If you want to learn how to use subordinating conjunctions in German such as dass, weil, ob, wenn and more, you have come to the right place. Subordinating conjunctions are conjunctions that trigger a clause that cannot stand on its own. These clauses are called Nebensätze (subordinate clauses), while the other clause is called a Hauptsatz (main clause).
Not only will I explain the word order and sentence structure rules for subordinating conjunctions, but I will also explain how to use each of the subordinating conjunctions including: als, als ob, bevor, bis, da, damit, dass, ehe, falls, indem, nachdem, ob, obgleich, obschon, obwohl, seit, seitdem, sobald, so dass, solange, sooft, während, weil, wenn, and wohingegen. *Hint: If you click on one of those conjunctions, you will jump to that part of this post. A full table of contents is listed at the top of this page.
Word Order Rules for Subordinating Conjunctions
The rules for normal word order in German are pretty simple. You probably already know where the verb should go in the main clause of a sentence. These are the clauses that are considered normal word order. In a statement, we generally start with the subject and the verb is second. Sometimes we start with something that isn’t the subject, the subject comes after the verb, but the verb stays in second position. In a question we usually start with the verb, unless there is a question word in front of it. If the question word isn’t the subject, the subject of the question has to be after the verb.
Two Kinds of German Clauses
There are two types of clauses that we need to concern ourselves with today. “Hauptsatz” refers to the clause that could stand on its own, the ones I just explained. In English we call this the main clause. For example “Ich war schon weg.” If the main clause is first, the word order is normal in this clause.
The second type of clause is the one that starts with our subordinating conjunction. This is called “Nebensatz” or “subordinate clause” in English. This clause will always have the conjugated verb at the end. This doesn’t change anything else about the word order in this clause. All you do is move the verb from the normal spot next to the subject and put it at the end of the clause. This is why “kam” is at the end of “als meine Mutter nach Hause kam”.
Combining Two Clauses into One Sentence
Let’s take a look at a few examples of main clauses before we change them to dependent clauses.
Ich habe zehn Dollar.
I have ten dollars.
Meine Mutter hat mich gefragt.
My mother asked me.
Both of those sentences are main clauses. The verb is in second position. In the second sentence, there is also a past participle, which is placed at the end of the sentence. This means that if you use that sentence as a dependent clause, you have to leap frog the form of “haben” over that past participle and put it at the end.
Subordinate Clause 2nd
Meine Mutter hat mir gefragt, ob ich zehn Dollar habe.
My mother asked me if I have ten dollars.
In this example, we see that the subordinating conjunction “ob” is used in the second clause. This moves the conjugated verb “habe” to the end of the sentence. The first clause is not effected by this conjunction.
Subordinate Clause 1st
Wenn ich zehn Dollar hätte, würde meine Mutter mich nicht danach gefragt haben.
If I had ten dollars, my mother wouldn’t have asked me about it.
In this example we see that the subordinating conjunction “wenn” is used in the first clause. This moves the conjugated verb “hätte” (subjunctive mood) to the end of the clause and brings the conjugated verb “würde” (subjunctive mood) to the beginning of the second clause. Notice that the past participle and infinitive of “haben” still show up at the end of the second clause without being effected by the word order change.
Word Order Rule #1:
When the Nebensatz is second, put the conjugated verb at the end of the Nebensatz. The word order in the Hauptsatz is not affected.
Word Order Rule #2:
When the Nebensatz is first, put the conjugated verbs from both clauses in the middle of the sentence next to the comma.
Examples with Hauptsatz & Nebensatz Word Order
Als meine Mutter nach Hause kam, war ich schon weg.
When my mother came home, I was already gone.
Notice that “kam” and “war” are on either side of the comma in the middle of the sentence. This could be described as the subordinate clause having the verb at the end and the main clause having the verb at the beginning, but I usually just refer to it as a verb cluster around the comma.
That’s the basics of the word order rules for subordinate clauses. If the subordinate clause is second, the verb in the subordinate clause moves to the end of the sentence. If the subordinate clause is first, the verbs in both clauses are placed next to the comma in the middle.
Video Examples of Subordinating Conjunctions in German
In the video above, you will see a lot of the example sentences that I use throughout the rest of this post. It is entirely in German, so if you want an immersion experience while learning about these conjunctions, that is an option for you.
First on my list of subordinating conjunctions is “als”. This conjunction most often translates as “when”. It can only be used with the past tenses, however. This is different from the next conjunction on my list “wenn”, which can be used with the past tense, but most often isn’t. Let’s take a look at a few examples of how “als” works in sentences.
Ich war schon weg, als meine Mutter nach Hause kam.
I was already gone, when my mother came home.
