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I found two different positions for a reflexive pronoun in a question.

Hat sich Herr Kijmmel beschwert?
Hast du dich geärgert?

Would it also be possible to say:

Hat Herr Kijmmel sich beschwert?
Hast dich du geärgert? ?

Both are reflexive verbs, so why does the position change? Thanks in advance.

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  • Did you form "Hast dich du geärgert?" by analogy or did you really find this sentence somewhere? Its word order is not natural.
    – Dodezv
    Jun 14, 2023 at 20:06

2 Answers 2

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Unstressed pronouns may occur in a special position, attached after the "left verbal bracket", in this case: attached to the preposed finite verb (otherwise, a conjunction like "dass / ob" would also serve this purpose). This early positioning of a weak pronoun is also known as the "Wackernagel" position (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Wackernagel ). You may have several pronouns in that slot simultaneously, then they form a group that has a fixed order.

The other orderings above result when a pronoun is not in this advanced Wackernagel position, but deeper in the interior of the clause (in the standard position for complements, the Mittelfeld). This is often an option also for unstressed pronouns, although it can be a bit marginal. In particular, however, a stressed pronoun cannot be a Wackernagel pronoun. The example "hast dich DU auch so geärgert wie ich?" is a bit marginal, but with a lot of contextual pressure and tinkering with intonation, I do get it. But then, the DU is in a different syntactic region, as just said. The Wackernagel reflexives, like in this or in your first example, are a very special thing, because normally you would expect that a reflexive always comes after the word that it refers to... So the special effect is that, because of its lightweight status, it escapes and goes up like a bubble in your coke :)

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Hat sich Herr Kijmmel beschwert?

Hat Herr Kijmmel sich beschwert?

Those are both possible, and I don't see a preferred variant either.

Hast du dich geärgert?

Hast dich du geärgert?

Here, only the first variant is possible. No idea why.

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    I'm thinking that it has something to do with there being only pronouns in second example. My understanding is that the position of objects has a lot to do with what is considered "new information". When a proper noun is involved it's likely to be taken as something new and pushed toward the end. With only pronouns neither object is new and the word order is fixed by other factors like keeping the subject close to the verb.
    – RDBury
    Jun 15, 2023 at 5:06
  • I don't agree. "Hast dich du geärgert?" is a perfectly grammatical sentence, but it puts a LOT of emphasis on "du". "Ich hab mich nicht geärgert, hast dich du geärgert?" That is the only time you would use that word order.
    – wonderbear
    Jun 15, 2023 at 5:54
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    I would never use that order.
    – Janka
    Jun 15, 2023 at 10:18

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