Language Tips

Time Words and Verb Order

When a sentence starts with a time word or phrase, the first verb jumps in front of the subject.

Pennsylvania Dutch follows grammar rules as to where verbs are put in a sentence. *

But when a sentence starts with time words, the verb order changes. How?

⌚ What are time words?

First, what are time words?

A time word is any word or phrase that is something time-related. Here are some common time words.

S’eahsht (First)

Fa shteahra mitt (To start with)

Heit (Today)

Nau (Now)

An selli zeit (At that time)

Noch sell (After that)

Awl ufamoll (All at once)

Neksht (Next)

Daylmohls / Alsamohl (Sometimes)

Dimeiya (This morning)

No (Then)

S’letsht yoah (Last year)

Meiya (Tomorrow)

Nuff biss nau (Up until now)

S’letsht moll (Last time)

Funn da shteaht (From the start)

Geshtah (Yesterday)

Glei (Soon)

Neksht voch (Next week)

Biss no (Until then)

Vann … (When …)

There are others, but this gives you a good idea of what a time word/phrase is.

How do time words affect sentences?

In a simple statement, the subject (noun) usually goes first. Then the first verb follows in the sentence. But when a sentence starts with a time word or phrase, the verb jumps in front of the subject.

In the next examples, notice where the verb (italics) is in each sentence. Then, look how the noun and verb change order when the same sentence starts with a time word (bold).

EnglishPennsylvania Dutch
We can sing a song.Miah kenna en song singa.
Now, we can sing a song.Nau kenna miah en song singa.
It will be winter.Es zayld vindah sei.
Soon, it will be winter.Glei zayld’s vindah sei.
We can go.Miah kenna gay.
Then we can go.No kenna miah gay.
Everything changed.Alles hott getshaynsht.
All of a sudden, everything changed.Awl ufamoll hott alles getshaynsht.
I had a dog back then.Ich habb en hund katt zrikk no.
Back then, I had a dog.Zrikk no, havvich en hund katt.
Examples with and without time words at the start of sentences.
  • Do you see how time words change where the first verb goes?

Now, look at the last 2 sentences in the examples above.

  • See how time words only affect the verb order when they are at the start of the sentence?
  • When time words are at the end of a sentence, the rest of the sentence is normal.

Bonus Words

There are some other words that are not time words, but also follow the same rules.

  • Fleicht (Maybe)
    Ich kann zrikk kumma.
    Fleicht kann ich zrikk kumma.
  • Location words (In Japan, …)
    Es sinn feel traditions es leit doon in iahra layva.
    In Japan, sinn es feel traditions es leit doon in iahra layva.


When you start a sentence with a time word, expect your next word to be a verb.

* You can read more about those rules in the book, Vella Bessah Deitsh Shvetza (PDF). (pages 27 through 31)