I have had the impression that adverbs stay close to the verb in German word order. So why is this incorrect (as I was told):

Der Traktor rollte weiter 10 Fuß.

and this is instead correct?

Der Traktor rollte 10 Fuß weiter.

I note, for instance, that in DWDS both "weiter zu Fuß" and "zu Fuß weiter" occur, albeit with the latter being more frequent.

As a related example of the use of a verb with an adverb instead the associated compound verb is this sentence from DWDS which uses nehmen with mit instead of mitnehmen:

Doch Roggenkamp hatte ihn mal wieder beiseite geschoben und diesen violetten Manipel, den er übrigens mit heim nahm, aus der Tasche gezogen.


4 Answers 4


The placement is determined by function. I'll modify the examples a little to illustrate the points better.

  1. a prefix
  • Der Zug fährt gleich weiter. (weiterfahren)

In this case it'll come "at the end" (all exceptions apply)

  1. a comparative
  • Ich werfe 10 Meter weiter (als Maria).

In this case, it'll come after the unit count.

  1. an adverb of "mode"
  • Ich komme weiter zu spät zur Arbeit.

In this case, it'll come before what it talks about.

The example in question could be a prefix or a comparative. I am actually reading it more as a comparative than a prefix, but I can't think of a good linguistic test to tell.

  • Although this is the best explanation so far, it is, unfortunately not verifiable by usage. These sentences are taken from DWDS: Als der Wagen streikte, mußte sie zu Fuß weiter. Der 19jährige war weiter zu Fuß geflüchtet und eingeholt worden.
    – user44591
    Aug 19, 2022 at 17:56
  • Not sure, how that doesn't fit with my explanation. The examples you gave are case 1 and 3, respectively.
    – Emanuel
    Aug 22, 2022 at 13:40
  • Ok. Then let me provide an example that cannot possible be consistent with case 1 because there is no associated compound verb in Duden: Beamte verfolgten ihn solange bis er die Kontrolle über seinen Wagen verlor und zu Fuß weiter flüchtete. DWDS: bit.ly/3PIkZnN. This cannot be comparative and is not a prefix. It must be an adverb of mode, but it follows zu Fuß.
    – user44591
    Aug 22, 2022 at 21:52
  • 1
    Late but better now than never. Just because Duden doesn't list something, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. taz.de/!1447204 What you'd need to know to take Duden as a reference is to check if, ACCORDING to Duden, the sentence is grammatically correct and the "weiter" can be behind "zu Fuß" but not attached to "flüchten". Besides, if it is an adverb of mode, then it's like "zu Fuß", which is also an adverbial of mode. I don#t think there are rules as to how to order those. "weiter zu Fuß, zu Fuß weiter" are the same thing then.
    – Emanuel
    Oct 4, 2022 at 10:04

Note that unlike "zu Fuß" which is a Modal Adverb, "weiter" is a Local Adverb - it doesn't describe how the tractor rolls, but where to.

  • Der Traktor rollte noch 5 Meter weiter.
  • Der Traktor rollte noch 5 Meter nach links.
  • Der Traktor rollte noch 5 Meter zurück.

They should always be placed at the end of a sentence, and after the modal verb.

  • Der Traktor rollte [laut knatternd] (modal) [die Straße hinunter] (local).

You can put the modal adverb at the beginning of the sentence and preserve the meaning...

  • Laut knatternd rollte der Traktor die Straße hinunter

... but doing so with the local adverb along with its quantifier will sounds extremely unusual at best, and might totally change the meaning of the sentence at worst.

  • This statement is not consistent with the usage found for zu Fuß weiter/weiter zu Fuß. In addition, both 10 Fuß as well as weiter are local adverbs.
    – user44591
    Aug 15, 2022 at 23:55
  • "zu Fuß weiter" describes how, not where to. They are not the same. Aug 17, 2022 at 13:18

The verb is weiterrollen. Wiktionary

Weiterrollen is separable, so when it's finite the prefix weiter is placed at the end of the sentence.

  • This works for the specific example but doesn't answer OP's question in general; think 10 Meter weiter stand ein Traktor or similar.
    – David Vogt
    Aug 15, 2022 at 10:10
  • @DavidVogt: The question is not very precise in that respect, when the only explicit example given is a different category.
    – guidot
    Aug 15, 2022 at 10:28
  • On second thought, you're right, the question is unclear.
    – David Vogt
    Aug 15, 2022 at 10:43
  • Why could the verb not be rollen with an adverb of weiter?
    – user44591
    Aug 15, 2022 at 23:54
  • @user44591: when pressed, one probably could interpret it that way, but I am not convinced, whether many will share that view, and currently don't see an impact on the word order of the complete sentence.
    – guidot
    Aug 17, 2022 at 14:38

Well, there's a simple rule that if you want to qualify an adverb in German, the qualifier goes in front of it:

  1. Der Traktor rollte noch 5 Meter weiter
  2. Der Traktor rollte noch sehr viel weiter
  3. Die Frau muss noch 2 Minuten länger warten
  4. Der Athlet aus dem Kongo sprang 30cm höher als der aus Ghana

Then we need to distinguish between the adwerb ("how?") and the qualifier ("how in detail?"). Maybe it's better to use adverbs that are really interchangeable as examples, like in:

a. Er ging weiter links

b. Er ging links weiter

And a deliberately bumpy translation to highlight the difference:

a) says: "He walked - more to the left"

b) says "He walked more - to the left"

i.e. the "main" adverb is placed last, the qualifier qualifying that main adverb comes in front of it.

  • Well, that would be fine except both the weiter and the 10 Fuß are adverbs, each of which could be considered to qualify the other -- although the 10 Fuß actually quantifies, is that what makes the difference?
    – user44591
    Aug 10, 2022 at 19:28
  • Well, again simple: "weiter" qualifies "10 Fuß". But not the other way round. Nothing to do with a measure. "weiter hinunter" would as well go this way.
    – tofro
    Aug 22, 2022 at 5:16
  • I do not see why 10 Fuß cannot qualify weiter, just as well as weiter can qualify 10 Fuß. Unqualified weiter would not tell how much farther. 10 Fuß qualifies weiter to tell how much farther.
    – user44591
    Aug 22, 2022 at 21:56

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