Word order with adverbs

Look at where the adverb is placed in the following sentences:

  • Ich esse gern Apfelstrudel. – I like eating apple strudel. (literally: I eat gladly apple strudel)
  • Wir fahren im Juli nach Österreich. – We go to Austria in July. (literally: We go in July to Austria)
  • Meine Schwester geht jede Woche zum Kaffeetrinken. – My sister goes (out) to drink coffee every week. (literally: My sister goes every week to drink coffee)
  • Mein Onkel isst sicher zu viele Kuchen. – My uncle certainly eats too many cakes. (literally: My uncle eats certainly too many cakes)
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In German, the adverb always comes after the verb. Be careful, as this is different in English.
Question

Decide whether the adverbs in the following sentences are in the correct place. If not, can you correct them?

  • Ich manchmal gehe schwimmen.
  • Sie hört jeden Tag Musik.
  • Er spielt nicht gern Hockey.
  • Wir gehen einkaufen in der Stadt.

Richtig

  • Sie hört jeden Tag Musik. - The adverb is jeden Tag. It tells you when the person listens to music. The verb is höre and is immediately followed by the adverb.
  • Er spielt nicht gern Hockey. - The adverb is nicht gern. It tells you what the person thinks of playing hockey. The verb is spielt and the adverb immediately follows the verb.

Falsch

  • Ich manchmal gehe schwimmen. - The adverb is manchmal. It tells you how often the person goes swimming. The first verb is gehe, so the adverb must come after it. The correct way to say it is: Ich gehe manchmal schwimmen.
  • Wir gehen einkaufen in der Stadt. - The adverb is in der Stadt. It tells you where the shopping is being done. The first verb is gehen so the correct version is: Wir gehen in der Stadt einkaufen.

Time, manner and place

You may want to include more than one adverb in your sentence. When this happens, there is a strict order.

  1. Time (when)
  2. Manner (how)
  3. Place (where)
  • Ich fahre am Sonntag(TIME) mit dem Flugzeug(MANNER) nach Spanien(PLACE). – I am going to Spain by plane on Sunday.

You will notice how the word order in the English translation is different from German. In German the order must always follow the 'Time, Manner, Place' (TMP) rule if any or all of these things are included in the sentence, even if some aspects are missing, eg time and manner, but no place; or time and place, but no manner.

Look at these examples.

Time and place:Sie werden um 8 Uhr (TIME) Fußball im Park (PLACE) spielen. – They are going to go to play football in the park at 08:00.

Time and manner:Meine Mutter kann meistens (TIME) gut (MANNER) kochen. – My mum can cook well for the most part.

Time, manner and place:Er fährt jedes Jahr (TIME) mit seinem Bruder (MANNER) ins Ausland (PLACE) . – He goes abroad with his brother every year.

Question

Practise the TMP rule by translating the following sentences into German.

  • She went to Germany last year.
  • He often plays football in the park.
  • We go by bus to the cinema every week.
  • They're living in a flat at the moment.
  • We sometimes see each other at the hairdressers.
  • Sie ist letztes Jahr (TIME) nach Deutschland (PLACE) gefahren.
  • Er spielt oft (MANNER) im Park (PLACE) Fußball.
  • Wir fahren jede Woche (TIME) mit dem Bus (MANNER) ins Kino (PLACE).
  • Sie wohnen zur Zeit (TIME) in einer Wohnung (PLACE).
  • Wir sehen uns manchmal (TIME) im Frisörsalon/beim Frisör (PLACE).

Did you know?

Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake) is the rather civilised tradition of meeting up in the late afternoon with friends for a piece of cake with a cup of coffee. You might be asked, Wollen wir Kaffee trinken? – Shall we go for coffee (and cake)?

Apfelstrudel is a rectangular, layered pastry filled with steamed apples and is traditionally served with cream or ice cream – mit Sahne, Rahm oder Eis. In some parts of Austria, it's acceptable to eat Apfelstrudel as a main dish on Fridays - not just for pudding.

As well as Apfelstrudel, Germany and Austria are famous for many different sweet concoctions such as Schwarzwälderkirschtorte (Black forest gateau) and Sachertorte – definitely one for the chocoholics.

Michael Portillo enjoys the German tradition of 'Kaffee und Kuchen' (This clip is from: BBC TWO Great Continental Railway Journeys)