean that the issue isn't trivial.
    – RDBury
    Mar 28, 2021 at 15:22

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