I came across two sentences:

  1. Wir machen jeden Sommer am See Urlaub.
  2. Mein Vater übt gern mit dem Pferd Deutsch

I've looked at some explanations of word order, and they are respectively:

  1. since many Germans perceive Urlaub machen as a joint term (as if it was spelled Urlaubmachen) that is treated like many other separable verbs where the prefix is pushed to the end

  2. Usually you expect the direct object Deutsch at the end though since Deutsch üben represents the core idea. Such a core idea is often split, the verb goes to V2, the remainder is kicked to the back, so that the core idea represents the left and right pillar of the sentence.


  1. what is the name of this phenomenon of separation/order that occurs for this type of expression (verb and noun)?
  2. Are there any lists listing them?
  3. How do I know that I am in one of these cases?
  • 1
    I can't agree with the idea, that Urlaub machen or Deutsch üben being the "core idea" have to be unseparable (especially since the last orthography revision from 1996); actually machen jeden Sommer Urlaub am See seems smoother (but this depends on context).
    – guidot
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 8:11
  • 3
    You should know that the terms "direct object" and "indirect object" aren't received well here. Use "accusative object" and "dative object" since they are more descriptive of German. You might find "direct object" and "indirect object" used in book written for English speakers because they are used to describe English grammar, but German is different from English and native German speakers don't use them.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 9:01
  • Das Pferd heißt Herr Ed.
    – RDBury
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 9:18
  • 1
    @guido: I think what is meant is that the construct "Urlaub machen" is treated similarly to compound Verben: i.e "einkaufen" => "Wir kaufen [...] ein", "Urlaub machen" => "Wir machen [...] Urlaub." The placement of "am See" is not the point.
    – bakunin
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 9:58
  • @bakunin exactly
    – Paolo
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 10:57

1 Answer 1


Word order in German is flexible, and what word order is used in a particular example often has less to do with grammar than what the speaker is trying to emphasize or even personal preference. And, as is often the case in grammar, multiple explanations can lead to a single result. So I think more context is needed before the question can be answered with any degree of certainty. In the noun+verb construction Urlaub machen, machen is what is known as a "light verb". The verb on its own is rather meaningless and the meaning comes from the noun. There is a (partial) list with machen in the Usage notes section of the Wiktionary entry. Other examples of the same phenomenon but with different verbs include: Dank abstatten, zum Schweigen bringen, Hunger haben, Arbeit leisten, Schaden nehmen, einen Pakt schließen, eine Wahl treffen, in Kontakt treten. Wiktionary has a list of light verb constructions in English, but I don't know of a similar list for German.

  • 1
    Interesting question, though. During the last years, I'm coming more and more often across constructions without articles like: Führerschein machen, Deutschkurs haben, Prüfung haben, perhaps even 'Termin haben' (ich hab heute Termin bei der Chefin), 'Krankenschein haben' (= krankgeschrieben sein), 'Ausbildung machen'. I don't think the syntactital embedding of the accusative objects in these cases is the same as in 'Urlaub haben' (non-countable noun, like 'Kaffee trinken') or as in 'Schaden nehmen' (Funktionsverbgefüge like in 'Verzicht leisten'). Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 14:54

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