What are German subordinate conjunctions, and why should you pay special attention to them when learning German?
Conjunctions are a vital part of grammar in many languages, including German. They are used to bind together different parts of complex and compound sentences – for example, the main clause and the subordinate clause in a complex sentence. In many cases, this can affect the word order, so you need to know how exactly to use different conjunctions in different situations.
When it comes to the German complex sentences, they consist of two clauses. A subject and verb make up an independent (or main) clause that can stans alone as a sentence. A subordinate (or dependent) clause also has a subject and verb, but it cannot stand alone because it needs the information given in the main clause. German subordinating conjunctions are used to put together main and subordinate clauses so that the sentence sounds as natural as possible.
In the article above, you can find all the information you need about the German subordinating constructions and German sentence structure rules that apply to complex sentences. Read on and boost your knowledge of German grammar.
In the German language, there are two types of conjunctions: coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions. Coordinating conjunctions are used to join two verbs, two nouns, two adjectives, two phrases, or two independent clauses – for example, in a compound sentence. On the other hand, German subordinating conjunctions link the dependent clause (subordinate clause) to the independent clause.
Subordinating conjunctions affect the sentence structure by changing the position of the verb, while coordinating conjunctions leave the position of the verb unchanged. Today we want to concentrate on the most common subordinating conjunctions in German as they change the normal word order in a sentence, which can impact the way you speak or write.
Subordinate clauses and, therefore, subordinating conjunctions change the word order in a sentence.
When a sentence starts with a subordinating conjunction, the main clause begins with the conjugated verb. This happens because, according to the German word order, the verb must stand in the second position in the sentence at all times. Here, the subordinate clause stands in the first position, so the verb of the main clause must go right after it.
Weil ich krank bin, bleibe ich zu Hause. (Since I am sick, I’m staing home).
Weil (because, since) is the subordinating conjunction, and bleibe (to stay) must start the main clause.
On the other hand, when the sentence ends with a subordinate clause, you should send the verb in it to the end of the sentence.
Ich bleibe zu Hause, weil ich krank bin. (I’m staying home because I am sick).
Weil (because) is the subordinating conjunction, and bin (I am) must go to the end.
We want to help you spot German subordinating conjunctions when you come across them – you can do that based on the rules above. In clauses introduced by subordinating conjunctions, the conjugated verb is forced to move to the end of the clause (not the sentence), and a comma is placed before the conjunction.
However, this tip might be a little tricky sometimes, so it’s best to simply memorize German subordinate conjunctions. Here’s a picture that should help:
weil – because
als – when (in describing past events)
da – because
damit – so that
indem – by … -ing
ob – whether*, if (*only use when you could say “whether” in English as well)
falls – in case, if
wenn – if, when
um … zu – in order to
dass – that
sodass – so that
bevor – before
nachdem – after
ehe – before
seit, seitdem – since (indicating time, not a causality)
während – while, during, whereas
wenn – when (describing present and future), if, whenever
wann – when (for questions only)
bis – until, by
obwohl – although
als ob, als wenn, als – as if
sooft – as often as (whenever)
sobald – as soon as
solange – as long as
To separate the subordinating conjunctions from the main clause, you should always use a comma to distinguish between the clauses.
To create a complex sentence, remember to:
Sie ist mit dem Bus gekommen, weil ein Taxi zu teuer ist. (She came by bus because a taxi is too expensive).
Main clause: Sie ist mit dem Bus gekommen.
Subordinate clause: weil ein Taxi zu teuer ist.
Here are a few more examples of the sentences with subordinate clauses and subordinate conjunctions:
Main clause: Es schneite.
Subordinate clause: Ich kam in Berlin an.
Es schneite, als ich in Berlin ankam. (It was snowing when I arrived in Berlin).
Subordinate clause: Du warst nicht zu Hause.
Main clause: Das Paket wurde beim Nachbarn abgegeben
Da du nicht Zuhause warst, wurde das Paket beim Nachbarn abgegeben. (Since you weren’t at home, the package was handed over to the neighbor).
Main clause: Ich esse viel Gemüse.
Subordinate clause: Ich bleibe Gesund.
Ich esse viel Gemüse, damit ich Gesund bleibe. – I eat a lot of vegetables so that I stay healthy.
If there is a separable prefix verb in a dependent clause, the prefix remains attached to the verb, and the entire verb goes to the end of the clause, whereas normally, the prefix would go to the end.
Er ist immer schlecht gelaunt, wenn er hunger hat. (He is always moody when he gets hungry).
Subordinating conjunctions – this grammar topic is the one that you need to learn to become fluent in German. Both your speaking and writing will depend on it!
We know that it can seem a bit too much at first, but don’t worry – you will get there. Make sure to learn the subordinating conjunctions we’ve listed above, and your language learning process should become a little quicker and easier.
Learning the German language with all its grammar rules and parts like conjunctions, conjugated verbs, dependent clauses, and so on can be a lot to deal with until it makes sense. So don’t stress if you can’t understand them in an instant. German grammar is something that even Germans struggle with sometimes!
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