The B Grammatik book has an exercise where you're supposed to arrange the following words in a sentence (describing the actions of Herr Lampe):

am Bahnhof - umsteigen

I thought that the most natural way to form a sentence from these words would be : Er steigt am Bahnhof um.

However, the solution manual says : Am Bahnhof steigt er um.

Which sentence sounds more natural?

3 Answers 3


As native speaker I don't recognize a diffrence in respect to naturally sounding quality. It more depends on the context, so if the previous sentence mentioned, where Mr Lampe entered the train, (and perhaps the following sentence closes by stating the exit station) the location is more likely to move to the front of the sentence.


Both sentences are correct, and your sentence "Er steigt am Bahnhof um" is indeed the most natural way.

A deviation from that order places the emphasis on that part in the front, here "am Bahnhof". So the question is whether that is intended from any context you have. If he is using a train, then of course he is switching trains at the train station. If he is using a bus, then switching busses at the train station and not somewhere else may be unexpected and worth the emphasis.


That first item in a German main clause is the topic. Compare those two snippets:

Jochen ist mit dem Bus unterwegs. Er steigt am Bahnhof um.

This second sentence focuses on that it's Jochen who leaves the bus.

Jochen ist mit dem Bus unterwegs. Am Bahnhof steigt er um.

While this second sentence focuses on that Jochen leaves the bus at the station.

You can put anything in first position of a main clause. It becomes the item that this followup sentence is about: the topic. German speakers use the topic all the time.

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