Is there any difference between the two? They seem the same to me, c.f.:

Fußball spielten    die Kinder  vor der Schule  im Park.

Football played    the kids    before school   in the park.

(sentence from wikipedia).

1 Answer 1


OVS word order means that the object comes before the verb and the verb comes before the subject. It's not very common, for reasons relating to branching direction. But in an OVS language it doesn't matter what else is on the left side of the sentence: you can put prepositional phrases there, or adverbs, or anything else you feel like. The object just has to be somewhere before the verb.

V2 word order means that the verb comes second, without specifying what comes first. In German (and Old English and some other Germanic languages), anything can go first, whether that's a prepositional phrase, or the subject, or the object. What's important is just that it's one and only one phrase.

To quote another example from the same Wikipedia article:

Die Kinder spielten vor der Schule im Park Fußball.

This wouldn't be grammatical in a purely OVS language, since the subject comes before the verb, and the object after.

On the other hand, if we take a sentence in imaginary "OVS German":

Vor der Schule Fußball spielten die Kinder im Park.

This would be grammatical in "OVS German", but not in actual V2 German, because the verb isn't second: it's third. Two things come before it, and that's not allowed.

  • So would it be fair to say OVS languages are a strict subset of V2 languages?
    – ubadub
    Oct 29, 2018 at 22:59
  • 4
    @ubadub Not at all. In an OVS language you can put whatever else you want before the verb; in a V2 language you must have one and only one thing there. English for example is SVO (the opposite of OVS) but not V2: "after coming home from school yesterday I went to the store" is perfectly grammatical.
    – Draconis
    Oct 29, 2018 at 23:26
  • Point taken, but did you write that backwards? Shouldn't it be: "In a V2 language you can put whatever else you want before the verb; in an OVS language you must have one and only one thing there."
    – ubadub
    Oct 30, 2018 at 1:23
  • 1
    @ubadub Nope! I'll edit to make that clearer
    – Draconis
    Oct 30, 2018 at 3:35
  • 1
    That varies somewhat across languages, but it generally comes down to a single syntactic "phrase".
    – Draconis
    Oct 30, 2018 at 14:52

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