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The most important comma rules in German Posted by on Nov 7, 2012 in Grammar, Language

Hi everyone,

for being a lazy comma user myself, I will try to show you the most important comma rules in German. Hopefully you will use them more successful than me 🙂

A comma is set…

1. …between main and subordinate clauses

in front of subordinating conjunctions (“dass”, “weil”, etc.)
Meine Katze freut sich, dass ich komme. (My cat is happy that I come.)
Mein Hund ist traurig, weil ich gehe. (My dog is sad, because I go.)
Wenn meine Tiere traurig sind, gehe ich nicht. (When my animals are sad, I don’t go.)

in front of relative pronouns
Das Futter, das mein Hund am liebsten frisst, gibt es im Supermarkt. (The food that my dog likes most is available in the supermarket.)
Mein Hund schläft neben dem Platz, an dem meine Katze schläft. (My dog sleeps next to the spot where my cat sleeps.)

2. …in front of sentences or parts of sentences with “aber”, “jedoch”, “doch”, “sondern”
Meine Katze ist klein, aber mutig. (My cat is small, but courageous.)
Sie ist ziemlich faul, doch einmal in der Woche geht sie auf die Jagd nach Mäusen. (She is quite lazy, though once a week she goes hunting for mice.)

3. …near appositions (additional items)
Mein Hund, ein brauner Dackel, hat nur Angst vor dem Postboten. (My dog, a brown dachshund, is scared only of the mailman.)

4. … in listings (but not in front of “und” and “oder”)
Mein Hund, meine Katze und ich gehen am Freitag zum Tierarzt. (My dog, my cat and I are going to the veterinarian on Friday.)

No comma is set…

5. …after adverbial phrases at the beginning of a sentence
Glücklicherweise mag mein Hund Katzen und umgekehrt. (Fortunately, my dog likes cats and vice versa.)
Meiner Meinung nach sollten Hunde und Katzen zusammen Katz-und-Maus spielen. (According to my opinion, dogs and cats should play cat-and-mouse together.)

Exercise:
Try to set the missing commas… (And try to translate, if you want!)

Listings:
Auf der Wiese grasen vier Kühe zwei Pferde sechs Schafe drei Lamas und eine Ziege.
Der Regen prasselte der Wind pfiff durch die Ritzen ein Blitz schlug in der Nähe ein und der Donner krachte ohrenbetäubend.

Main and subordinate clauses:
Ich fragte meine Mutter ob ich gehen könne.
Sie war einverstanden und wollte nur dass ich um 6 wieder nach Hause komme.
Als ich auf die Uhr sah war es schon 5 vor 6.
Ich beeilte mich weil ich möglichst pünktlich nach Hause kommen wollte.

Relative pronouns:
Die Sportlehrerin die uns begleiten sollte zählte alle noch einmal durch.
Das Gepäck das wir am Hoftor gestapelt hatten lag den anderen im Weg.

I guess the exercises are pretty simple, that´s why I will spare the solution. But anyway, use the comment fields to practice and share your solutions!

Good luck!

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About the Author: jan

My name is Jan and I live in the south west of Germany. My profession is being a project manager at a company that creates digital media (first of all internet related things). This is my job since over a decade so I´m quite familiar with the web and its tools. Whereat today almost every school kid does. But that´s one of the main reasons why nowadays there are quasi no more limits in the internet and so it can be used for all imaginable types of things. For example learning languages! And that´s where we are at the moment. I first got in touch with Transparent Language when my family and I used to live in France a couple of years ago. I just had a break from work and by coincidence I produced some cultural videos in French. A few months later the whole blogging thing came up and I was lucky to be a part of it. So now my (second) job is to feed you with information, exercises, vocabulary, grammar and stories about Germany and German language. For being a passionate videographer I´m trying to do this more and more by videos. If you have any wishes or needs of topics that should be treated here, please don´t hesitate to contact me via a comment field. I´m open to your suggestions (as long as they are not too individual) and will try to satisfy your needs.


