What is an example of a modern English clause that does not follow the verb-second (V2) word order?

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    what do you mean by a V2 pattern?
    – Louis Rhys
    Mar 5, 2012 at 1:30
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    Something that a teacher once mentioned in a class, probably. It's certainly not a technical term in linguistics.
    – jlawler
    Mar 5, 2012 at 1:45
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    @danger I edited your question a little, I hope it's ok with you?
    – Louis Rhys
    Mar 5, 2012 at 5:45
  • Thanks, I realise this question isn't great, it may be due to my flaky grasp of the subject. @Louis of course I don't mind, thanks very much. Mar 5, 2012 at 8:41

3 Answers 3


V2 certainly is a technical term in linguistics.

We use it to refer to the word order of languages such as German, which require the matrix verb in a sentence to be the second constituent of the main clause. V2 word order is the reason that in German, subordinate clauses seem to be verb-final, while main clauses seem to be SVO.

English has stylistic inversion, which resembles this behaviour (e.g. little did he know), but this may be another phenomenon altogether.

I am a bit puzzled by your question, though, because modern English no longer has this in unmarked contexts: compare Yesterday I read the book with Dutch Gisteren las ik dit boek.

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    It may be a technical term in your group ("we"), but it's not a generally-accepted descriptive term, the way, say, "Verb-second" might be. It's common for ingroups to develop their own terminology, but it tends not to last long or go far unless it's clear to outsiders. I agree, English does have some verb-second constructions, but they're usually remnants of a Germanic past. Is an English Yes/No question "a non-V2 clause"?
    – jlawler
    Mar 5, 2012 at 3:52
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    @jlawler: 'V2' originated as an abbreviation for 'verb second'. However their meanings have diverged in the way that linguists use them. Yes-no questions in English do not exhibit the characteristic behaviour of V2 in Germanic languages (no movement when subordinated), so the answer to your question is 'yes' insofar as English doesn't have V2 word order.
    – jogloran
    Mar 5, 2012 at 5:06
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    +1 but I added another answer for the benefit of visitors who'd like to have a more generic answer.
    – Louis Rhys
    Mar 5, 2012 at 6:25
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    This is not an obscure term at all, the term ‘V2’ is widely known in the syntax and semantics literature. A search of Linguistic & Language Behaviour Abstracts turns up recent uses in well known journals like Language, Lingua, Natural Language & Linguistic Theory, Linguistic Inquiry, Journal of Child Language, and Diachronica. It is used widely for describing the syntactic phenomenon not only in Germanic languages but as well in others that exhibit similar behaviour. Lingua volume 120 no. 2 was devoted entirely to the topic of V2.
    – James C.
    Mar 5, 2012 at 22:32
  • For what it's worth, I only just now learned that "V2" and "verb-second" aren't totally synonymous, and I'm a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics. (And heck, jlawler is an emeritus!) However standard the term is, I appreciate jlawler's question and jogloran's clarification. Mar 14, 2012 at 17:12

To make @jogloran 's answer more generic, one of the "easiest" way to generate an English (declarative) sentence where the verb is not the second constituent is to have an adverb in front of the sentence, e.g. Yesterday I read this book or Suddenly, a bird appears


V2 (which yes is a linguistic term but is fantastically common in the literature on Germanic syntax) does still have minor minor traces in English, but your question phrases the idea that we would need to search hard to find a non-V2 structure in PDE (Present Day English), when precisely the opposite is true. Many people would even say it has completely disappeared, but I have exposure to quite a lot of language from around the world because I work for a transcription company and these things stick out to me. I actually noticed one today, I'll grab it now:

Then, of course, on top of a tiny Norman tower was put this enormous spire. (Said by a man in the south of England, approx 50ish, giving a tour to a visitor)

Here [on top of a tiny Norman tower] is functioning as topicalised constituent which is where you see typical Germanic V2 occurring. It's also quite common in certain negatives when sentence-initial (and arguably the last occurrence where it is recognised by most speakers).

Never in a million years [would] [I] think of doing that.

Not until she apologies [will] [I] talk to him again.

Basically, when talking about V2 in English and other Germanic languages, questions aren't really where you look and especially in a generativist reading these are not even the same thing. Yes-No questions involve auxiliaries which undergo T-C movement and it's not the case of any functional force needed that stipulates that the verb has to be in the second constituent position.

So, non-V2 patterns are the absolute standard in PDE.

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