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German word order: Subordinate Clauses, part 1 Posted by on Sep 23, 2012 in Grammar, Language

German word order can be a pain in the neck. This time, I am dealing with subordinate clauses and I hope that I can bring some light into the darkness. A subordinate clause cannot stand on its own but has to be linked to a main clause:

“Sabine trinkt ein Glas Wasser, weil sie Durst hat.” (Sabine is drinking a glass of water because she is thirsty.)

As you can see the subordinate clause (…, weil sie Durst hat) shows its dependent character. That is, it would not make sense without the preceding main clause (Sabine trink ein Glas Wasser, …).

 

Different types of subordinate clauses

A subordinate clause can be introduced in several ways, depending on the clause type.

Subordinate clauses are introduced by a conjunction: “dass” (that) and “weil” (because). Subordinate clauses can also be introduced by “ob” (whether) or question words such as “wer” (who), “wie” (how), “wann” (when) or “warum” (why) – in indirect questions, as well as by “der”, “die”, “das” (who) or “deren” (whose) – in relative clauses.

 

Final position

No matter, which type of subordinate clause you are faced with, the full verb or finite verb comes always in the final position. The final verb is also called full verb or finite verb, which means that it has to be conjugated according to gender and number of the object/subject it refers to.

1. “Ich glaube nicht, dass er lügt.” (I don’t think that he is lying.)

2. “Ich kaufe mir etwas zu essen, weil ich Hunger habe.” (I buy something to eat because I am hungy.)

3. “Weißt du, ob Steffen zur Party kommt?” (Do you know whether Steffen is coming to the party?)

4. “Wissen Sie, wer den Vortrag hält?” (Do you know who is delivering the lecture?)

5. “Weiß man, wie es dazu kam?” (Does anyone know how it happened?)

6. “Können Sie mir sagen, wann der Zug abfährt?” (Can tell me when the train is leaving?)

7. “Weiß man, warum die Sitzung ausfällt?” (Does anyone know why the meeting has been canceled?)

8. “Das ist der Mann, der das Buch schrieb.” (This is the man who wrote the book.)

9. “Das ist die Frau, die mich anrief.” (This is the woman who called me.)

10. “Das ist das Kind, das weinte.” (This is the child who cried.)

 

As you can see, a subordinate clause always contains two words: the introductory word (ob, falls, weil, der, die, das, wie, warum, ect.) and a verb. So, the basic rule is:

introductory word + conjugated full verb.

Further, you can insert various elements between the introductory word and the final verb. As a basic rule:

introductory word + object/subject + conjugated full verb.

 

To be continued …

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About the Author:Sandra Rösner

Hello everybody! I studied English and American Studies, Communication Science, and Political Science at the University of Greifswald. Since I have been learning English as a second language myself for almost 20 years now I know how difficult it is to learn a language other than your native one. Thus, I am always willing to keep my explanations about German grammar comprehensible and short. Further, I am inclined to encourage you to speak German in every situation. Regards, Sandra


Comments:

  1. rick:

    Sandra,

    Thank you for writing this. This is incredibly helpful, and is the clearest and best-written explanation of this concept I’ve read. Also, you have better English grammar than just about any native speaker I know.

    • Sandra:

      @rick Thank you, Sven! 🙂

  2. Roxanne:

    Thank you very much, this is very helpful for me!

  3. Gacheri:

    vielen dank sandra

  4. Clinton:

    Hallo Frau Sandra,

    Is it OK, to use a sentence in the following manner…

    Wenn Ich hunger habe, esse Ich Nudeln.

    Als Ich Kind war, spiele Ich Füßball.

  5. Yousef:

    Thank you very much for this writing. I have a question, please.

    When conjugated verb go to the end of the sentence?
    Thames a lot.
    Yousef