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I'm a little bit confused by the word order in a sentence.

Firstly, we all know that pronoun objects precedes noun objects. When both accusative and dative objects are nouns, dative comes first, right after the verb1. It is exact opposite while using pronouns for accusative and dative objects both.

Secondly, there is the positioning of temporal causal modal and local information, exactly in this sequence.

But what should we do when we need to contain te-ka-mo-lo information with both dative and accusative objects?

I saw in some resources that we can put Zeitangabe between the first object and second object and adverbs should be placed after all objects, but I inferred these two implicitly, by looking at the exemplary sentences.

I would really appreciate, if someone could at least clarify this to some extent.

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  • I think you're already doing what you should be doing: keep studying real-life examples until you get a feel for what sounds natural. Te-ka-mo-lo is more a guideline for beginners than an actual rule, and it sounds like you're outgrowing it.
    – RDBury
    Mar 19 at 2:33
  • I would say "te-ka-mo-lo" should only be used for reference and make corrections as you go. If you are a native English speaker, German applies many similar principles that English does, but just in it's own way (almost as if they're related!). If you really want to get a feel for it, listen to things like Assimil or watch EasyGerman videos, then drill speaking things they say. Then start adding some variation to it. It'll come naturally, but with time. Mar 19 at 3:01

1 Answer 1

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Forget te-ka-mo-lo, and consider the rule: "an adverb with a meaning that is very tightly connected to the verb meaning is inserted close to the verb, i.e. close to the end position of the verb in the clause" (even if the verb has to do duty in second position). And "an adverb that is independent of the verb meaning (because it is about point of view or probability etc. of the whole statement) is inserted early in the clause".

The labels "temporal, local, modal" are much too coarse to be of use for word order rules. Especially "modal" is a mixed bag. For example: a temporal or local adverb can be a frame-setter (the time/place for which your statement is meant to be true), this comes very early in the clause e.g. before a dative object, -- or they can localise the event (that's of medium importance to the verb meaning, this is good between the two objects, just in front of the accusative object), -- or they can very narrowly modify an aspect of the verb meaning, especially those "locatives" that denote a direction. The latter almost invariably follow the accusative object because they behave like part of the complex predicate (they may even trigger a change of the perfect auxiliary).

Example:

  • "Früher haben Eltern Kindern abends Märchen erzählt"

"Früher" (in the good old times) is a frame setter, "abends" (regularly in the evening) localises the event of telling stories, but both are "temporal adverbs".

Chances are, you are confused because the rules you have been taught do not properly describe the grammar...

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  • I think the best that can be said about te-ka-mo-lo is that if followed then the result isn't "wrong", even if it may not be the best or most natural order in a given situation. So te-ka-mo-lo may be useful if you're starting out and have no clue how to put together a sentence and no idea what is natural sounding. But it's not an actual "rule" and native speakers don't follow it. The 'te' part may be the most useful, since time often comes before other sentence elements.
    – RDBury
    Mar 19 at 2:24
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    I wonder if there is a template answer "forget TeKaMoLo, forget direct and indirect objects, forget about English grammar rules when speaking German" we could apply to this sort of question. It is not the questioners fault, but this is perhaps the umpteenth time I see this question pop up.
    – bakunin
    Mar 19 at 15:52
  • Right. I wanted to write a wikipedia article "German word order", but I would do it in German.
    – Alazon
    Mar 19 at 16:25
  • @bakunin - It sounds like an FAQ to me, and we have one for "Resources for learning German". Maybe "Common mistakes made by German learners". There is already an article "German sentence structure" in English Wikipedia. I couldn't find a separate article in German Wikipedia, but there is some information in "Deutsche Grammatik", SE is supposed to have a mechanism for repeated questions: point to an older version and close as "already has an answer". But it's surprising how many times this isn't appropriate for one reason or another.
    – RDBury
    Mar 19 at 19:22
  • @RDBury: my comment was more a "verbose sigh" than anything else. Your idea for (community wiki?) "Common mistakes of German learners" article is a good one, though. I'd be willing to help create it and if you are interested too, we are already two - looks like the start of a mass movement to me. ;-)
    – bakunin
    Mar 19 at 22:33

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