In this sentence I used “als” in the second clause. This clause is called a subordinate clause. That’s because we are using a subordinating conjunction. Subordinating conjunctions require clauses that cannot stand on their own. If you just say “Als meine Mutter nach Hause kam.” people will be waiting for the rest of the sentence, as this is not complete.
Examples of “als”
Ich bin nach Hause gekommen.
I came home.
Mein Hund ist weggelaufen.
My dog ran away.
Ich bin nach Hause gekommen, als mein Hund weggelaufen ist.
I cam home, when my dog ran away.
Mein Hund ist weggelaufen, als ich nach Hause gekommen bin.
My dog ran away, when I cam home.
Als mein Hund weggelaufen ist, bin ich nach Hause gekommen.
When my dog ran away, I came home
Als ich nach Hause gekommen bin, ist mein Hund weggelaufen.
When I cam home, my dog ran away.
Als die Schulglocke ertönte, gingen die Schüler nach Hause.
When the school bell rang, the students went home.
Als das Mädchen das Klavier zum Strand gebracht hat, haben die Strandbesucher gestarrt.
When the girl brought the piano to the beach, the beach goers stared.
Die Strandbesucher waren erstaunt, als sie das gesehen haben.
The beach visitors were surprised when they saw that.
Pinocchio wurde erschreckt, als der Wal ihn verschluckte.
Pinocchio was scared when the whale swallowed him.
Als ich ein Baby war, hatte ich kein Geld.
When I was a baby, I had no money.
Er war schockiert, als er den Preis sah.
He was shocked when he saw the price.
While “als” can only be used with the past, the conjunction “wenn” can be used with all of the tenses. If you want to use it with the past, however, you are probably going to need a qualifier before “wenn”. You should indicate how often it occurred in the past in order to use “wenn”. For example:
Immer wenn ich Kekse aß, aß ich sehr viele.
Always when I ate cookies, I ate a lot.
Jedes Mal, wenn er ein blaues Auto sah, schlug er mich.
Every time when he saw a blue car, he hit me.
When to Use “wenn”
Some websites will tell you that “wenn” is used in 4 different ways. 1 – to show a condition (Wenn es regnet, spiele ich im Haus.) 2 – temporal use (Jedes Mal, wenn Ich einen Hund sehe, muss ich ihn streicheln.) 3 – concession (Wenn auch nicht klar ist, was man machen sollte…) 4 – wishes (Wenn ich wüsste, hätte ich etwas anderes gemacht.) Most of this is nonsense.
The reason you often use qualifiers like “immer” or “jedes Mal” in front of “wenn” when it is used in the past tense, is that it introduces a condition. That is the only thing it ever does. It cannot have anything to do with the temporal part of the sentence as this is explained by adverbs and by tenses. It doesn’t even have anything to do with wishes. That part is done by the verbs used. It simply introduces a condition. Depending on this condition and whether or not it is met, dictates the rest of the sentence. The condition introduction aspect of this conjunction is why “wenn” is often translated as “if”. Let’s take a look at a few more examples and examine the true purpose of this conjunction.
“wenn” Introduces a Condition
Immer wenn ich Geburtstag hatte, sah ich meinen Vater, aber wenn es nicht mein Geburtstag wäre, hätte ich ihn nicht gesehen.
Always when I had a birthday, I saw my father, but if it weren’t my birthday, I wouldn’t see him.
Here we have two different uses of this conjunction. Some would say that the first use shows the temporal use and the second shows the conditional, meaning that it triggers the subjunctive mood. In reality both clauses simply introduce a condition.
The first condition being that I had a birthday and the second condition being that it were not my birthday. The use of the subjunctive mood or the lack thereof is not dependent upon the use of the conjunction, but rather whether or not what I want to express is contrary to reality. For more on this you can see my lesson about the subjunctive mood.
As for the temporal use in the first clause it is actually the word “immer” and the use of the past tense that tells us when this happened. The conjunction simply gives us the condition.
More Examples with “wenn”
Wenn ich dich wäre, würde ich das nicht tun.
If I were you, I wouldn’t do that.
Ich würde ein neues Auto kaufen, wenn ich viel Geld hätte.
I would buy a new car, if I had a lot of money.
als vs wenn vs wann
The video above is a German immersion version of the differences between als, wenn, and wann. Below is a summarized English version of that.
Als? Wenn? Wann? They all mean “when” in English. What is the difference? How do you know which word to use?
You use “als” when talking about a specific time span in the past. For example:
Als er ins Haus kam, schrie das Baby.
When he came into the house, the baby cried.
Ich hatte keine Haare, als ich 5 Jahre alt war.
I didn’t have any hair, when I was 5 years old.
