V1 position

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The V1 position , i.e. H. Verb-first-position, denotes in linguistics (especially German linguistics) a word order pattern , which in German z. B. appears with independent yes-no questions, furthermore with embedded conditional sentences and other sentence types. Traditionally, this pattern is also known as a frontal set .

Apart from its special functions for the sentence mode, the verb first sentence can be treated together with the verb second sentence in the same framework. In both cases the position of the verb in the sentence is the same (in the field model of the German sentence the so-called "left sentence bracket"), in the verb first sentence only the position in front of the verb remains empty. For details on the grammatical structure, reference is therefore made to the article on the verb second sentence (more also under Inversion (language) ). Against this background, this article deals mainly with the function of V1 sentences in German grammar.

V1 position in separate sentences

Question and exclamation sentences

The verb first position is mainly used in German to identify a sentence mode , but is never clear for this. On the one hand, questions can be expressed that require a yes / no answer from the listener:

Gibt es hier auch frische Milch?
vgl.: Ob es hier wohl auch frische Milch gibt?

If the speaker is only considering a question without asking for an answer from the listener, no verb first clauses are used, but, as shown above, independent utterances of subordinate clauses with the conjunction ob .

On the other hand, exclamations occur in various functions as V1 sentences, especially requests ( imperatives ), wishes ( optative ) and exclamations of surprise.

Lass mich in Ruhe!    (Aufforderung)
Hätte ich doch bloß nichts gesagt!   (Wunsch, Irrealis)
Möge die Macht mit dir sein!   (Wunsch)
Hat der aber große Ohren!    (Verwunderung)


Verb-first sentences can serve as independent statements, especially in the spoken language, if certain narrative effects are to be achieved (e.g. lively enumeration or contrast; they are also characteristic of the text type “joke”). In such cases, V1 sentences are not fixed phrases, but rather productive. (The first example sentence also contains a special case after the "and", which is addressed below in the section on the coordination ellipse.)

Kommt ein Pferd in die Kneipe und bestellt ein Bier. (…).
(…) Tja, was soll ich machen? Pack ich also meine Sachen wieder zusammen und will schon zur Tür gehen, da …
Läuft mir doch da ein Fußgänger geradewegs vors Auto!

A distinction must be made from this, however, in which a unit is taken up from the context again without a pronoun being used; V1 sentences often appear here, in which it would be impossible to add the missing pronoun inside the sentence:

(Wir sollten Peter anrufen) …  
Hab ich mir auch schon gedacht.
*nicht:  Hab ich mir das auch schon gedacht.
nur:  Das hab ich mir auch schon gedacht.

This type of verb-first phrase is better understood as a verb-second sentence in which a preceding pronoun has not been pronounced.

V1 position in subordinate clauses

Verb-first clauses appear as subordinate clauses with the meaning of special types of sentences ( causal , conditional , concessional , etc.), whereby these interpretations sometimes have to be supported by corresponding modal particles . In some research it is unclear how far these subordinate clauses are integrated into the overall clause. In these sentences, the verb appears at the beginning of a sentence instead of a subordinate conjunction :

Bedingungssätze (Konditionale): (Alternative: Konjunktion wenn …)
 Hätte ich mehr Zeit gehabt, hätte ich einen längeren Brief geschrieben.
Konzessivssätze: (Alternative: wenn … auch)
 War der Auftritt auch etwas misslungen, so hatte er immerhin Aufmerksamkeit erregt.
Kausalsätze: (Alternative: wo … doch)
 Er gab die Hoffnung auf, hatte er doch seit einer Woche keine Nachricht erhalten.

Vergleichssätze (Alternative: als ob …)
 Es war, als hätte der Himmel die Erde still geküsst.

Furthermore, there are verb initial parentheses , which also set V2 with the pronoun alternatively as such can be constructed in advance:

Das Zitat stammt – (so) vermute ich – von Pascal.

In Swiss German and Swiss Standard German there are constructions in which a V1 sentence occurs as a subordinate clause and its meaning corresponds to a standard German that sentence.

Es freut mich, kommst du rechtzeitig nach Hause.
(Schweizerdeutsch = „Es freut mich, dass du rechtzeitig nach Hause kommst.“)

The special case of the coordination ellipse

In the coordination ellipse, the verbal position is typical for the second sentence connected with "and".

Karl kommt heute und besucht seinen Freund.

This also applies if the coordination ellipse is an internal subject ellipse .

Heute kommt Karl und besucht seinen Freund.

The analysis of this latter construction is controversial in the technical literature, so that it cannot be clearly stated whether the Verberst part is a subordinate clause or a main clause of the same order.

Comparative language aspects

Like the V2 position, V1 sentences can also be found in other Germanic languages , at least in some of the functions described above . For example, Swedish , like German, has V1 sentences for yes-no questions, imperatives, desired sentences and also V1 conditional sentences:

Måtte det gå dig väl!
Möge es gehen dir gut 
„Möge es dir gut gehen!“
Kommer du imorgon, kan du träffa henne
Kommst du morgen, kannst du treffen sie
„Kommst du morgen (Wenn du morgen kommst), kannst du sie treffen“

V1 conditional clauses also exist in English, although the prefixing of verbs in English is otherwise more restricted than in the other Germanic languages:

 Had I known this before going out, I wouldn’t have worn sandals!
„Hätte ich das gewusst, bevor ich rausgehe, hätte ich keine Sandalen angezogen.“

The question about similarities between Germanic V1 sentences and the word order pattern VSO in the VSO languages , which describes the word order typology , does not seem to be able to be answered uniformly. The VSO pattern is also considered to be a derived word order that comes about by prepending the verb, but languages ​​seem to differ in how far the verb is prepended and what the rules of derivation look like.


  • Hans Altmann: On the problem of the constitution of sentence modes as types of forms. In: Jörg Meibauer (Ed.): Sentence mode between grammar and pragmatics . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1987 ( PDF file ).
  • Andrew Carnie, Eithne Guilfoyle (eds.): The Syntax of Verb Initial Languages. Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • Philipp Holmes, Ian Hinchliffe: Swedish. A Comprehensive Grammar. Routledge, London 2003.
  • Marga Reis, Angelika Wöllstein: On the grammar (especially) of the conditional V1 structure in German . In: Zeitschrift für Sprachwissenschaft 29 (2010), pp. 111–179.
  • Wolfgang Sternefeld: Syntax. A morphologically motivated generative description of German. Stauffenburg, Tübingen 2006.

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Altmann, 1987, p. 25
  2. ^ Reis & Wöllstein, 2010, p. 152
  3. See e.g. B. Reis & Wöllstein, 2010
  4. Sternefeld, 2006, p. 320
  5. explicitly so for this sentence Sternefeld, 2006, p. 438, note 18.
  6. Language guide
  7. Examples from Holmes & Hinchliffe, pp. 506, 541.
  8. See e.g. B. Carnie & Guilfoyle (eds.)