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Conjunctions

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are linking words which join together two phrases. In English these are words like ‘and’, ‘because’, ‘although’ and ‘but’. There are coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating conjunctions

Here are the most common coordinating conjunctions:

Useful vocabulary: coordinating conjunctions

Coordinating conjunction Translation
und And
oder Or
denn Because
aber But
sondern But (instead/rather)

When you use these conjunctions, they join together two clauses of a sentence just like they do in English.

Examples

  • Ich liebe ihn. Er liebt mich nicht -> Ich liebe ihn aber er liebt mich nicht (I love him but he doesn’t love me)
  • Willst du ausgehen? Sollen wir zu Hause bleiben? -> Willst du ausgehen oder sollen wir zu Hause bleiben? (Do you want to go out or should we stay at home?)
  • Er treibt viel Sport. Er möchte abnehmen -> Er treibt viel Sport denn er möchte abnehmen. (He does lots of sport because he wants to lose weight)
  • Ich werde fernsehen. Ich werde* Chips essen -> Ich werde fernsehen und Chips essen.* (I’m going to watch TV and eat crisps)
  • Ich gehe nicht ins Kino. Ich gehe* zum Park -> Ich gehe nicht ins Kino sondern zum Park.* (I’m not going to the cinema but rather to the park.) (Better: I’m going to the park rather than the cinema.)

Notice that when the same verb is used twice you can drop the second one from the longer sentence – just like in English.

Subordinating conjunctions

Here are the most common subordinating conjunctions:

Useful vocabulary: subordinating conjunctions

Subordinating conjunction Translation
weil because
dass that
obwohl although
wenn if/whenever
ob if/whether
warum why
während while
bevor before
seitdem since
nachdem after
solange as long as
so dass so that

Subordinating conjunctions are more difficult to use but they are very common and very useful. They always follow the same pattern.

Word order after subordinating conjunctions

After a subordinating conjunction the verb is sent to the end.

Examples of the verb moving to the end

  • Ich gehe ins Kino. Ich möchte Finding Nemo sehen.
  • Ich gehe ins Kino, weil ich Finding Nemo sehen möchte.
  • (I’m going to the cinema because I want to see Finding Nemo)
  • Ich bin sicher. Ich habe meinen Reisepaß.
  • Ich bin sicher, dass ich meinen Reisepaß habe.
  • (I’m sure that I have my passport)

The subordinating conjunction doesn’t have to be in the middle. It can be at the start as in these English sentences:

Examples of the verb at the start

  • I’m going skiing although I’ve hurt my knee.
  • Although I’ve hurt my knee, I’m going skiing.
  • Wir sind in London. Ich möchte Buckingham Palast besichtigen.
  • Während wir in London sind, möchte ich Buckingham Palast besichtigen.
  • (While we’re in London I want to see Buckingham Palace).
  • Du gehst ins Bett. Du sollst dir die Zähne putzen.
  • Bevor du ins Bett gehst, sollst du dir die Zähne putzen.
  • (Before you go to bed, you should clean your teeth).

Notice how the verb in the second part has also moved – to the front of its clause. This is because of the ‘verb comes second’ rule.

The first clause is acting as the first idea in the sentence, so the verb from the second clause has to move forward to be the second element in the sentence.

Common mistakes made by English speakers

  • Not sending the verb to the end after subordinating conjunctions.

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