Der Mann ist gerade um die Ecke gelaufen, als er auf den Kopf gehauen wurde.
The man walked around the corner, when he was hit in the head.
The conjunction “wenn” is also used to talk about the past, but doesn’t have to be. You use “wenn” in order to express a condition. The tense does not play a role for the conjunction “wenn”, because “wenn” introduces a condition and the time is expressed through the tense (Perfekt, Präsens, etc.) In English you can also use “if” as a translation.
Wenn der Mann zu Hause war, saß er oft auf dem Sofa.
If/When the man was at home, he sat on the sofa.
Wenn der Mann zu Hause ist, sitzt er oft auf dem Sofa.
If/When the man is at home, he is sitting on the sofa.
Wenn der Mann zu Haus sein wird, wird er oft auf dem Sofa sitzen.
If/When the man will be at home, he will often be sitting on the sofa.
Wenn ich krank bin, nehme ich Medizin.
If/When I am sick, I take medicine.
Der Hund schläft, wenn er müde ist.
The dog sleeps, if/when he is tired.
Ich schlafe oft ein, wenn ich einen Film schaue.
I often fall asleep, if/when I watch a film.
“Wann” isn’t actually a conjunction, but rather a question word, however, you can use question words as conjunctions. One uses “wann”, if you are asking about the time of an event. You can answer these questions with “wenn” or “als”. For example:
Wann die Welt untergeht, wissen wir nicht.
When the world ends, we don’t know.
Wann es Essen gibt, entscheidet Mama.
When there is food, is decided by Mom.
Wann es Regen gibt, sagt der Wetterbericht.
When there is rain, the weather report says.
(The weather report says when there will be rain.)
Wann saß der Mann auf dem Sofa? Wenn er zu Hause war.
When did the man sit on the sofa? When he was at home.
Wann schrie das Baby? Als der Mann ins Haus kam.
When did the baby cry? When the man came into the house.
Wann nimmst du Medizin? Wenn ich krank bin.
When do you take medicine? When I am sick.
als, wenn, wann Summarized
In summary, “als”, “wenn” and “wann” all mean “when” in English. You use “als” when you are talking about a single timespan in the past. You use “wenn” if you are expressing a condition, which is connected to the consequence and often introduced by “dann”, but doesn’t have to be. The time is not important to “wenn”. You use “wann” if you are asking a question whose answer can include either “wenn” or “als”. You can also use “wann” as a conjunction, but only when it can only be understood as a time. These questions can also create a subordinating conjunction.
if, in case
A synonym to “wenn” is “falls”. Unlike “wenn”, however, “falls” cannot be translated as “when”. It is more closely related to “in case”. As with “wenn” it introduces a condition. Unlike “wenn” it doesn’t lend itself very well to Konjunktiv 2 or the subjunctive mood in German. Let’s look at a few examples to help you see what I mean.
Falls du Hunger hast, gibt es Essen im Kühlschrank.
In case you have hunger (are hungry), there is food in the refrigerator.
Wenn du Hunger hast, gibt es Essen im Kühlschrank.
If you have hunger (are hungry), there is food in the refrigerator.
In this sentence, there is practically no difference between “wenn” and “falls”. To me “falls” draws more attention to the condition than “wenn” does, but that is about the only difference I see between them.
The Difference Between “falls” and “wenn”
Wir haben ein Babyphon im Kinderzimmer, falls das Baby aufwacht.
We have a baby monitor in the nursery in case the baby wakes up.
Wir haben ein Babyphon im Kinderzimmer, wenn das Baby aufwacht.
We have a baby monitor in the nursery if the baby wakes up.
This time there is a bigger difference. When we used “falls”, it indicated that the baby monitor was always there, so that on the occasion that the baby wakes up, we would hear it. The sentence with “wenn” indicates that we would own a babyphon if the baby wakes up. As long as the baby sleeps there is no babyphon. If the baby wakes up suddenly there is a babyphon. Seems counterproductive. To be fair, most people would interpret “wenn” as the same as “falls” in this instance as putting the baby monitor in the room after the baby wakes would be dumb, but it would be much better to simply use “falls” in this case. Here are some more examples using “falls”.
More Examples of “falls”
Falls meine Mutter anruft, bin ich nicht zu Hause.
In case my mother calls, I am not at home. (wink)
Ich habe einen Leibwächter, falls ich Carol Baskin treffe.
I have a bodyguard in case I meet Carol Baskin.
if, whether or not
Next up is another conjunction that translates as “if”. This conjunction is “ob”, but unlike the flexibility allowed by “wenn”, this conjunction can only be used with yes/no type phrases. This doesn’t mean that the answers are only yes or no, but that there are only a clear set of options. For example:
Meine Mutter will wissen, ob du bis zum Abendessen bleibst.
