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If I want to say "We still have all 101 dalmatians, unfortunately", what is the difference between

Wir haben leider immer noch alle hundertundein Dalmatiner

and

Leider haben wir immer noch alle hundertundeinen Dalmatiner

and

Wir haben immer noch leider alle hundertundein Dalmatiner

--- or is there a more appropriate word ordering?

The first two are from Google Translate because I don't have a friendly neighborhood native German speaker to consult; the former is from "Unfortunately we still have all hundred and one dalmatians" and the latter is from "We still have all hundred and one dalmatians unfortunately".

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Your heading suggests your question relates to the ordering of the two adverbs, but "leider ... immer noch" have the same order in both German examples. The variants differ in the ordering of "leider" and "wir". So that's what I am going to answer.

As far as I can tell, there is no important difference between your two versions. The prefield (first slot in front of the finite verb) has to be filled, and the subject "wir" and the sentence adverb "leider" are the two topmost expressions in the hierarchy of the clause. In principle, a sentence adverb could precede or follow the subject inside the clause (just not when there's a personal pronoun, but this rule only concerns ordering after the finite V). So, no matter which of the two you pick for first position, there will be no effect of "inversion" or a marked order that would trigger special emphasis. Both sentences end up "neutral".

Placing "unfortunately" at the end is easy in English, and possible in German, but German has more restrictions against placing stuff at the end (in the German Nachfeld), because the grammatical structures are different. If you want to say: "Wir haben immer noch alle 101 Dalmatiner, leider" -- it's possible but it has a stronger effect of an afterthought (in my feeling).

Let me add a point about the ordering of the adverbs: In both languages, placing "unfortunately" at the end creates a detached position, so "still" and the verb are always closer together, no matter whether "unfortunately" comes first or last. So the ordering is different, but the hierarchy (relative distance to the verb) is the same.

  • Unfortunately [we still have 101d.]
  • [we still have 101d.], unfortunately
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  • what about "Wir haben immer noch leider alle hundertundein Dalmatiner"? (the only reason I didn't mention it in my question is that Google didn't tell me that.)
    – Jason S
    Oct 31, 2023 at 23:24
  • (I've edited my question to include that)
    – Jason S
    Oct 31, 2023 at 23:25
  • The variant "wir haben immer noch leider..." is not good. It's not impossible but... difficult. At best, "immer noch" needs strong accent then (a strong focus accent is something that can motivate earlier positions of words in a German clause). If Google didn't offer that variant, it means they are quite good. There is a natural hierarchy of modifiers in that certain types want to be closer to the verb (in final position) and others (the sentence adverbs) farther away. And to deviate from that, you would need a reason (like contrast accent).
    – Alazon
    Nov 1, 2023 at 2:12

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