German Grammar

Conjunctions

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What's a conjunction? A conjunction is a joining word that you can use to join two sentences into one longer sentence.

E.g. Ich habe einen Bruder und er ist 14 Jahre alt.

The following five conjunctions don't change the word order of the sentence they are 'joining to': und, oder (or), aber (but), denn (for/because), sondern (but [used when the first part of the sentence has a negative in it, such as nicht/kein/selten/nie etc]).

The other conjunctions (other than those five) are known as subordinating conjunctions; in the sentence part that follows them, they "bully" the verb to the end of that part of the sentence. Some of these conjunctions that you'll bump into a lot are: dass (that...), wenn (if...), weil (because...), obwohl (although...) etc.

E.g. Der Sportlehrer sagt, dass ich Fußball gut spiele. (dass has "bullied" spiele to the end of that part of the sentence.)

In written German the subordinating conjunctions ("bullies") always have a comma before them.

[Foto (copyright D Nutting): ein Schild]

"(It's) nice that you shop here."

[Foto (copyright D Nutting): ein Warnschild]

"If you slip, you can be trapped or fall into the water and..."
(Warning sign at a mountain river in Switzerland)

[Foto (copyright: D Nutting): Wahlplakat mit Konjunktion (weil)]

"I vote Green because I don't want nuclear power" (an election campaign poster in Austria)

[Foto (copyright: D Nutting): Werbeplakat mit Konjunktion (bevor)]

...eyesight test before it's too late (outside an optician's shop in the city of Trier)

All the question words (e.g. wann, was, wer, wie, wo, warum) can be used as subordinating conjunctions. As conjunctions they "bully" the verb too.

E.g. Ich habe keine Idee, was er heute mit Stefan macht.

Handout: list of conjunctions with example sentences and practice ([PDF logo] PDF, 143Kb)

Conjunctions - "bullies" and "non-bullies" (i.e. und, aber, oder, sondern, denn) - verb position: which sentence has the correct word order?

Conjunctions - interactive exercise, pick the right conjunction for the sentence (dass, weil, wenn, wann, bevor, obwohl)

Conjunctions - interactive exercise, pick the right conjunction for the sentence (advanced)

»Wie sollte ein Austauschschüler sein?« - interactive exercise, pick the right conjunction for the sentence

als, wenn, wann, oder ob? - practice exercise (Mercer University, USA)

Die Berliner Mauer - intro text, pick the right conjunctions

Compiled by D Nutting