My mother wants to know if you will stay for dinner.
This sentence doesn’t include yes or no, but the response to it does.
Ja, ich bleibe.
Yes, I am staying.
Nein, ich bleibe nicht.
No, I am not staying.
Let’s try another.
Ob er wirklich ein Pilot ist, wissen wir nicht.
If he is really a pilot, we don’t know.
Again, we have two options for responses.
Ja, er ist Pilot.
Yes, he is a pilot.
Nein, er ist kein Pilot.
No, he isn’t a pilot.
Ich frage, ob ich nach Hause gehen darf.
I am asking if I may go home (or not).
Using “ob” without negation
As was shown in the last example, we don’t actually need to know the answer and we don’t need to list both options in order to use “ob”. If the second option isn’t just a negated version of the first option, however, you do need to include it in the sentence. For example:
Wir haben uns noch nicht entschieden, ob wir ins Kino oder zum Abendessen gehen.
We haven’t decided yet, if we are going to the movies or to dinner.
Ob ich nach Hause gehen darf, habe ich noch nicht gefragt.
If I can go home, I have not yet asked.
It doesn’t have to be limited to just 2 options. You can add more.
Wir haben uns noch nicht entschieden, ob wir ins Kino, nach Hause oder zum Abendessen gehen.
We haven’t decided yet, if we are going to the movies, home or to dinner.
ob vs wenn vs falls
Although “ob” means “if”, it is not interchangeable with “wenn” or “falls”. For example:
Ich habe ihn gefragt, ob er mitkommt.
I asked him if he is coming along.
Ich habe ihn gefragt, falls er mitkommt.
I asked him in case he is coming along.
The first one indicates that we simply asked if he is coming along or not. The second option says we asked him the question, but it was somehow dependent upon him coming along. For instance if he were in a group of others, some of whom were going to the beach, but you weren’t sure which ones, you would ask the entire group, just in case some of them went and you needed an answer to the question.
If you were to use “wenn” in that sentence, it would be a bit difficult, as it would indicate that the act of asking has already been done sometime in the future where the condition of him coming along has been met. Anyway, the point is that “ob”, “falls” and “wenn” are not interchangeable.
To bring it all full circle, there is also “als ob”, which combines the first conjunction I explained, “als” and “ob”, which I just explained. When I showed you examples of “als” earlier, I left out that you could also translate “als” as “as”. For example:
Als meine Mutter nach Hause kam, war ich schon weg.
As my mother came home, I was already gone.
With this in mind, you can see how “als ob” is used. It uses both the condition created by “ob” and the time indicated by “als” and puts them together to form “as if”. This makes it so you assume the condition set up by “ob” was met. For example:
Er küsst sie, als ob er sie liebt.
He kisses her as if he loves her.
Er tanzt wild herum, als ob seine Hose brennt.
He dances about wildly as if his pants were on fire.
Er legt mir Handschellen an, als ob ich ein Verbrecher wäre.
He cuffed me (put handcuffs on me), as if I were a criminal.
obwohl, obgleich, obschon
“Ob” is also used at the beginning of other conjunctions. There are three of these, “obgleich”, “obschon” and “obwohl”. Most German learners will only be familiar with “obwohl”, as “obgleich” and “obschon” aren’t as widely used. The meaning is exactly the same no matter what. I would personally recommend that you simply learn how to use “obwohl” and just keep in the back of your mind that “obgleich” and “obschon” are just archaic ways of saying the same thing. All of them just mean “although”. Here are a few examples:
Obwohl DC Comics bessere Figuren hat, macht Marvel bessere Filme.
Although DC Comics has better characters, Marvel makes better films.
Batman wird in Filmen nur als Rohling dargestellt, obwohl er höchst intelligent ist.
Batman is portrayed as a brute in films, although he is highly intelligent.
Obwohl der Schlüssel in das Türschloss passt, kann ich die Tür nicht öffnen.
Although the key fits into the door lock, I can’t open the door.
Ich muss heute arbeiten, obwohl ich krank bin.
I have to work today, although I am sick.
Obwohl ich Katzen niedlich finde, bin ich leider dagegen allergisch. Although I think cats are cute, I am allergic to them.
The conjunction “weil” is one of the most popular German subordinating conjunctions, as it means “because”. It is used mostly like the English word, but obviously it changes the word order, as I mentioned at the beginning of this lesson. It is more common to use “weil” in the second clause, but it is acceptable to start a sentence with “weil” even though it is not considered correct to start an English sentence with “because”.
Ich werde dick, weil ich zu viele Kekse esse.
I am getting fat, because I eat too many cookies.
