Word Order in a German Sentence 2 – Interrogative Sentences

Interrogative Sentences in German

The word order in interrogative sentences in German is similar to that when we make interrogative sentences using the verb to be or to have in English:

You are a teacher – Are you a teacher?
Du bist Lehrer – Bist du Lehrer? (informal, friendly form)
Sie sind LehrerSind Sie Lehrer? (formal, polite form)

You have learnt. – Have you learnt?
Du hast gelernt.Hast du gelernt?
Sie haben gelernt. – Haben Sie gelernt?

In German, however, all verbs make their interrogative forms in the same way in all the tenses. In English “do”, “does”, “did” are often used to make interrogative forms but in German there is no such possibility: Interrogative sentences are always formed by putting the verb (finite verb form) in the first place in the sentence:

Do you sit here? (not: Sit you here?)
Sitzt du hier? (affirmative: Du sitzt hier.)

Does he speak English? (not: Speaks he English?)
Spricht er Englisch? (affirmative: Er spricht Englisch.)

Did she sleep at night? (not: Slept she at night?)
Schlief sie in der Nacht? (affirmative: Sie schlief in der Nacht.)

If there is a question-word in the sentence, too (such as: what?, where?, when? – was?, wo?, wann?) it precedes the verb, of course:

Wo sitzt du? – Where do you sit?
Wo ist sie? – Where is she?
What do you eat? – Was isst du?

So the word order in interrogative sentences is:

(question-word + ) verb + subject + other parts of the sentence

Note: operators like “do”, does”, “did” are not used in German negative sentences either. Verbs are always negated with the negative “nicht“: I am here = Ich bin hier; I am not here = Ich bin nicht hier; I work = Ich arbeite; I don’t work = Ich arbeite nicht. Negation will be the topic of another post.

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