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I am writing a poem, the key line of which could be,

Mein Liebling ist vertraute.

A verb is supposed to occupy the second position of a sentence. The above follows this pattern. So does an alternative construction, Vertraute ist mein Liebling.

But may I break up the clause as follows?

Vertraute. Mein Liebling ist.

If we treat "Mein Liebling ist" as a separate clause, then it follows the verb rule, otherwise it doesn't.

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  • 3
    If Yoda you are, you can.
    – tofro
    Sep 7, 2022 at 18:30
  • 1
    This doesn’t really matter for the question, but I don’t know what that sentence means.
    – Carsten S
    Sep 7, 2022 at 18:39
  • I'm pretty sure you meant ist in the first sentence, and vertraut in all of them. There are some English varieties where you can get away with this kind of thing, it would depend on the circumstances though. Of course you can do a lot of things in poetry that you can't do in everyday language, but this seems odd to me. Neither vertraut or mein Liebling ist make a grammatical clause on their own, whether you treat them as such or not.
    – RDBury
    Sep 7, 2022 at 19:20
  • I just don't get how "breaking up a sentence" is supposed to work. With some exceptions, a sentence needs a subject and a verb. If you break up a sentence into two, where one sentence lacks a verb and the other lacks a subject, you end up with two incomplete and thus ungrammatical sentences.
    – RHa
    Sep 7, 2022 at 21:24
  • @CarstenS: I meant to say, "My Liebling is trusted" or "I trust my Liebling."
    – Tom Au
    Sep 8, 2022 at 5:01

1 Answer 1

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  1. German has no verb »is«. This is an Englisch verb. The German verb with the same meaning is »ist« (a form of »sein«).
  2. The word »Vertraute« is a noun and therefore it must be written with an uppercase first letter.
  3. The noun »Vertraute« can not stand alone. It must be accompanied on its left side by a determiner like an article (die Vertraute, eine Vertraute) or a pronoun (meine Vertraute). This btw. is same as in English (wrong: »My favorite is confidant.« correct: »My favorite is my confidant.«)

In your sentence the nominal group »mein Liebling« is the subject and the nominal group »meine Vertraute« is a thing that is called »Gleichsetzungsnominativ« which looks and behaves similar to an object. In fact it is a part of the predicate, but explaining this in detail is out of the scope of your question. The point is: It is not a separate clause. The whole sentence is just one clause. (Each clause needs its own verb, but there is only one verb in that sentence.)

German word order is more flexible than English. English is an SVO-language which means that Subject, Verb and eventually existing Object must appear in exactly this order in statements. (There are other orders for questions and commands.) But German is a V2-language. This means, that in a statement the Verb must appear at position 2, while the rest can float around in the sentences more or less freely. There are other rules that limit that floating a little bit, but not much.

If the verb is at position 2, and you have only two other parts of speech, namely the subject and that funny thing called Gleichsetzunsnominativ then you only have this two valid word orders:

  1. Mein Liebling ist meine Vertraute.
  2. Meine Vertraute ist mein Liebling.

Both sentences are correct, but this is wrong:

(Meine) Vertraute mein Liebling ist.

In this version the verb is not at position 2, and this makes the sentence wrong.


But maybe you didn't mean the noun »die Vertraute« (the confidant) but

Mein Liebling ist mir vertraut.
My favorite is familiar to me.

Note, that the adjective vertraut is not used as an attribute of a noun, but as part of the predicate, and this means, that is must not be declined. So there is no -e at the end. And you have to add to whom this favorite is familiar. In English this is expressed by the words »to me«, in German by the pronoun »mir«.

If this is what you meant, then the verb still must be at position 2, but now you have more parts of speech, so there are more possibilities to arrange them:

  1. Mein Liebling ist mir vertraut.
  2. Mir ist mein Liebling vertraut.
  3. Vertraut ist mir mein Liebling.
  4. Vertraut ist mein Liebling mir.

btw:

If you did not mean my favorite but my darling then mein Schatz or meine Liebste (or mein Liebster) are better German translations. The German word Liebling can mean a person with who you have a romantic relationship, but it also can mean a protégé or any other person you like.

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