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Subordinating conjunctions - Easy Learning Grammar German

  • The subordinate clause is always separated from the main clause by a comma. It is called a subordinate clause because it cannot stand on its own without the other clause in the sentence and is linked to this by a subordinating conjunction.
Sie ist zu Fuß gekommen, weil der Bus zu teuer ist.She came on foot because the bus is too dear.
MAIN CLAUSE= Sie ist zu Fuß gekommen
SUBORDINATE CLAUSE= weil der Bus zu teuer ist
  • Note that the verb comes at the end of the subordinate clause.
  • als, da, damit, dass, ob, obwohl, während, wenn, weil, um … zu, and ohne … zu are some of the most important subordinating conjunctions.
  • als (when)
Es regnete, als ich in Glasgow ankam.It was raining when I arrived in Glasgow.
  • da (as, since)
Da du nicht kommen willst, gehe ich allein.Since you don’t want to come, I’ll go on my own.
  • damit so (that)
Ich sage dir das, damit du es weißt.I’m telling you so that you know.
  • dass that
Ich weiß, dass du besser in Mathe bist als ich.I know (that) you’re better at maths than me.
  • ob if, whether
Sie fragt, ob du auch kommst.She wants to know if you’re coming too.
  • obwohl although
Sie blieb lange auf, obwohl sie müde war.She stayed up late although she was tired.
  • während while
Sie sah fern, während sie ihre Hausaufgaben machte.She was watching TV while she was doing her homework.
  • wenn when, whenever/if
Wenn ich nach Hause komme, dusche ich erst mal.When I get home, the first thing I’m going to do is have a shower.
Wenn er anruft, sag mir Bescheid.If he calls, tell me.
TipIf translating when in a sentence which describes a single, completed action in the past, you use als, NOT wenn. You use wenn for single, momentary actions in the present or future.
  • weil because
Morgen komme ich nicht, weil ich keine Zeit habe.I’m not coming tomorrow because I don’t have the time.
  • um … zu in order to …
Um früh aufzustehen, musste sie den Wecker stellen.In order to get up early, she had to set the alarm.
  • Note that zu is inserted between a separable verb and its prefix.
  • ohne … zu without …
Er verließ das Haus, ohne ein Wort zu sagen.He left the house without saying a word.
  • Note that um … zu and ohne … zu are always used with infinitive constructions.
  • Note that with the subordinating conjunctions als, da, damit, dass, ob, obwohl, während, wenn, weil, um … zu, and ohne … zu, the subordinate clause can come BEFORE the main clause, as seen in the example with da. When this happens, the verb and subject of the main clause swap places.
  • In tenses which only have one verb part, such as the present and imperfect, the verb comes last in the subordinate clause.
Wenn er mich sah, lief er davon. Whenever he saw me, he ran away.
  • In tenses which have two verb parts, such as the perfect tense, it is the form of haben, sein or werden which comes last in the subordinate clause, after the past participle.
Sie will nicht ausgehen, weil sie noch nichts gegessen hat.She doesn’t want to go out because she hasn’t eaten anything yet.
  • Any modal verb, for example mögen (meaning to like) and können (meaning can, to be able to), used in a subordinate clause is placed last in the clause.
  • Sie wusste nicht, ob sie kommen konnte.She didn’t know if she could come.
Key points
  • Subordinating conjunctions link the main clause and subordinating clause in a sentence.
  • After subordinating conjunctions, verbs go to the end of the clause.
  • Als, da, damit, dass, ob, obwohl, während, wenn, weil, um … zu, and ohne … zu are some of the most important subordinating conjunctions.
  • The subordinate clause can come before the main clause. When this happens, the verb and subject of the main clause swap places.
  • In tenses which only have one verb part, the verb comes last in the subordinate clause. In tenses which have two verb parts, haben, sein or werden comes last in the subordinate clause, after the past participle.

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