Imagine that your mother tells you a story often.

What would you say?

Meine Mutter erzählte sie mir oft.
Meine Mutter erzählte oft sie mir.

I know that the temporal complement should go before any other one and that the object comes before the dative if it (the object) is a pronoun. In this case you have two pronouns and one temporal adverb, so according to the rule I should use the second sentence, which does not sound fine to me. I would be glad for some help.

  • @Em1: how do you obtain highlighted lines like my question has now in the two German sentences? Jun 14, 2013 at 14:31
  • 1
    german.stackexchange.com/editing-help - the highlight is done with a starting > on the line. You can also click on edit to see how the raw format of any post is.
    – Takkat
    Jun 14, 2013 at 14:48

2 Answers 2


The first sentence is good:

Meine Mutter erzählte sie mir oft.

Swapping the pronouns is also ok, although with another emphasis:

Meine Mutter erzählte mir sie oft.

But the second sentence is wrong in the sense, that no mother tongue speaker would use it and it would definitely disturb them, if they understood the sentence at all.

I don't know why many people come up with a fixed word order in German depending on function. The only "fixed" rule concerns the predicate / verb. All other functions can switch position according to emphasis and their "default" position is idiomatic in most cases.

  • I would love to give +10 for the last paragraph!!! German sentence structure knows no rules except for the verb one and this "The more relevant the later"... which applies perfectly to the sentence in question.
    – Emanuel
    Jun 14, 2013 at 22:02

The second sentence is wrong. Meine Mutter erzählte oft sie der Frau would be correct (to give a special accent), but the indirect object cannot change its position in case it's a pronoun (in this case mir). (see here)

  • Thanks for the link and for having answered in German at first (I did understand)! So, pronouns require more caution than nouns. Jun 14, 2013 at 14:30
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    I don't think that the version proposed is correct. It sounds wrong to me and I can't think of any situation in which it would be correct.
    – Emanuel
    Jun 14, 2013 at 22:03
  • @Emanuel It sounds strange at first, but I would accept it as a rather poetic version. If you intonate it with a strong emphasis on "oft", it kinda works. Alas, it's nothing for casual language.
    – Toscho
    Jun 15, 2013 at 8:11
  • sounds a bit odd but is possible in spoken German to accent oft
    – äüö
    Jun 15, 2013 at 8:16

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