Coordinating Conjunctions in German
This week’s 3 Minuten Deutsch episode is the first in a series of videos about conjunctions. This week I talked about coordinating conjunctions. These are conjunctions that don’t disturb the word order of the German sentence. The name “coordinating conjunction” in English means that the two parts of the sentence could stand on their own as their own sentence, but in German this isn’t always the case. For example: The word “denn” means “because”, which in English requires a subordinate clause, meaning that it doesn’t make sense without having the other half. This logic is the same in German, which is why it is important to note that these definitions don’t work the same way in German as they do in English. The real definition in German is that the “nebenordnende Konjunktionen” don’t change word order, but the “unterodnende Konjunktionen” do. You can watch the video below to get a general overview or you can keep scrolling to see a quick explanation of each conjunction on this list below the video. You can also support me on Patreon.
und – and
The most commonly used of these conjunctions is also the easiest to use. It is used exactly like the word “and” in English. You can connect a list of words, several parts of a sentence or even two full sentences by adding the word “und” between the second-to-last and last word or phrase in the list. The same is true of the English word “and”.
Ich habe einen Hund und eine Katze. – I have a dog and a cat.
Er fährt mit dem Bus, mit dem Zug, und mit dem Auto. – He goes by bus, train and car.
Wir fahren nach Chicago und essen dort Pizza. – We are driving to Chicago and eating pizza there.
Du gehst ins Kino und ich arbeite. – You are going to the movies and I am working.
oder – or
Another simple word to use is the word “oder”. This is used in the same way that “or” is used in English. This means that you can basically use it like you did the word “und”, but you are showing options instead of an inclusive list. It is used to give the listener options.
Hast du einen Hund oder eine Katze? – Do you have a dog or a cat?
Fährt er mit dem Bus, mit dem Zug, oder mit dem Auto? – Is he going by bus, train, or car?
Wir fahren nach Chicago oder wir fahren nach Hause. – We are driving to Chicago or we are driving home.
Gehst du ins Kino oder gehst du zur Schule? – Are you going to the movie theater or are you going to school?
aber – but
This one is also used in the same way as the English word. It is used to show a difference between one or more options. If one thing is positive, the other thing is negative. It doesn’t have to be a positive versus negative comparison, however. It can simply be a comparison of two options.
Ich habe einen Hund, aber keine Katze. – I have a dog, but no cat.
Er fährt mit dem Bus, aber nie mit dem Zug. – He goes by bus, but never with the train.
Wir fahren nach Chicago, aber siefahren nach Hause. – We are driving to Chicago, but they are driving home.
Warum gehst du in die Schule, aber nicht in das Klassenzimmer? – Why are you going to school, but not into the classroom?
doch – but
This word is one of the most commonly talked about words in the German language on YouTube and it has been requested by my viewers on multiple occasions. Get Germanized did a video about it. There is a video from the channel “German & English with Marina”. German for Spalding made a video about it. There is even a video for German speakers who are learning English and want to be able to use “doch” in English. These videos, however, only briefly talk about the word “doch” as a conjunction, if they even talk about that usage at all. You can use “doch” to replace the word “aber”, but only if one half of the sentence is negative.
Ich habe einen Hund, doch keine Katze. – I have a dog, but not a cat.
Er fährt mit dem Bus, doch nicht mit dem Zug. – He is traveling by bus, but not with the train.
denn – because
Back to more examples that work just like they do in English. This word is used to mean “because” and works in a very similar way. While I usually use the verb “weil” to mean “because”, it is easier for German learners who are just starting out to use the word “denn”, because it doesn’t effect word order in the same way that “weil” does. There is no difference in the meaning of these two words.
Ich habe keine Katze, denn ich bin dagegen allergisch. – I don’t have a cat, because I am allergic to them.
Er fährt mit dem Bus, denn er darf nicht mehr fahren. – He is riding the bus, because he isn’t allowed to drive anymore.
Wir fahren nach Chicago, denn wir wollen gute Pizza essen. – We are driving to Chicago, because we want to eat good pizza.
Du sollst in die Schule gehen, denn du sollst etwas lernen. – You should go to school, because you should learn something.
sondern – rather
Another word that shows a juxtaposition of two parts of the sentence is the word “sondern”. In English (and also in German) we tend to use the word “but” in addition to this word, but you can use it in German without using the word “aber”. Again, one side of the sentence should be negative. Normally, it is the first part, as “sondern” goes in the middle and the second clause is the positive one.
Ich habe keine Katze, sondern einen Hund. – I don’t have a cat, but rather a dog.
Er fährt nicht mit dem Bus, sondern mit dem Zug. – He isn’t traveling by bus, rather with the train.
Wir fahren nicht nach Chicago, sondern wir fahren nach Hause. – We are not driving to Chicago, rather we are driving home.
Du gehst nicht in die Schule, sondern ins Kino. – You aren’t going to school, but rather the movies.
You really can’t have a post in the English language about conjunctions without having some reference to “Conjunction Junction” from School House Rock. For your viewing pleasure, I present to you a classic from my childhood, “Conjunction Junction”.
And of course, here’s a GIF for that.