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I've been learning German for donkey's years and I though that I had kinda mastered the basic rules of German grammar, until I found these sentences in one of my textbooks Practising German Grammar, By Martin Durrell, Katrin Kohl, Claudia Kaiser:

  • Vermeiden Sie jeden Kontakt mit dem Patienten, da immer noch die Gefahr einer Ansteckung besteht

  • Der Tourismus wird sich nicht erholen, solange dort absolutes Chaos herrscht

  • Wir gehen erst morgen einkaufen, weil heute zu viele Leute in der Stadt sind

  • Ärzte bestätigen, dass sich mit dieser neuen Methode mehr Menschen behandeln lassen als früher.

I was led to thinking that word order in subordinate clauses followed this pattern:

  1. Bracket (, dass or ,weil)
  2. Pronouns
  3. Noun subject
  4. everything else
  5. Bracket (verb)

So, why do we have immer noch, dort, heute or mit dieser neuen Methode sandwiched between 1st bracket and the noun subject?

Thanks.

1 Answer 1

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German word order is "flexible", in both main and subordinate clauses. The most important factor is "given information (that is taken for granted) precedes new information (that is being highlighted)". The adverbials that you mention come early in the clause because they represent given information. For example, in the last example, the reading is: "given that this method is now available, more people agree to be treated" - so the relevant piece of news is "more treatments (than before)". If you reverse the order ("mehr Menschen sich mit dieser neuen Methode behandeln lassen"), you put the spotlight on choosing the new method (more treatments with the new method than with any other method). (But depending on intonation, other readings might also come up).

Likewise, temporal or local adverbials are very natural before the subject, they act as frame-setters in this way. It is probably the time or place that has been talked about before.

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  • One could mention that the position of the verb is not as flexible.
    – Carsten S
    Dec 17, 2023 at 1:40

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