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Tekamolo - How To Structure German Sentences

German students often wonder how to structure the middle part of German sentences with several adverbs or additional information. In the past, students were taught to follow time-manner-place, but this formula does not capture all adverbs. So ingenious German teachers came up with the abbreviation “tekamolo”, which stands for temporal (time), kausal (reason), modal (manner), lokal (place). I find the question words associated with those information more helpful. They are wann (when), warum (why), wie (how), wo (where)?

Let’s apply tekamolo to a few sentences now to see how it plays out. Please note that English sentences do not usually have as many information in them, so the translations will sound very clunky.

Ich bin gestern wegen des schönen Wetters zu Fuß zu Hampstead Heath gegangen.

(Yesterday, I walked by foot to Hampstead Heath because of the nice weather)

Sie geht jedes Wochenende wegen ihrer Tanzleidenschaft mit Freunden in verschiedene Clubs.

(She goes with friends to clubs every weekend because of her passion for dancing)

Er fährt oft wegen Verspätungen der U-Bahn mit einem Taxi zu einem Kunden

(He often takes a taxi to go to clients due to delays on the underground)

As you see from the above, time comes before the reason, then followed by the manner and ends on the spatial information.

Of course, you don’t always need to have that many different pieces of information in one sentence. Then you simply skip the other bits. Also for reasons of emphasis, you might want to put the time, location or any other piece of information at the start. The only absolutely strict rule is that the time cannot come after the location.

Whenever you have several words that belong to either time or location, use the following order:

Temporal information (from general to specific or big to small)

Ihr seid vor 10 Jahren im September an einem Samstag in London angekommen.

Spatial information (from specific to general or small to big)

Wir fahren zu unserer Familie auf das Land im Westen von Deutschland.

You will find more information on German word order in main and subordinate clauses on our blog. There we also have posts on coordinating conjunctions, relative clauses in German, direct and indirect questions in German, on the difference between als and wenn, as well as um...zu vs. damit, nach vs. nachdem, vor vs. bevor, aber vs. sondern, dass in German subordinate clauses, and when to use zu in German sentences.

On our German language blog, you will find posts on the conjugation of regular and irregular verbs in the present tense in German, the rules on the perfekt tense in German, on how to use nicht and kein in German, an explanation of German pronouns generally and mir vs. mich in particular, separable verbs in German, on relative clauses in German, the difference between language levels from a1 to c2, on how to master verbs with prepositions in German, a review of online German dictionaries, and my answer to the question if it is possible to learn German in one year. There, you will also find our top 5 tips on how to improve your German and on how to avoid the most common mistakes in the German language.

You might also be interested in my Ultimate Guide to Learning German. Check it out to learn how to learn German fast. Our German lessons and small-group intensive German courses can help you achieve your goals.

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