Using Time Phrases in Sentences

# A. C. Balaam #

Index                                                                                                           On to the first exercise …


Here is a basic sentence in German:


Ich          spiele     Fußball.





If we look at the sentence grammatically, we see that the verb is what we call the “second idea” in the sentence. The first idea is the word “ich”, and the verb is therefore second. In a standard German sentence, the verb is always the second idea. (See below)


The sentence is short and very simple and we might want to add further information to it, such as when we do the activity.


In German, there are two ways to add a time phrase into a sentence. German is very specific about word order, so we need to be careful and think carefully about what happens and why.


Firstly we can put the time phrase into the middle of the sentence. In this case, German prefers the time phrase to be as close to the verb as possible.


Ich      spiele      um vier Uhr     Fußball.





In our sentence, we have now added a new element – the time phrase “um vier Uhr”. It is placed into the sentence immediately after the verb “spiele”. The verb is the second idea in the sentence, as we saw above.


A second example:


                   Ich      spiele     am Samstag      Fußball.





In this second example, we have added the time phrase “am Samstag”, again immediately after the verb, which is still the second idea.


If there is another element in the sentence, the time phrase must come before it:


                   Ich      spiele      am Samstag       mit Harry     Fußball.






Secondly we can place the time phrase at the beginning of the sentence. We mentioned above the idea of the verb being the second idea in a standard German sentence. If we now put a time phrase at the beginning of a sentence, the verb must still be the second idea.


Watch what happens to the word order in the sentence:




                   Um vier Uhr       spiele       ich       Fußball.




Adding the time phrase to the beginning of the sentence means that the verb and the subject word have to swap places so that the verb is still the second idea in the sentence. We call this “inversion”.


Another example:


Am Sonntag       spielt     mein Bruder Markus      Tennis.





The exercises which follow give you practice at German word order. Make sure you read the instructions to each one carefully, as they give you important information regarding how to begin the sentence, and remember that the verb must always be the SECOND idea in the sentence.


On to the first exercise …