Ich halte 1,5 Meter Abstand, weil ich andere Menschen meiden möchte. COVID-19 ist nur eine Ausrede dafür.
I keep 1.5 meters away, because I want to avoid other people. COVID-19 is just an excuse for that.
Weil ich kein Geld habe, kaufe ich keine Videospiele.
Because I don’t have any money, I don’t buy any video games.
Die Angestellte fragt nach meinem Reisepass, weil sie ihn braucht.
The employee asks for my passport, because she needs it.
Weil ich krank bin, bin ich zu Hause geblieben.
Because I am sick, I stayed home.
Another word that means “because” is “da”. This one is considered slightly more formal than “weil” and it is more common to see this one in the first clause in a sentence than “weil” is. Other than those slight differences, “weil” and “da” are pretty interchangeable.
If you find yourself unsure if you should use “weil” or “da”, you should probably use “da”, as it is the more formal of the two. Personally, however, I use “weil” more often than “da”, as I don’t find myself in a lot of formal discussions in German. I’m usually talking amongst friends and “weil” just seems to feel right. Here are a few examples with “da”.
Da Elsa den Fjord zugefroren hat, musste Anna sie finden.
Because Elsa froze the fjord, Anna had to find her.
Da mein Computer kaputt ist, möchte ich einen neuen kaufen.
Because my computer is broken, I would like to buy a new one.
Ich habe keinen Computer gekauft, da ich kein Geld habe.
I didn’t buy a computer, because I don’t have any money.
Da ich kein Geld habe, muss ich im Park übernachten.
Because I don’t have any money, I have to spend the night in the park.
Mein Hund bellt, da es ein Eichhörnchen im Garten gibt.
My dog is barking, because there is a squirrel in the yard.
so that, in order to
While both “weil” and “da” explain the reason or cause for some action, “damit” introduces a clause that shows why something is done. It is similar to “so that” or “in order to” in English. And if you giggled when I said “damit”, you are exactly the kind of viewer I am looking for. Check out these examples “damit”.
Damit ich nicht auf die Toilette im Bahnhof muss, trinke ich nur einen Kaffee am Morgen.
So that I don’t have to go to the bathroom in the train station, I only drink one coffee in the morning.
Sie wacht sehr früh auf, damit sie etwas Arbeit erledigen kann.
She wakes up very early, so that she can get some work done.
Ich trage eine Fliege, damit ich cool aussehe.
I wear a bow tie so that I look cool.
Ich arbeite, damit ich Geld verdienen kann.
I work, so that I can earn money.
Damit ich Sachen kaufen kann, muss ich arbeiten. –
So that I can buy things, I need to work.
A confusing conjunction even for native speakers is “dass”. The reason it is confusing is because of the definite article “das” and the relative pronoun that is based off of that article. When speaking you can barely tell a difference if at all between “dass” and “das”.
Technically, “dass” with 2 S’s has a short A sound while the one with one S has a long A sound. In practice, the difference is negligible. When writing, however, the difference is an important one to make, as they mean entirely different things. “Dass” means “that”, while “das” means “that”. See. Totally different and not confusing at all.
Der Mann im Fernsehen hat gesagt, dass du verhaftet worden seist.
The man on TV said, that you were arrested.
Dass ich so dumm bin, habe ich nie gewusst.
That I am so dumb, I never knew.
(I never knew that I was so dumb.)
The Difference Between dass and das
The easy version is that “das” with one S refers back to a noun, while “dass” with two S’s doesn’t. You can replace “das” with one S with dieses, jenes or welches and it would still make sense. If one of those words doesn’t work, you need two S’s. Honestly, you will find that only people who are overly pedantic care if you have two S’s or just one. Those people include teachers, grammar nerds and the people who are feverishly writing in the comments right now to “prove” me wrong. Here are a few examples with both, so you understand the difference anyway.
Mein Bruder sagt, dass er ein neues Auto gekauft hat.
My brother says that he bought a new car.
In this sentence, “dass” isn’t referring to some neuter noun, it is introducing a clause that gives more information about the action of the first clause, namely what my brother said.
Das ist das Auto, das mein Bruder gekauft hat.
This is the car that my brother bought.
In this sentence, “das” refers back to “das Auto”, which is a neuter noun, which is why we chose the version with one S.
Using dass and das together
Mein Bruder sagt, dass er das Auto gekauft hat, das mein Vater einmal besaß.
My brother says that he bought the car that my father once owned.
This time I used both “dass” and “das”. The first one indicates more information about the first clause, which means we need “dass” with two S’s. The second version refers back to “das Auto”, which is why we used the “das” with only one S.
Ich denke, dass das ganz einfach ist.
I think that this is quite simple.
