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In the sentence

Die Tests gibt euch dann morgen der Markus zurück.

the structure is

[Objekt] [Verb] [Objekt] [Adverbiale] [Subjekt] [Rest of the Verb]

Is it possible and grammatically correct, even if the subject is "ich"?

It may sound extremely weird to some native speakers.

For example:

Das Gemüse schneide diesmal auf jeden Fall ich. Du machst das immer viel zu grob.

Die Rechnung bezahle auf allgemeinen Wunsch hin ich, da ich im Lotto gewonnen habe.

What structure should I use to make it sound more natural?

And if you know any structures like the one I mentioned above and are frequent please share them with me.

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  • 1
    Just for clarity, it's probably better to specify [Dative object] or [Accusative object] instead of just [Object]. There is a difference in German, and it affect word order even if it does not determine it.
    – RDBury
    Nov 14, 2022 at 1:09
  • On the contrary - if you use "ich" I'd change the sentence slightly "Die Tests gebe ich euch dann morgen zurück." - occurs more natural to me
    – eagle275
    Nov 14, 2022 at 11:58

5 Answers 5

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The example sentences don't sound weird at all, especially in spoken language. They're completely correct and natural in both spoken and written language.

Using this "structure" (i.e. order of the Satzteile) is a great way to first introduce the topic that you are talking about, building up interest or even tension, ...

Die Tests gibt euch ...
Die Rechnung zahle ...
Das Gemüse schneide ...

... and then putting emphasis on the main information the sentence is conveying, which here is the subject (der Markus, ich). The other parts of the sentence like adverbials, prepositionals, additional objects and separated verb parts just fall into place naturally.

Introducing the topic first and placing the actual statement about it at the end of the sentence is a very common pattern. Other examples:

  • "Zu den Vorwürfen der politische Einflussnahme beim NDR in Schleswig-Holstein legt der Sender nun die Ergebnisse einer internen Prüfung vor." (news article)
  • "Der Mörder ist immer der Gärtner." (title of a song about crime story tropes)
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This structure is perfectly fine and natural, if you really want to emphasize that it's ich.

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with these two sentences. I am a native speaker and I use such sentences often and I also often hear other people using such sentences. These sentences are far away from "sound extremely weird to some native speakers". The opposite is true: Using such sentences from time to time lets your German sound more natural.

In German there is no rule that the subject has to be at position 1 of the sentence. This is the case in English but not in German. English must have the subject at position 1 because otherwise it would hard to tell which part of the sentence is the subject. "The apple ate the man" is wrong in English because the subject is not at position 1. But in German you find the subject not by its position in the sentence, but by its grammatical case: "Den Apfel aß der Mann" is perfectly fine in German because only the subject is in nominative case. All other parts are in other cases. The only exceptions are sentences with the verbs sein, werden, bleiben. Then there is also a second part in the sentence in nominative case, but then you can either tell from the context which is the subject ("Herr Schultz ist ein Deutscher"), or it doesn't matter ("Apfelsinen sind Orangen"). So also in these sentences there is no need to have the subject at a fixed position.

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Some comments in addition to the answers already given: German uses word order to indicate what is relevant and what is important, perhaps what is surprising. This can be hard to get used to if you're coming from a language, such as English, where word order is more rigid. The art of choosing the best word order for a given situation is difficult to master, and for a learner it's probably better to stick with the "normal" word order until you develop good intuition about it; there is no list of rules you can memorize that will work. In a way, German is more poetic, and you don't become a great poet overnight. (For example Frost: "Whose woods these are I think I know." Correct word order in English: "I think I know whose woods these are." There's a fine and blurry line between a poet and Yoda.)

That said, there are principles you can learn to at least appreciate what is going on in a German sentence. Each one is like a little story, and it follows a story structure to a certain extent. The beginning and the end are positions of importance, since that is what the listener will remember. The first sentence element tells you what or who the story is about. In most cases that is the subject, and the subject comes first in most sentences, but it could be nearly anything, except the verb and certain adverbs such as "nicht". (I'm not including questions and imperatives here since they follow different rules.) Adverbs of time often come first, and you can even put them in first in English even though it would be unusual to do that with other adverbs. The verb is the second element. This is a grammatical rule but it makes sense in the story arc; once you establish what the story is about you need to say what happens. The subject tends to come after the verb if it doesn't come first, but if it's being emphasized then it comes near the end since important information is often placed there.

So in your example, "die Tests" is the topic. You can indicate this in English with a phrase like "As for the tests, ...". The fact that Markus comes last shows that this is important or surprising information. You could indicate this in English with a phrase like "it will be Markus who ...". If you put these together you get a very awkward sentence "As for the tests, it will be Markus who gives them back to you tomorrow." This is too long and awkward to be actually used in English, but I think it reflects the intent of the German version.

