I came across this sentence:

Geschrieben von Redakteuren der Süddeutschen Zeitung, beantwortet diese Reihe viele typische Kinderfragen.

In English, there is a rule that the clause has to modify the noun immediately following it, as in:

Written by editors of Süddeutschen Zeitung, the series answers many typical children questions.

Apparently the German sentence doesn't follow that rule, but is still fine. I wonder if the following are fine, too?

(a) Geschrieben von Redakteuren der Süddeutschen Zeitung, diese Reihe beantwortet viele typische Kinderfragen.

(b) Diese Reihe, geschreiben von Redakteuren der Süddeutschen Zeitung, beantwortet viele typische Kinderfragen.

2 Answers 2


The construction follows the basic scheme of German main sentences. You have one element (or constituent) followed by the verb and the rest. That's why your version a) is not possible.

Each element answers one question. The first element is the whole "written by" part here. It answers the question "How?". It might be hard to accept this as a separate element but you can exchange it for example by zum ersten Mal or by * in einfachen Worten*. I'll give you a similar example where it is easier to detach noun from description.

How does Maria arrive at home?

Wet from rain, hungry from a hard day's work and still confused by what Thomas had said.

Version b) is fine. The difference is that it sounds as if there is a speed bump in the sentence while the original is smooth sailing.


Diese Reihe beantwortet viele typische Kinderfragen.

In a main clause, this is the proper way how to build up the sentence: Subject-Predicate-Object.

If you then insert a relative clause, this does not affect the structure of the main clause. The subordinate clause does not take any position of the main clause:

Diese Reihe, welche von Redakteuren der Süddeutschen Zeitung geschrieben wurde, beantwortet viele typische Kinderfragen.

Consequently, the same is true when the insertion is a participle phrase as in your question. Thus, your sentence (b) is correct.

If, however, you start your sentence with the participle phrase, this affects the word order as it would be affected with any kind of subordinate clause. If a subordinate clause is preceding the main clause, then it is considered as position 1 of the main clause:

Position 1 of main clause         | Position 2 | Position 3, 4 etc.
Weil ich gestern keine Zeit hatte,  bin          ich nicht vorbeigekommen.

And thus, your sentence (a) is not grammatical.

Apart: Strictly speaking, the participle clause is not a subordinate clause. It doesn't have a finite verb. But they do have the same function and, in respect to the question's topic, the same rules are applied.

  • @Vogel612 sentence b is correct, so I cannot correct it. and the "corrected version" of sentence a would be the sentence OP initially quoted. So, I'm done.
    – Em1
    Dec 23, 2013 at 11:47
  • "for emphasis you could rephrase to O-V-S"... -1 for that. This is one of those legends that students of German are being taught although it has little to do with what happens in the language. This has to stop so I urge you to take this bit out. Here's some support for my claim:"Heute hab ich Pizza gegessen" there is NO emphasis whatsoever on "heute". "Im Wsser ist es nass." same here. No emphasis. The main function of position 1 is getting a nice connection between sentences in a text. And balance. But not emphasis. Putting things in weird places is emphasis.
    – Emanuel
    Dec 23, 2013 at 12:06
  • Whether or not position 1 is a weird place depends on verb, context, element and text.
    – Emanuel
    Dec 23, 2013 at 12:07
  • And also, I have doubts whether the part in question is a participle phrase. It is the same as this "Nass vom Regen waren die Strassen." There is no participle in here. I think we have to take the participle as an adjective here.
    – Emanuel
    Dec 23, 2013 at 12:09
  • @Emanuel In respect to emphasis, I partly agree. In the example given here, it's indeed not for emphasis. Thus, I'll remove this part. However, it is a participle phrase. Otherwise, tell me what kind "geschrieben" is if not past participle? Your example "Nass vom Regen..." is a bad example. Try it with "Genässt vom Regen..."
    – Em1
    Dec 23, 2013 at 13:09

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