The first “dass” adds information to the first clause, so we used two S’s. The second “das” doesn’t refer to something specific this time, which is why we chose the neuter article to begin with, but it only has one S, as it is referring to something, namely whatever it is that is“quite simple”.
Now that you kind of understand what the difference between “dass” and “das” is, here is one more example that is sure to confuse you.
Weißt du das, dass das “das” das meistverwendete Wort in diesem Satz ist?
Do you know that the “the” is the most used word in this sentence?
Along the same lines as “damit” is “so dass”. It literally is the German equivalent of “so that” and is used basically the same way. An alternative translation would be “so as”. It is very similar to the conjunction “damit”. Again, don’t forget that the word order changes based on where “so dass” is used.
Ich kaufe jede Woche Kekse, so dass es immer einige zu Hause gibt.
I buy cookies every week so that there are always some at home.
Der Mobber brüllt den Jungen an, so dass er weint.
The bully yells at the boy so that he cries.
Das Mädchen hilft dem Jungen, so dass sie ihn beruhigt.
The girl helps the boy so as to comfort him.
(The girl helps the boy so that she comforts him.)
dadurch… dass & indem
while, by means of
If you use “dadurch” in the main clause and “dass” to connect the subordinate clause, it means the same as the subordinating conjunction “indem”. Both of these mean something like “by means of”. You will most often see them translated as “while”, but this translation doesn’t really encompass what is really going on. For example:
Man kann sehr viel Deutsch dadurch lernen, dass man Videos von Herrn Antrim schaut.
One can learn a lot of German while watching videos from Herr Antrim.
Man kann sehr viel Deutsch lernen, indem man Videos von Herrn Antrim schaut.
One can learn a lot of German while watching videos from Herr Antrim.
In both of these sentences, you could translate “dadurch… dass” and “indem” with “while”, but the true meaning is more like “by means of”, as it shows the way in which you can do something via the conjunction. It shows the medium through which the action takes place. Here are a few more examples with “dadurch… dass” and “indem”.
Er hat sehr viel abgenommen, indem er jeden Tag 3 Kilometer rennt.
He has lost a lot of weight by running 3 kilometers every day.
Er hat sehr viel dadurch abgenommen, dass er jeden Tag 3 Kilometer rennt.
He has lost a lot of weight by running 3 kilometers every day.
Another subordinating conjunction that is often translated as “while” is “wohingegen”. This is used to express a juxtaposition of two clauses. This action in the first clause does this, while this other action in the second clause does that. As you can see, this can be translated as “while”. That being said, it would also be well served with the word “whereas”. This avoids the ambiguity of having too many conjunctions that translate as “while”, too. Let’s try a few examples with “wohingegen”.
Ich habe zwei Kinder und bin seit 2010 verheiratet, wohingegen mein Bruder drei Kinder hat und seit 2019 geschieden ist.
I have two children and have been married since 2010, whereas my brother has three children and has been divorced since 2019.
Das Kind auf der rechten Seite hat nur einen Keks, wohingegen das Kind auf der linken Seite schon fünfzehn gegessen hat.
The child on the right side only has one cookie, whereas the child on the left side has already eaten fifteen.
Elche tragen ein großes schweres Geweih, wohingegen Rehböcke ein kleines leichtes Geweih haben.
Elk have large heavy antlers, while deer (stags) have small light antlers.
The rest of the conjunctions for today have to do with time. Don’t confuse the fact that I just said “the rest of the conjunctions” with “we are almost done, however. There are twelve of them. Some are more used than others. Let’s start with the “befores”. There are two subordinating conjunctions in German that mean “before”. There is the easy one “bevor”, which is where the English version came from and there is “ehe”, which also has an English equivalent, but it is just as unused as “ehe”. This word is “ere”. Anyway, let’s look at some examples to see what I’m talking about.
Combining Clauses with “bevor”
Let’s try combining the following sentences to create one sentence using “bevor” as a subordinating conjunction.
Er ist ins Bett gegangen.
He went to bed.
Er hat sich die Zähne geputzt.
He brushed his teeth.
If you start the sentence with “bevor”, you push the conjugated verbs to the middle next to the comma. Only one of these sentences really makes sense, due to the meaning of “bevor”.
Bevor er ins Bett gegangen ist, hat er sich die Zähne geputzt.
Before he went to bed, he brushed his teeth.
Bevor er sich die Zähne geputzt hat, ist er ins Bett gegangen.
Before he brushed his teeth, he went to bed.
If you put “bevor” in the second clause, only the second clause word order is changed. The conjugated verb is now at the end of that clause. Again, only one of these examples really makes sense, due to the meaning of “bevor”.
