This question would be better on Dutch Languages SE, but that site is still in Area 51.

I was discussing Dutch grammar with a Dutch native and how I'd just learnt that Dutch is a V2 language (as are most Germanic languages). She gave me the following sentence as a counterexample:

Waarschijnlijk deze zomer ga ik naar Spanje.

(Probably this summer go I to Spain.)

which can be rearranged to form the definitely V2 sentence:

Ik ga deze zomer waarschijnlijk naar Spanje.

(I go this summer probably to Spain.)

Her reasoning is that waarschijnlijk and deze zomer can be separated. However, I feel that combined they form the first position as they are both modifying the basic sentence Ik ga naar Spanje.

Her analysis:

  1. Waarschijnlijk
  2. deze zomer
  3. ga
  4. ik
  5. naar Spanje.

The verb ga is in the third position.

My analysis:

  1. Waarschijnlijk deze zomer
  2. ga
  3. ik
  4. naar Spanje.

The verb ga is in the second position.

Can multiple, separable bits together occupy the first position in the V2 structure or do they occupy one position each? Particularly in Dutch, but also in any V2 language?

  • 2
    This is entirely a question of whether the theory permits this to happen or not. I.e, it's arbitrary, and not a matter of fact, since one can consider Waarschijnlijk deze zomer as either one unit or two, and one can formulate the rule to work either way. Rules are not phenomena.
    – jlawler
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 2:32
  • @jlawler The theory is to explain why you can't say Waarschijnlijk deze zomer ik ga naar Spanje, so I'd like to know how it's been defined and agreed upon, not whether I'm free to redefine it however I like.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 3:25
  • 2
    Unfortunately, it is very far from being agreed upon. That's why you're free to change it to fit real data and include data that contradict it.
    – jlawler
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


This is a very bad sentence in Dutch : "Waarschijnlijk deze zomer ga ik naar Spanje."

The normal word order would be

Deze zomer ga ik waarschijnlijk naar Spanje.

The referential adverbial in sentence initial position serves to determine the temporal reference of the phrase, the modality 'waarschijnlijk' remains VP internal. I do not know how this bears on the original question posed here, but these are my observations.

Alice ter Meulen

  • Thanks for your answer. Do you have any references to back that up, or is that just your opinion? Maybe it's considered good Dutch by other people, so it's not black and white?
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 23:09
  • i ama native speaker of Dutch snd a theoretical linguist. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 3:21
  • Waarschijnlijk ga ik deze zomer naar Spanje’would also be acceptable, and stress on deze would improve it as focus phrase introducing contrasting other summers to go to S as alternatives. I vastly prefer the referential adverb sentence intial and yhe modal vp-internal for unmarked order. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 3:22
  • That's fine. I speak English really well, but no-one should accept any of my answers based just on that.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 3:31
  • At first, I wanted to answer the same as you. But "Deze zomer ga ik waarschijnlijk naar Spanje" means something different than "Waarschijnlijk deze zomer ga ik naar Spanje". In the original sentence, the speaker might have been planning to go to Spain for longer but finally managed to organise it for this summer. In your suggestion, it is more likely that the speaker has been evaluating different options for this summer, and decided on Spain. So in the original sentence the core intent is to go to Spain, while in the new sentence the core intent is to do something this summer. ~ Another native
    – Keelan
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 8:28

The sentence "Waarschijnlijk deze zomer ga ik naar Spanje" is completely incorrect Dutch, as mentioned by someone else. You can say "Waarschijnlijk ga ik deze zomer naar Spanje.".

You are dealing with something particular to the Dutch language here, namely 'inversion'. Normally the Dutch sentence order is subject + conjugated verb + the rest of the sentence, however after certain words the order is reversed and becomes (other part of the sentence, f.i. the adverb of time) + conjugated verb + subject + the rest of the sentence. Here's a source that explains it simply: https://www.duolingo.com/comment/3733010/Grammar-Dutch-Word-Order You should be able to find more sources on correct word order if you google for 'dutch grammar inversion' or similar.

But honestly, as a Dutch native this just sounds wrong, like "I tomorrow hamburger eat" would sound ridiculous in English.

  • Thank you for taking the time to write an answer. I am familiar with inversion, as that is how V2 works. It is not particular just to Dutch, but also applies to most Germanic languages. I have been learning Dutch on Duolingo coming up to three years. Duolingo is not a reputable source, although it might be accurate. It is written by volunteers, not experts and is not peer reviewed. The page you've linked to doesn't rule out two adverbs occupying the first position. Do you know a reputable source that says how many adverbs may occupy the first position?
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jan 1, 2018 at 5:38
  • Hi, I chose Duolingo as that was the first English source I found that explains it in a very simple way. I'm also aware inversion does not occur solely in Dutch, as I speak German as well.
    – Elisa
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 14:58
  • My main motivation for writing a response was because I don't want people to think this is proper Dutch. Could it be possible you misunderstood your native friend, or perhaps they have grown up in a non-native environment? I'll try to find a source that is not my old textbook, but I don't understand why you take your friend's word for granted but ask 2 other Dutch natives to come up with reputable sources?
    – Elisa
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 15:05
  • Oh wait, is he/she perhaps Flamish? Their grammar (among other things) is slightly different, and that might be a proper sentence in Flamish Dutch, even if it isn't here in Holland.
    – Elisa
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 15:23
  • One is from Zuid-Holland, the other is from Limburg. They are both native Dutch. Both think that sentence is a good counterexample to the V2 rule. I'm not Dutch, so I can't tell them they're wrong: I can only ask more people.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 19:08

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