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In my last post, I explained how to form main clauses with only one verb and with the correct word order in mind. Today, I would to continue with this topic and address myself to sentences that contain two or three verbs.
When a sentence contains only one verb, then this verb is usually a full verb. When a sentence contains more than one verb, then we do not only have a full verb but also an auxiliary and/or modal verb.
Full verbs are the most important verbs of a sentence, since they refer to the main action of a statement, for example: trinken (to drink), essen (to eat), schlafen (to sleep), laufen (to walk), etc. Modal verbs are those verbs that modify the meaning a sentence to certain degree. Compare:
Stefanie singt. – Stefanie sings.
Stefanie kann singen. – Stefanie can sing. (She is able to sing.)
Stefanie möchte singen. – Stefanie wants to sing.
Auxiliary verbs are those verbs that also modify the meaning of a sentence but rather in a grammatical way. For example, you use auxiliaries when you want to use a particular tense (past or future). Compare:
Stefanie singt (gerade). – Stefanie is singing (at the moment).
Stefanie hat (gestern) gesungen. – Stefanie sang (yesterday).
Stefanie wird (morgen) singen. – Stefanie will sing (tomorrow).
No matter how many verbs a sentence has, there is always only one verb that has to be conjugated – this particular verb is called the finite verb. All three types of verbs (full verb, auxiliary verb, and modal verb) can take the function of a finite verb. Usually, the finite verb is to be found in the second position of a sentence.
Word order with two verbs
When a sentence contains two verbs, the second verb or full verb moves to the end of a sentence while the modal verb – which is here the finite verb – comes in the second position. You can use this sentence structure for the present tense and passive constructions.
|Subject||Finite verb||Other elements||Second verb|
|Meine Freundin||will||mich später||anrufen.3|
|Das Haus||wurde||vor 100 Jahren||gebaut.4|
|Meine Freunde||sind||heute zu Besuch||gekommen.5|
1Doreen cannot read music.
2Manuel would like to drink a beer.
3My (female) friend wants to call me later.
4The house was built 100 years ago.
5Today, my friends have come to visit me.
Word order with three verbs
When a sentence contains three verbs, then these verbs are usually a full verb, an auxiliary and/or a modal verb.
|Subject||Finite verb||Other elements||Final verbs|
|Ich||habe||leider nicht||helfen können.7|
|Du||wirst||wohl mehr Sport||treiben müssen.8|
7Unfortunately, I could not help.
8You will have to engage in more sports.