Er ist ins Bett gegangen, bevor er sich die Zähne geputzt hat.
He went to bed, before he brushed his teeth.
Er hat sich die Zähne geputzt, bevor er ins Bett gegangen ist.
He brushed his teeth before he went to bed.
More Examples of “bevor”
Der Mann trinkt noch ein Glas Wein, bevor er nach Hause geht.
The man drinks another glass of wine before he goes home.
Bevor er ins Bett geht, putzt er sich die Zähne.
Before he goes to bed, he brushes his teeth.
Meine Hündin dreht sich im Kreis, bevor sie sich hinlegt.
My dog walks in a circle before she lays down.
Bevor du ins Kino gehen darfst, musst du dein Zimmer aufräumen.
Before you may go to the movie theater, you have to clean your room.
Die Kinder deckten den Tisch, bevor sie zu Abend aßen.
The children set the table before they ate dinner.
bevor vs vor vs davor vs vorher
These three examples are pretty simple and straightforward. They are normal sentences. That’s because “bevor” is just like the English “before”, but used only as a conjunction. When you use the English “before” with a noun, you need “vor” and when you use it on its own, you need “davor” or “vorher”.
The other one, “ehe”, is archaic or at the very least uncommon. You can use “ehe” anywhere you can use “bevor”, just don’t. Unless you are a fedora-wearing, neckbeard-having, basement-dweller, who tips their hat when passing a woman on the street and greets them with “m’lady”, you don’t need “ehe”. You should be aware of its existence, however, so you can recognize when it comes up in fairytales and other stuff. Here are a few examples of “ehe”.
Aschenputtel musste nach Hause, ehe ihre Kutsche wieder ein Kürbis wurde.
Cinderella had to go home ere her carriage became a pumpkin again.
Ehe die Zwerge wieder nach Hause kamen, war Schneewittchen schon tod.
Ere the dwarves came home again, Snow White was already dead.
Der, wer die Brücke des Todes überqueren möchte, muss die drei Fragen beantworten, ehe er die andere Seite sieht.
He who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.
**Not the actual movie quote in German, as it doesn’t use “ehe” in the German version for the sake of the rhyme.**
Wer über die Brücke des Todes will gehn, der muss 3 mal Rede und Antwort stehn, dann darf er die andere Seite sehn.
He who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.
**This is the real German version from the film.**
While “bevor” and “ehe” both talk about the time before something occurs, the conjunction “bis” expresses the time before and leading up to the occurrence. It translates as “until”. Here are a few examples of it in action.
Ich werde dich lieben, bis das letzte Sternchen ausgeht.
I will love you until the last little star goes out.
Bis er sein Geld bekommt, hört er nicht auf, dir zu folgen.
Until he gets his money, he won’t stop following you.
Er kann kaum abwarten, bis er sie wiedersieht.
He can hardly wait until he sees her again.
Ich fahre, bis ich nicht mehr fahren kann.
I drive, until I can’t drive any more.
Bis ich meinen Führerschein bekomme, sind es nur noch drei Monaten.
Until I get my driver’s license, it is only 3 more months.
Subordinating Conjunctions & Separable Prefix Verbs
As you saw in that last example, when you use a separable prefix verb in a subordinate clause, you put the prefix back on the front of the verb. Unlike when you used modal auxiliaries, however, you keep the conjugation as you normally would in that clause. This rule works if the subordinate clause is first or second.
When you want to use “while” in the traditional sense (not in the other ways I have used “while” as translations so far), you need “während”. Yes, this is another one that doubles as a genitive preposition. Again, the easy way to tell if it is a preposition or a conjunction is where it is located and what words are around it. If there is a noun attached to “während”, you are working with a preposition and that noun should be in the genitive case. If you have what is essentially an entire sentence with the verb at the end, you are working with a conjunction. Here are a few examples of “während” as a conjunction.
Während mein Bruder schläft, rasiere ich ihm die Haare.
While my brother is sleeping, I shave his hair.
Was hast du gemacht, während ich den ganzen Haushalt erledigt habe?
What did you do while I did all of the housework?
Das Böse triumphiert, während gute Menschen nichts tun.
Evil triumphs while (when) good men do nothing.
Während mein Bruder Ananas mag, mag ich Äpfel.
While my brother likes pineapple, I like apples.
Meine Frau schaut Fernsehen, während ich Abendessen koche.
My wife is watching TV, while I am cooking dinner.
as long as
“Solange” translates as “as long as”, but could be another word meaning “while”. It works this way in English, too. Just keep in mind that if you can’t say “as long as” when you say “while”, you need one of the other conjunctions I have mentioned in this lesson that mean “while”. Here are a few examples of “solange”.
