German : sentence structure
1. The most important rule of German word order is that in a main clause the verb MUST be the SECOND (2nd) element.
2. A second very important rule is that in a dependent clause, the VERB comes at the END.
3. Other rules are engendered by these, and it is important to acquire a feeling for the basic structure of the German sentence.
4. ANYTHING can come first: a subject, an adverbial expression, an object or even A whole clause.
Wenn der Hund schwimmen will, muß er ins Wasser springen.
5. Here the whole dependent clause is the first element, within which its own verb " will" comes LAST, even after an infinitive; then comes the main verb " muß" as SECOND (2nd) element of the WHOLE sentence, displacing the subject " er" into THIRD ( 3rd) place.
6. The overall pattern of this sentence is a very common one :
conjunction . . .verb, verb . . . infinitive
(Wenn) . . . (wlll), muß . . . springen
7. Note the comma, which is very important: clause MUST always be separated by commas in German.