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"Wenn du lächelst, lächelt die Welt auch zurück."

Why is the verb not in the second position in this sentence? Instead, we have "du" in the second position. And why is "lächelt" the first word in the phrase "lächelt die Welt auch zurück."?

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In a subordinate clause, the verb is in the last position.

Ich freue mich, wenn du lächelst. (Note that freue follows the V2-scheme)

Adopting these patterns for your example results in something like the following:

Die Welt lächelt auch zurück, wenn du lächelst.

"Lächelt" is in the position you expected. When a subordinate clause precedes the main clause, the finite verb form comes first in the main clause (unfortunately not always, but usually):

Wenn du lächelst, lächelt die Welt auch zurück.


Some more examples:

Weil ihr rennt, müsst ihr mit der Schere aufpassen.

Wenn du losgehst, ruf bitte an.

Weil du lächelst, macht er sich Hoffnungen.

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  • 5
    Perhaps it's more useful to say that the subordinate clause occupies the first position of the main clause in these examples. This way the rule that the finite verb comes on the second position still holds.
    – DonHolgo
    Jun 6 at 15:54
  • German is called a V2 language, but it really depends on sentence or clause type. Declarative statements, open questions and independent clauses are V2, imperatives, closed questions are V1, subordinate clauses are VL, and there are cases where there is no finite verb at all, which I call V0.
    – RDBury
    Jun 6 at 17:09

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