Comments:

  1. Harry:

    Hi Jan,

    I notice that you live in south west Germany. Have you ever been to Weinstadt or Stuttgart? What is it like?

    Harry

  2. jan:

    Hi Harry, sure! I used to live in Stuttgart for about 15 years. So it´s kind of my home town. Weinstadt is pretty nice with its vineyards but it´s more rural than Stuttgart itself. But it´s just ten minutes away from the city, so…

    Stuttgart, well I often call it “Motor City” because you can find the headquarters of Mercedes and Porsche there. So a lot of jobs belong to these companies. But anyway it´s a nice city. I miss it a bit 😉

    Why are you asking?

  3. Harry:

    Hi Jan,

    Thanks for the reply. I am travelling to Germany for two months on a student exchange. I will live in Weinstadt. I am very excited to go. I am learning German. Any tips? Also anything I should check out in Stuttgart, or Germany for that matter?

    Harry

  4. Monali:

    Nice one

  5. EP:

    Ouch. I thought I had that down pretty well when it came to setting commas in German, but two or three of your points there “verunsicherte” (rattled) me big time. Nice and concise post.

  6. Bill:

    You wrote:
    A comma is set…
    1. …between main and subordinate clauses
    – in front of subordinating conjunctions (“dass”, “weil”, etc.)
    Meine Katze freut sich, dass ich komme.
    Mein Hund ist traurig, weil ich gehe.
    Wenn meine Tiere traurig sind, gehe ich nicht.

    My latest German teacher said recently that German never uses a comma before an /und/. This can’t be right, but perhaps he was referring strictly to an /und/ in a series, for example:
    „Hase, Jägger und Hund” (the /„/ is rare in modern fonts)
    I’m someone who insists that the comma should be used there in English because it avoids ambiguity, but I think it’s commonly left out in German (I usually put it in, anyway).

    So, perhaps you should say something about how two or more independent (main) clauses are joined. I notice that you give an example with two independent clauses in the Exercise. I’ll probably find the answer before you read this, although I benefited from your page.

    Also, perhaps you could say something about the use of /„/ (alt+0132). Can /”/ be used instead. And, my final question is whether « and » are ever used today.

  7. Denise:

    Hello, can you also provide translations to the example sentences? I’m also learning German as well. It’s my first time learning. Thanks.

    • Sten:

      @Denise Added! Hope it helps 🙂

  8. Unknown:

    Will there be comma after prepositional words like ‘in zukunft’do I have to put comma after it

  9. Crispin:

    Jan, thanks for your helpful summary. As a way to say thank you, I thought I’d offer to help polish your English-language “About the author” section. Take it or leave it. And please don’t take offence. You can always delete this post so no-one will ever know! Kind regards.

    ——

    My name is Jan and I live in southwest Germany. I work as the project manager at a company creating digital media (especially, internet-related). I have been doing this for over a decade and so I’m quite familiar with the web and its tools. Of course, today almost every school kid knows these things too. But that´s one of the main reasons why there are almost no limits to the internet and it can be used for in any number of ways. For example: learning languages! And that´s where things are at the moment. I first got to know Transparent Language when my family and I were living in France a few years ago. I had just had a break from work and, by chance, produced some cultural videos in French. A few months later, blogging took off and I was lucky to be a part of this. So now, my (second) job is to supply you with information, exercises, vocabulary, grammar and stories about German and about Germany. As a passionate videographer, I’m trying to do this more and more by using videos. If you have any suggestions for topics that should be covered here, please don´t hesitate to contact me via a comment box. I’m open to your ideas (as long as they are not too specific) and will try to respond accordingly.

  10. MaoGho:

    This is very nice. Don’t know how should I thank you for this helpful information 🙂 ?

    The only thing that was not clear for me, is why don’t we have a comma before dass in this sentence ?
    “Sie war einverstanden und wollte nur dass ich um 6 wieder nach Hause komme.”

  11. MaoGho:

    sorry now I understood my mistake. I thought the exercises belong to the cases where we shouldn’t have a comma. My bad 🙂