SENTENCE REORDERING: How to flex sentences in german

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Have you ever seen a German sentence such as “Glücklich spielt das Kind” or “Am Abend fahren wir nach Berlin”? and then you ask, “was für einen Satz ist das? Where is the subject and why is it not in the first position like I was thought?” Well, I did as well 🤷🏾‍♀️ until I got to learn about sentence reordering or flexing. Continue reading to know the various ways sentences can be flexed.

Content in this post
1. The concept of sentence flexing
2. How to flex sentences with adverbs
3. How to flex sentences with direct or indirect objects
4. How to flex sentences with adjectives
Table of content for sentence reordering or flexing

Earlier with the start of learning the German language, it was thought that formation of a german sentence is with a definite path which I call the SVO (Subject, Verb and Object) mechanism. This is a sentence where the Subject alias Nominativ is placed in the second position while the verb must always occupy the second position and the Object (Akkusativ or Dativ) the third position. This is as a matter of fact true but over time as you begin to climb up the ladder, the laws and rules to learning German gets broadened and of course not impossible to learn.

What is sentence flexing?

Sentence flexing simply means rearranging the order of the sentence by displacing one or two elements from their usual position. This is normally done to lay emphasis on the bone of contention by switching the position of an element at number three with the subject of the sentence which is always at number one. Usually, all elements of a sentence can be displaced except the conjugated verb which has a fixed position either at number two in a “Hauptsatz” or last position in a “Nebensatz“. In order to flex a sentence, either of the following should be contained therein.

  • An adverb
  • An adjective
  • An object (either Direct, Indirect or Prepositional)

How to flex sentences with adverbs

The adverb which is also called the adjunct in English has one of its roles as the ability to rotate round a sentence. In German sentences, adverbs can rotate between the first, third and the fourth position (only if the direct or indirect object is a pronoun). Often times when placed in the first position, it moves the subject to the third.

Normally, an adverb can either be in the first position as a conjunction or just a simple adverb that modifies the verb at number three position and as far as this topic is concerned, we are only referencing it to the latter. This is illustrated below…

Normal sentencesFlexed sentences
1. Der Zug kommt heute nicht mehr.
(The train is no more coming today)
Heute kommt der Zug nicht mehr.
(Today comes the train no more)
2. Ich kaufe übermorgen Sara eine neue Tasche.
(I will buy a new bag for Sara a day after tomorrow)
Übermorgen kaufe ich Sara eine neue Tasche.
(A day after tomorrow i will buy a new bag for Sara)
3. Ich schicke dir morgen Nachmittag ein neues Handy.
(I am sending you a new cellphone tomorrow afternoon)
Morgen Nachmittag schicke ich dir ein neues Handy.
( Tomorrow afternoon I am sending you a new cellphone)
Flexed sentences with adverbs

How to flex sentences with adjectives

Normally in a german sentence, an adjective (when it is not placed before a noun to describe it) is always placed at the end of the sentence when there are no other factors such infinite verbs, separable prefixes etc. which are given more priority with end-positioning and thus, it is naturally impossible for an adjective to ever be flexed to position one.

Exceptionally, adjectives can be flexed to position one when the conjugated verb is any of those used to complement them such as sein, aussehen, finden etc. For example;

Normal sentencesFlexed sentences
1. Ihr seid ausstehend.
(You guys are outstanding)
Ausstehend seid ihr
2. Du siehst schön aus.
(You look beautiful)
Schön siehst du aus.
Flexed sentences with adjectives

How to flex sentences with direct and indirect objects

The object which is either direct, indirect or prepositional can equally be brought forward to number one in place of the subject. If the direct object is brought forward to number one position, the subject is displaced to number three and if the indirect object is instead brought forward, then the direct object (if present) is often at number four i.e after the subject.

Normal sentencesFlexed sentences
1. Diese Hose gefällt mir.
(I like these trousers)
Mir gefällt diese Hose.
2. Ich kaufe dir zwei Packungen Schokolade.
(I am buying two packets of chocolate for you)
a. Zwei Packungen Schokolade kaufe ich dir.
b. Dir kaufe ich zwei Packungen Schokolade.
Flexed sentences with objects

The prepositional object on the other hand is more or less inappropriate to use but doesn’t mean they are never used. Most times, they are rather used as derived adverbs as explained in TeKaMoLo. For example…

Normal sentencesFlexed sentences
1. Unser Flug kommt am Montag um 5.00 Uhr am Flughafen Hamburg an.
(Our flight is arriving at Hamburg airport on Monday at 5 O’clock)
Am Montag um 5.00 Uhr kommt unser Flug am Bahnhof an.
2. Das Schiff wird nach Afrika gesegelt.
(The ship has been sailed to Africa)
Nach Afrika wird das Schiff gesegelt.
Flexed sentences with objects

In a sentence where there is an adverb, the objects should not be flexed. Rather, the adverb takes maximum priority with the flexing except the objects are pronouns.

Normal sentencesFlexed sentences
1. Ich wasche mir schnell die Hände.
(I am washing the hands quickly)
Schnell wasche ich mir die Hände.✅

Mir wasche ich schnell die Hände.❌
2. Ich habe schnell Saras Hände gewaschen.
(I washed Sara’s hands quickly)
Schnell habe ich Saras Hände gewaschen.
3. Es geht mir gut.
(literally: it’s going well for me)
(Used as: I am fine)
Mir geht es gut.
Flexed sentences with adverbs and objects

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