1-How words are linked in a sentence ?
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1-How words are linked in a sentence ?

In German, words are typically linked in a sentence using a system of grammatical cases and word order.

Grammatical Cases: In German, the role that a noun or pronoun plays in a sentence is indicated by its grammatical case. There are four main cases in German: Nominative, Accusative, Dative, and Genitive. The case of a noun or pronoun tells you whether it is the subject of the sentence, the direct object, the indirect object, or is indicating possession.

Word Order: The word order in a German sentence is typically subject-verb-object (SVO) as in English. However, in German, the word order can be flexible, meaning that the subject, verb, and object can be moved around depending on what you want to emphasize.

It is important to note that the case of a noun or pronoun will change depending on its role in the sentence, regardless of its position in the sentence. The endings of articles, adjectives, and pronouns will also change based on the case of the noun they are modifying.

For example, the sentence "Ich sehe den Hund" (I see the dog) has the word order subject-verb-object. The subject is "Ich" (I), the verb is "sehe" (see), and the direct object is "den Hund" (the dog). In this sentence, "den Hund" is in the accusative case because it is the direct object of the verb.

In the sentence "Dem Mann gebe ich das Buch" (I give the book to the man), the word order is object-indirect object-subject-verb. The direct object is "das Buch" (the book), which is in the accusative case, and the indirect object is "dem Mann" (to the man), which is in the dative case.

  1. Like English, German has different types of word, called PARTS OF SPEECH. The following sentences give examples of the most important parts of speech: VERBS, NOUNS, PRONOUNS, ADJECTIVES and DETERMINERS:

Essential German Grammar

VERBS, NOUNS, PRONOUNS and ADJECTIVES are familiar grammatical terms, but you may not have come across the word DETERMINER, which is a handy cover term for the whole set of function words which typically come with a noun. The most important determiners are the ARTICLES der and ein, the DEMONSTRATIVES, like dieser, the POSSESSIVES, like mein, and INDEFINITES like einige and viele.


The VERB is the main word in a sentence telling you what is happening or being done, e.g. schlafen (sleep), spielen (play) or fressen (eat). It may have more than one part, as in the sentence: Der Hund hat den Mann gebissen.


To make a complete sentence the verb needs one or more COMPLEMENTS. These tell us who is doing what to whom, and, typically, they consist of a NOUN PHRASE. This can be a single NOUN, like Großmutter, a longer phrase with a NOUN and a DETERMINER (die Großmutter/meine Großmutter), or with a DETERMINER and an ADJECTIVE (die alte Großmutter). A COMPLEMENT can also just be a PRONOUN, which is a word like er or sie, that ‘stands for’ a noun.

The most important COMPLEMENTS are:
􏰁 The SUBJECT of the verb, which is the person or thing doing the action.
􏰁 The DIRECT OBJECT, which is typically the person or thing to which the action is done.

Essential German Grammar

􏰁 The INDIRECT OBJECT is typically the person something is given to or taken from.

Essential German Grammar

Other frequent complements are:

  • 􏰁  The PREPOSITIONAL OBJECT, with a preposition like in, an or auf and a noun phrase, e.g. Der Wolf wartet auf Rotkäppchen, The wolf waits for Little Red Riding Hood’.
  • 􏰁  The PREDICATE COMPLEMENT, which is used after a few verbs like sein ‘be’ or werden ‘become’. It typically describes the subject in some way, e.g. Rotkäppchen ist ein Mädchen or Der Wolf ist böse.
  • 􏰁  DIRECTION and PLACE COMPLEMENTS, i.e. direction complements with verbs of motion, e.g. Er stellte den Besen in die Ecke and place complements with verbs indicating position, e.g. Astrid wohnt seit sechs Monaten wieder in Stuttgart. More information about complements in German is given below in 1.2–1.6, and in chapter 8. Case In English, the function of a noun phrase in the sentence and its relationship to other words in the sentence is shown by its position. For example, in ‘Craig kisses Sheila’, ‘The guy kisses the girl’ or ‘The snake eats the frog’ the subject comes first, then the verb, then the direct object, so we are sure who is kissing or eating and who or what is being kissed or eaten. If we change the position of the noun phrases we get a different sentence: ‘The girl kisses the guy’ or ‘The frog eats the snake’. In German, the function of a noun phrase is not shown by its position, but by changing the endings of the determiner, adjective, noun or pronoun which make up the noun phrase: Der Junge küsst das Mädchen or Die Schlange frisst den Frosch. We can change the order of the words in the last sentence: Den Frosch frisst die Schlange, but it is still the frog which is being eaten and the snake doing the eating. The different functions of the noun phrase which are indicated by different endings are called the CASES of the noun. German has four cases:
subjectverbindirect objectdirect object



  • 􏰁  NOMINATIVE (the SUBJECT is in the nominative case): Die Schlange schläft;
  • 􏰁  ACCUSATIVE (the DIRECT OBJECT is in the accusative case): Die Schlange frisst den Frosch;
  • 􏰁  GENITIVE (typically used to show possession, rather like the English ’s): Das Bein des Frosches;
  • 􏰁  DATIVE (the INDIRECT OBJECT is in the dative case – often indicated by to in English). Wer gibt der Schlange einen Frosch? The uses of the four cases indicated above are their most important ones, but they do have others, especially after prepositions (you will find more detail about this in chapter 5). Valency/valence There are a number of different types of verb in German, as in English. Some verbs can be used on their own, with just a subject, while others need one or two further complements to make a complete sentence. Every verb needs specific complements to make a grammatical sentence, i.e. it has a particular sentence structure or sentence pattern associated with it. This pattern is called the VALENCY or VALENCE of the verb. German, with its cases, has more patterns than English. The most important are given in the table below, and you will find more information about each in the sections indicated in the right-hand column, as well as in chapter 8.

Essential German Grammar

The best way to learn a new verb in German is always to learn it in a sentence or two to remind you what complement or complements it is used with. In other words: learn every verb with its valency.

The verb and its complements make up the core of the sentence. In addition to them, a sentence can have one or more ADVERBS or ADVERBIAL PHRASES – which we can conveniently lump together and refer to as ADVERBIALS. These are single words (‘adverbs’) or phrases (‘adverbial phrases’) which typically tell us when, where or how something is done, e.g. Sie drehten den Film letzten Sommer in Afrika mit einem großen Kamerateam (They made the film last summer in Africa with a large camera team). Adverbials add information, but the sentence would still be grammatical without them. You will find more information about adverbials in chapter 4.

This section has introduced you to the following basic ideas:
􏰁 COMPLEMENTS – elements closely linked to the action of a verb.
􏰁 CASE – showing the function of a noun phrase in the sentence.
􏰁 VALENCY – the type and number of complements a verb needs to make a sentence.

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