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Consider the following English sentence:

Yesterday, I drove in the city with my mother.

I believe the correct way of saying it in German is:

Gestern bin ich mit meiner Mutter in die Stadt gefahren.

Now, if I re-arrange the parts to match the English order as follows:

Gestern ich bin gefahren in die Stadt mit meiner Mutter.

Is it grammatically correct? I know that I would be understood but I want to know if this obeys the rules?

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    Did you really mean "drove in the city" or rather "drove to the city"? The reason I ask is that the translation is wrong, provided that the preposition is in fact in. Jan 5, 2023 at 14:11
  • I mean "drove in" (as opposed to "drove into") in the sense of "drove around in" or "took a tour in".
    – DrMaxB
    Jan 5, 2023 at 14:26
  • "Gestern fuhr ich mit meiner Mutter in die/der Stadt (umher). Jan 5, 2023 at 16:56
  • @DrMaxB, okay, in this case the translation should be "... in der Stadt herumgefahren." Jan 6, 2023 at 19:21

1 Answer 1

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No, the sentence is grammatically incorrect because it violates the verb-second rule. The verb-second rule says that the finite verb must be the second part of a sentence. This is one of the very few hard rules that govern word order in German. It applies to statements. For questions and subclauses, different rules apply.

You can rearrange the sentence as long as the verb remains in second position. So the following sentences are correct:

Ich bin gestern mit meiner Mutter in die Stadt gefahren.

Mit meiner Mutter bin ich gestern in die Stadt gefahren.

In die Stadt bin ich gestern mit meiner Mutter gefahren.

Gefahren bin ich gestern mit meiner Mutter in die Stadt.

Now, the latter two sentences are somewhat unusual and one would use them only if one wants to put emphasis on the first part of the sentence (In die Stadt and Gefahren, respectively). But if this is the case, both sentences are correct.

There are other rules aside from the verb-second rule, but in general they may be ignored for emphasis.

Btw, a better translation for "Yesterday, I drove in the city with my mother." is "Gestern war ich mit meiner Mutter in der Stadt unterwegs". But this is not important for the question at hand.

In colloquial German, a pronoun at the beginning at the sentence can be omitted. So in spoken German, you may hear a sentence like the following:

Bin gestern mit meiner Mutter in die Stadt gefahren.

But this is only valid if there is an implied Ich at the beginning of the sentence.

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  • A leading subject “das” is also often omitted.
    – Carsten S
    Jan 6, 2023 at 15:17
  • @RHa, please, note the discussion below the question. The translation should actually be "... in der Stadt herumgefahren" instead of "... in die Stadt gefahren". Jan 6, 2023 at 19:25

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