I'm studying with Duolingo and occasionally check with other sources for grammar.

For complements, I have read, as a general rule, that

in German the direct object is obligatorily placed before the others, only if it is a pronoun.

So is this order correct?

Bringen deine Mitbewohner zur Arbeit die Hunde mit?

Because the only order that is marked as correct is

Bringen deine Mitbewohner die Hunde zur Arbeit mit?

What is the specific rule that this last one would be the only correct order?

Thank you


3 Answers 3


Forget direct/indirect objects!

There is nothing like a direct or indirect object in German grammar. German has these types of objects:

  • Genitive objects

    Ich gehe meiner Wege. Wir gedenken der Toten. Er wurde des Mordes bezichtigt. Sie bediente sich einer List.

  • Dativ objects

    Das Buch gehört dem Direktor. Du ähnelst meinem Onkel. Das nützt niemandem. Bitte antworte mir.

  • Accusative objects

    Sabine schreibt einen Brief. Maria isst den Apfel. Hans küsst seine Frau. Siehst du den Berg?

  • Prepositional objects

    Ludwig spielt mit dem Feuer. Barbara achtet auf ihre Kleidung. Der Fernsehsprecher berichtet über das Erdbeben. Kevin glaubt an den Weihnachtsmann.

(Some also say that Gleichsetzungsnominativ is another type of object (Otto ist ein Mann), but in fact it's part of the predicate.)

Open any German grammar textbook. No matter which one you open, you will not find the terms "direktes Objekt" or "indirektes Objekt" in it. These categories make no sense for German grammar. Thinking in these categories can help in 90% of all cases, but in 10% you will fail. Better learn the categories that really exist, then you have a chance to be always correct.

Answer to your question

Having said this, I can answer your question now:

Word order is much more flexible in German than in English. English has (almost) no cases, so it's hard to identify which words have which grammatical function in a sentence if the words would appear in any order they want. So in English you have a relatively strict word order, and this helps you to tell apart different parts of speech.

But German has grammatical cases, and this helps a lot to identify which grammatical function a part of the sentence has, even when it stands at an unexpected place.

So, this word order is preferred:

Bringen deine Mitbewohner die Hunde zur Arbeit mit?

(accusative object before prepositional object)

In a closed question you will find the verb at position 1 and the subject at position 2. And the former prefix of the separable verb mitbringen must stand at the very end. These places are fixed. But the rest can also be arranged in a different order:

Bringen deine Mitbewohner zur Arbeit die Hunde mit?

This order is unusual, but still correct. You can use this order (prepositional object before accusative object), when you want to emphasize the accusative object. ("Oh my god, I've heard they bring dog with them? I'm so shocked! Is it really true? Do your roommates bring their dogs to work?")


Both your example sentences are correct.

Here's a word order recipe you can apply to most German clauses:

  1. a topic of your choice — only in main clauses
  2. V2 verb — only in main clauses
  3. subject
  4. pronoun accusative object
  5. dative object
  6. temporal adverbial
  7. causal adverbial
  8. modal adverbial
  9. locational adverbial (not directional!)
  10. noun accusative object
  11. directional adverbial or prepositional object
  12. predicate verbs
  13. an adverbial of your choice or a comparison

But that's only the default order. You may choose a different order. The only part of speech that is really fixed is the V2 verb in main clauses. We need that one as a marker that splits the topic (also called Vorfeld in German) from the remainder of the clause. Oh, and the predicate verbs have the same function if you employ that adverbial or comparison behind them (also called Nachfeld in German). But if you don't need that, you may move them to the topic position as well.

The main point about your examples is that zur Arbeit is a directional adverbial (where to?) and as such, it goes before the predicate verbs at the end (“mit” of mitbringen). By default.

You may reorder as you see it fit. That emphasizes all the out-of-order parts of speech.

Oh, and forget about direct and indirect objects when it comes to German. For about 90% of the verbs, accusative objects function as direct objects, and dative objects function as indirect objects. But for about 10% of the verbs, and of those a lot of are common, important verbs, that does not apply and you end up confused on what's going on when you use direct object and indirect object. Forget those terms when it comes to learning German. Go by the cases, they are correct 100% of the time.


As Tode mentioned, both alternatives are correct. However the weighting of the words might be slightly different.

The first Sentence: sounds slightly less direct and might be a little confusing, as you expect the proposition of place at the end of the sentence and then there is just something added. So it feels like the sentence is over, but then there is more information, in this case the dogs.

The second sentence has more flow and the weight of the sentence is laid more prominently on the dogs. In the first sentence the weight is not as clearly shared, between the dogs and the work.

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