The part of the sentence I'm stuck on, since I'm not a native speaker, is "der" in front of Markus. I think it's to make it clear that Markus is the subject since it's unusual (not wrong) to have the subject at the end. You are allowed to include a definite article in German for no other reason than to mark the case when it's ambiguous.

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  • There are already some other questions about articles before names in colloquial speech (and the regional differences in that usage).
    – DonHolgo
    Nov 14, 2022 at 8:54
  • Poppycock. Morgen ich makes sense only in translation of "future me". The der article does pretty much what you have explained! Die anderen in diesem Faden sind allesamt Baiern die behaupten wollen, sie hätten schon einmal ein Hochdeutsch von weitem im Vorbeifahren gsehen. Mit gesprochenem Deutsch, worum es hier sicherlich ging, geht sich das nicht aus.
    – vectory
    Nov 16, 2022 at 19:38
  • @DonHolgo - Yes, in fact believe I asked one here myself in reference to Swiss German. But I don't know if that's the only explanation, and my feeling is that it's not meant to be regional speech.
    – RDBury
    Nov 16, 2022 at 21:33
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Die Prämisse ist schon Fragwürdig. Zeichne erstmal einen Abhängigkeitenbaum mit der Syntaxtheorie deiner Wahl. [Rest of the verb] ist mir zumindest noch nicht untergekommen.

Da die Tests vorne stehen, wäre wohl passiver Modus angezeigt

Die Tests werden euch Morgen von Markus zurückgegeben

Da dies nicht zur Debatte steht, muss das Deutsche wohl Eigenschaften einer Ergativsprache aufweisen. Insbesondere die Wahl der Artikel ist bemerkenswert. Mir persönlich geriet es sich schon einstmals derart, dass ich eine Nominalphrase mit Artikel einleite um danach erst das passende Nomen zu suchen, was gerade dann auffällig wird, wenn das Themenfeld kein passendes Nomen bietet, wie hier. Was hieße das nun übertragen auf den befragten Satz?

Ich passt jedenfalls nicht. Die bisherigen Antworten begründen Ihre entgegenstehenden Meinungen auch nicht mal im Ansatz: Kraft der Wassersuppe. "naturally", "... additional objects and separated verb parts just fall into place naturally." "perfectly fine in German because only the subject is in nominative case". Kritik daran bedürfte jedoch einer gesonderten Fragestellung und zusätzlicher Tonaufzeichnungen, die markante Abweichungen in den jeweiligen insoweit ungenügenden Beispielen seiner Betonung belegen.

? Die Tests gebe euch dann morgen ich zurück

Dafür kennt das Deutsche andere Pronomina

Die Tests gibt euch dann morgen meinereiner zurück

Für feminine Sprecher, Sprecher:innen und solche die es mal werden wollen ist das wegen die -er Beugung vermutlich ein Dorn im Auge, obwohl genügend Damen bestätigen, dass das halt ein rein grammatisches Problem ist, das tatsächlich tolerierbar und beherrschbar ist. Herr wie in herrschen kommt angeblich auch von einem Wort für "grau", vgl. "weise", und dämlich nicht von *Dame, aber nagut.

Sprachhisrorisch ging das feminine Genus vermutlich zusammen mit dem Neutrum aus einem sachlichen Genus hervor, somit die hier unterstellte Unterscheidung begründet sei, doch das ist dunkle Vorzeit. Genau dort wird vereinzelt Ergativität verortet.

Außerdem steht zu vermuten, die Verbendungen seien aus clitischen Pronomina hervorgegangen, Objekt-Verb ohne Subjekt. Das Subjekt haftet dem Verb an. In der Umgangssprache ist das durchaus üblich: verstehste? Ne verstehe nich. Aber warte!

Die Tests gebe ich euch dann Morgen zurück

Wie verkorkst das eigentlich ist, bedarf weiterer Erläuterung. Dann empfinde ich als richtig, doch unerklärlich. Eher noch würde ich dann Morgen umkehren. Es muss angesichts Engl. yesterday eigentlich *dag-, *dagn gehießen. Ob morgen eigentlich Altsächsisch *morgne* als Adverb der Zeit steht, dürfte zweifelhaft sein, sodass die Wortfolge kaum zu ermitteln ist. Vgl. morgen Früh, frühmorgens, früh wie vor, vor Sonnenaufgang, vormittags, s.a. the day before, day after. Dementgegen läuft mein Ansatz nicht ganzbrund, weil "dann" bestimmt andere Funktionen erfüllen kann, bspw. Bestimmtheit auszudrücken, etwa dann mach, was auf andere Weise begründet sein mag.

Ob das auf Obersteyrisch italiänisch Zinn ergibt, interessiert unterdessen genau niemand.

Grüße niemand

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