2

Having the verb at the second position is a well-known grammar rule in German language. If there is additionally another verb, this verb must be placed at the end of the sentence. However, I came across this example in a textbook:

Unbedingt meiden sollten Sie jedoch Menschen, die unter größer Prüfungsangst leiden und nur Nervosität verbreiten.

As showed, two verbs are put at second position at the same time!

It should have been, according the aforementioned grammar rule, as:

Unbedingt sollten Sie jedoch Menschen meiden, die unter größer Prüfungsangst leiden und nur Nervosität verbreiten.

The only advantage of the first example is Menschen and die are put closer together, which helps readers immediately understand the reference.

Nevertheless, I wonder about the hard rule of main verb in second position. Is the first example grammatically correct and acceptable in daily life?

1 Answer 1

4

No, those aren't two verbs at second position. Let me reorder your example.

Sie sollten jedoch Menschen unbedingt meiden, die …

This is the default word order of a main clause. But you may put any sentence element in the topic position in front:

Jedoch sollten Sie Menschen unbedingt meiden, die …

Menschen sollten Sie jedoch unbedingt meiden, die …

Unbedingt sollten Sie jedoch Menschen meiden, die …

Meiden sollten Sie jedoch Menschen unbedingt, die …

And finally, that adverb+predicate block in the end as a whole may also be the topic:

Unbedingt meiden sollten Sie jedoch Menschen, die …

That V2 verb splits the topic (also called Vorfeld in German) from the main part (Hauptfeld). Any sentence item may be the topic. That's how the whole row of adverbs and verbs from the end may end up in front of the V2 verb.

It's also more useful to understand that by default all the verbs in a German sentence go to the end, but as the very last word order rule applied to main clauses, the V2 verb is moved from the very end to second position.

4
  • This V2 rule seems flexible in its application because to my naked eyes, I can see meiden and sollten are put at position 2 at the same time! In case this sentence is spoken a bit slowly, I guess it should be spoken as followed: Unbedingt meiden | sollten | Sie | jedoch .... (to emphasize the V2 rule). Apr 22, 2023 at 7:19
  • Be assured that there are never two V2 verbs in a main clause unless it's a list of topics and their respective V2 verbs. So if there are two or more adjacent verbs with forms that may be either infinitives or first/third person plural, the modal verb is the V2 verb and the other ones are infinitives.
    – Janka
    Apr 22, 2023 at 10:08
  • 1
    Example for a list of multiple V2 verbs: Die Lok zischte, dampfte, schnaufte am Bahnsteig vor sich hin. Example for a list of multiple V2 verbs and their topics: Die Musik spielte und die Gäste tanzten den ganzen Abend.
    – Janka
    Apr 22, 2023 at 10:17
  • Example for a list of multiple topics and a list of multiple V2 verbs: Heute und auch in Zukunft können und müssen wir es anders machen. The verb machen is an infinitive. This is important when the topic is changed: Anders machen können und müssen wir es heute und auch in Zukunft.
    – Janka
    Apr 22, 2023 at 10:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.