I studied that the verb is always in second position in a sentence. The I came across this sentence:

Insbesondere das zweite Buch ist wichtig.

I could not find an answer here, why is the verb in third position? Is it because

a) "insbesondere" does not alter the word order or

b) all of "insbesondere das zweite Buch" is seen as a subject

or is it something completely different?

Is this sentence also correct and does it mean the same thing:

Insbesondere ist das zweite Buch wichtig.

If answers to similar questions have been given, I will appreciate the links.

  • Both sentences are fine. The difference is emphasis. – Em1 May 20 '13 at 12:29
  • How does it change the emphasis? "Wir haben vier Bücher und insbesondere das zweite Buch ist wichtig" should mean: "We have four books and the second book, in particular, is important". How does the second sentence change that meaning? How would you translate it when "ist" comes after "insbesondere"? – fluffy May 20 '13 at 12:45
  • Not sure about translation. Your example, however, is not the best to show the difference in emphasis. From a arbitrarily chosen Google search result, have a look at this wiki entry. Can you figure out the difference if the word-choice is different in the last paragraph of the first section? There's a reason why "ist" at the second position, not the third, in this particular sentence. – Em1 May 20 '13 at 13:01
  • I am afraid I do not see the difference and I do not see the reason why "ist" comes after the subject and not after the adverb. – fluffy May 20 '13 at 13:15
  • I will create a community wiki answer on this. – Em1 May 20 '13 at 13:16

My understanding is that an adverb would occupy the first position by itself if it is what is known as a "sentence adverb," i.e. one that modifies the verb.

Schnell bin ich die Treppen hinaufgegangen. = I went up the stairs quickly.

But if the adverb is modifying something other than the verb, it occupies the position along with that other word.

Ziemlich schnell bin ich die Treppen hinaufgegangen. = I went up the stairs quite quickly.


Auch ich und meine Frau sind dorthin gegangen. = My wife and I went there, too.

In the last sentence, using auch at the front isn't necessary, but provides emphasis.

So technically, in your sentence, the verb is still in the second position, with insbesondere das Zweite occupying the first. If I had to put this in terms of your letters, I would choose A. It's not that insbesondere is a subject so much as it and the subject work together as a phrase, the entirety of which is considered to be in the first position.

  • The article is always part of the subject. Thus, the first position is "insbesondere" and the second position is "das zweite Buch". – Em1 May 20 '13 at 13:05
  • 2
    @Em1, you still haven’t given any hint as to why you think “insbesondere” is not part of the subject here. Consider an expanded sentence like this: “Das zweite und insbesondere das vierte Buch sind wichtig.” – chirlu May 20 '13 at 13:18
  • @chirlu Hard to explain. I see a significant difference between your other example with "sehr" and this one with "insbesondere". The word position of the adverb. I'm not sure if I can put all my thoughts in one comment, or two, or three. But it's basically about its function. Ex. "Das schöne Bild gefällt mir. - Welches? Da sind viele. - Das besonderes schöne Bild." The adverb is essential in describing the subject. In your ex. the adverb does not really describe the subject, but modifying it in a different way. – Em1 May 20 '13 at 13:41
  • Technically speaking, the adverb is not part as it is modifying the subject. If it were part of the subject it would modify itself. That's not possible. in "sehr schön" the adverb also doesn't become part of the adjective as it is modifying the adjective only. Wow, OK. Why does "sehr schön" become part of the subject? Well, it is not modifying but a describing feature. Sorry for not being able to explain that more plain but I hope you get what I mean. – Em1 May 20 '13 at 13:42
  • @Em1, the main verb of a declarative sentence is in the second position. Your explanation of the adverb being first and the noun being second would put the verb in the third position. This is just incorrect, at least according to how I learned German at university. The first position of the OP's sentence consists of the entire phrase "Insbesondere das Buch." – kokirii May 20 '13 at 13:57

It is your reason b) here: The whole of “insbesondere das zweite Buch” is the subject, so the verb (“ist”) is still in second position.

  • 2
    "Insbesondere" is not part of the subject. – Em1 May 20 '13 at 11:59
  • 1
    @Em1, why not, and what is it instead, in your opinion? – chirlu May 20 '13 at 12:05
  • 2
    It's still an adverb. In the German language the verb is not always in position 2. It can be in position 1 and 3 as well (or even at the last position). Ex. "Diese Bücher helfen ihnen weiter, aber (=Konjunktion/Satzverbindung auf Pos. 1) das zweite Buch ist besonders wichtig." In the given ex. the second part of the sentence is separated (it's fine but the previous context is necessary otherwise insbesondere would be wrong) and insbesondere is used for a greater emphasis. – Em1 May 20 '13 at 12:21
  • A conjunction is usually not considered to take one of the positions. But apart from that, there may be a term confusion involved; in the sentence “Wir bekamen ein sehr gutes Essen”, “sehr” is of course an adverb, but still part of the object (“ein sehr gutes Essen”). – chirlu May 20 '13 at 12:55
  • Yes. The adverb "sehr" qualifying "gut" describing "Essen" is a part of the subject. True. Also you're right that (sometimes) the conjunction is considered as position zero. In that case, however, "ist" would be in the second position in OP's first sentence but in the first position in the second sentence. – Em1 May 20 '13 at 13:16

This answer is just on the difference between the word order.

In your example, I'd always put the subject before the verb. In previous context you're talking about several books:

Ich habe hier viele Bücher. Diese Bücher sollten sie lesen. Diese Bücher helfen ihnen weiter.

There are a lot of books which are considered as important. But one of them is more important than the others.

Insbesondere das zweite Buch ist wichtig.

Now consider the sentence that was the first result on my Google search for "insbesondere ist das"1:

Insbesondere ist das Jugendstrafrecht ein Eingriff in das Erziehungsprivileg der Eltern nach Art. 6 GG.

In previous context they are talking about the Jugendstrafrecht (criminal law relating to young offenders) and only about this. You get this from the first sentence of this last paragraph.

Mehr noch als im allgemeinen Strafrecht ist im Jugendstrafrecht die Wiederherstellung...

In this sentence (I referring again to the "Insbesondere..."-sentence) there is no need to emphasize the subject as it is the only one we're talking about. The emphasis is on what's so particular about this law.

Back to your example. Consider talking about only one book.

Ich habe hier ein Buch. Dieses Buch sollten sie lesen. Dieses Buch hilft ihnen weiter.

But why you should read this book? Reasoning:

Insbesondere beinhaltet das Buch viele praktische Beispiele.

And do I need to read the entire book?

Insbesondere das zweite Kapitel ist klausurrelevant.

1 With a little effort in creating an own example I'd find an easier example but I will keep this sentence now.

  • 3
    I think I finally got it. It is as @kokirii says, if the adverb refers to the subject, it does not influence the position of the verb. If I look at the last two sentences of your post, "insbesondere" in the second refers to the subject and does not influence the word order; whereas in the first it refers to the verb (or the rest of the sentence) and immediately the verb needs to switch positions. – fluffy May 20 '13 at 14:38
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    I keep starting answers and then stopping. It is really a hard question. The point is that we are not talking exclusively about insbesondere here but about a group of what I call "degree adverb/adverbial phrases"... other examples are > vor Allem, unter Anderem, mindestens, höchstens, etc... We can make a construction like the one in question with all those words. One of the extreme degrees is nicht. "Nicht der Geschmack stört mich, sondern der Geruch." If someone can find a grammatical expl. for this (I tried and failed), we can maybe generalize it for insbesondere. – Emanuel May 20 '13 at 19:14

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