Rearranging sentences (Or: B2 Dutch course #29

Another Dutch lesson tonight. I believe that I posted about something similar last month, but it can’t hurt to have another example. Our teacher reviewed how to dissect a sentence again – and more specifically, figure out the various ways to move around the sentence parts to change where the emphasis lies. Take this sentence for example:

Naar alle waarschijnlijkheid gaat mijn oudste dochter komend weekend met de trein naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. With all likelihood my oldest daughter will take the train this weekend to (visit/see) her aunt and uncle in Limburg.

Now break up the sentence into parts that logically “go” together (and cannot be separated), or die zinsdelen die bij elkaar horen.

Naar alle waarschijnlijkheid || gaat || mijn oudste dochter || komend weekend || met de trein || naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. 

Now label (as much as possible) what the various parts of the sentence are. gaat is the verb, mijn oudste dochter is the subject, komend weekend is an expression of time, met de trein is a manner of how to do something, naar haar oom en tante in Limburg and also naar alle waarschijnlijkheid are prepositional phrases which give extra information.

Now attempt to rewrite the sentence, with other elements besides “naar alle waarschijnlijkheid” beginning the sentence. (This will be possible with all of them except the last one, as beginning with Naar <plaats> is a bit clunky.)

The biggest rule to remember: the subject (mijn oudste dochter) can be in the first position, the second position (with a question) or the third position right after the verb in the second position (when another phrase starts the sentence, like above). In simple sentences the subject and verb are always next to each other.

1.  Mijn oudste dochter || gaat || naar alle waarschijnlijkheid  || komend weekend || met de trein || naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. (Emphasis: who goes?)

2. Komend weekend || gaat || mijn oudste dochter  || naar alle waarschijnlijkheid  ||  met de trein || naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. (Emphasis: when do you go?)

3. Met de trein || gaat || mijn oudste dochter || naar alle waarschijnlijkheid  || komend weekend  || naar haar oom en tante in Limburg. (Emphasis: how do you go?) This is more clunky – for the simple fact that if someone asked you how went somewhere, you are much more likely to say simply “Met de trein.” and not state all of the information above; you’ve probably already told them everything.

Thus in total you have four decent ways to manipulate the sentence to change the emphasis.

I suggest trying this trick on a few sentences you pull out of the newspaper, especially if you are still learning about proper word order for Dutch sentences. 😉

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