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Verb final position is an older form, inherited from Indo-European, and Fagan explains that “Verb second or middle position is an innovation in OHG as in the other Germanic languages and is the norm in declarative sentences” (Fagan, p. 193). Fagan calls this the “verb-second constraint” because strictly speaking the norm in German does not necessarily include the subject in the first position. Many other items can take the first place, so long as the verb remains second, for example:
1) Seinem Sohn hat er das Elternhaus geschenkt.
[poss. dative to his] [indir. obj son] [verb has] [sub, he] [def art acc the] [obj house] [verb inf given]
2) Sehr oft haben sie Sommersprossen.
[adv very often] [verb have] [subj they] [obj freckles]
3) Fußball spielen wollte er. [obj football] [verb inf to play] [verb wanted] [subj he]
(From Fagan p. 131)
In these sentences an indirect object (to his son), an adjectival phrase (very often) and an object (football) are moved to first position in order to create emphasis on these items. The subject is moved back to a position later in the sentence, but the verb stays in the second position. Because German is an inflected language, which gives indication of subject, object, indirect object, etc, in the words themselves, word order does not need to indicate the function of each item in the sentence, and this allows more ordering flexibility in noun phrases and adjectival phrases.
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