Solange ich meinen Kaffee bekomme, wird niemand verletzt werden.
As long as I get my coffee, no one will be hurt.
Der Tiger ist ganz nett, solange Don nicht mit ihm im Käfig ist.
The tiger is quite nice, so long as Don isn’t in the cage with him.
Diese Tür können Sie für 30€ kaufen, solange sie auf Lager ist.
You can buy this door for 30€, so long as (as long as) it is in stock.
as soon as
If you need a way to say “as soon as” in German, use the subordinating conjunction “sobald”. Here are a few examples of it.
Sobald ich zu Hause bin, nehme ich die Fliege ab.
As soon as I am at home, I take off the bow tie.
Sobald er sein Gehalt bekommt, gibt er es aus.
As soon as he gets his paycheck he spends it.
Die Gottesanbeterin frisst ihren Partner, sobald die Paarung zu Ende ist.
The praying mantis eats her partner as soon as the mating is over.
Praying Mantes are simply cannibals and eat each other quite often. Males eat males or females and females eat males or females. When it happens isn’t even that important. Sometimes one will eat the other while mating. #TheMoreYouKnow
as often as, whenever
You can use “sooft” to mean “as often as” or “whenever”. Pro-tip: It isn’t “soooooft”. It isn’t “soft”. The correct pronunciation is two separate and completely different sounding O’s. First a long O in “so”. Then a short O in “oft”. While Duden officially lists this as one word, it shows in the examples given on their website that it can also be written as two words. There is nothing wrong with writing it as two words, “so oft”. Here are a few examples of “sooft” in action.
Sooft ich Geld bekomme, wird etwas in meinem Haus kaputt.
As often as I get money, something in my house breaks.
Der Priester hilft seinen Pfarrangehörigen, sooft sie Hilfe benötigen.
The priest helps his parishioners as often as they need help.
Sooft ich ins Haus trete, ist mein Hund froh mich zu sehen.
As often as I step into the house, my dog is happy to see me.
You may be familiar with the preposition “nach”, which means “after”, but do you know how to use “nachdem”? This is the conjunction version of “after”. It is similar in its construction to “indem” and “trotzdem”, plus the one we haven’t talked about yet, “seitdem”.
Grammar Nerd Side Note
This probably has something to do with the way German evolved over time. Since “seit”, “nach” and “trotz” are all prepositions, they are generally followed by nouns. Most of those nouns are going to be either masculine or neuter, which in the dative case is “dem”. Over time, this article became attached to the preposition in order to form the conjunctions we now know and love. And much to your German teacher’s dismay, this also means that “trotz” is and was often used with the dative case instead of the genitive case that is shown in your textbook (and in lessons on this website).
Examples of “nachdem”
With that out of the way, here are some examples with “nachdem”.
Nachdem ich meinen Regenschirm zu Hause gelassen habe, regnete es.
After I left my umbrella at home, it rained.
Meine Schüler dürfen zocken, nachdem sie ihre Hausaufgaben gemacht haben.
My students can play video games, after they have done their homework.
Nachdem du dieses Video gesehen hast, solltest du ein paar von den Konjunktionen in Sätzen in die Kommentaren schreiben.
After you have watched this video, you should write a few of the conjunctions in sentences in the comments.
Nachdem ich dieses Blog geschrieben haben, werde ich zur Arbeit gehen.
After I have written this blog, I will go to work.
The last conjunction for this lesson is actually two. They mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably, however, so they are basically just one. Also, one is infinitely more common than the other, so there’s that, too. “seit” and “seitdem”. Most of the time “seit” is a preposition whereas “seitdem” is most often used as a conjunction. You can, however, use “seit” as a conjunction and “seitdem” as an adverb.
When “seit” is a preposition, it is followed by a noun or pronoun in the dative case. When “seitdem” is used as an adverb, it is simply used like any other time element within a sentence. It acts alone and goes either before the direct object or before any of the other adverbs and prepositional phrases.
When either of them are used as a conjunction, they introduce a clause and connect it to another one. Since the meaning doesn’t change no matter which one you use, I’ll just use the same examples for both.
Seit/Seitdem du weg bist, kann ich zum ersten Mal durchatmen.
Since you been gone, I can breathe for the first time.
Dieses Lied bleibt in seiner Erinnerung, seit/seitdem er es zum ersten Mal gehört hat.
This song stays in his memory, since he first heard it.
Seitdem ich meine neuen Schuhe gekauft habe, trage ich keine anderen Schuhe.
Since I have bought my new shoes, I no longer wear any other shoes.
How to Use More than 1 Subordinating Conjunction in 1 Sentence
Seit/Seitdem mein Hund gestorben ist, bin ich traurig, wenn ich immer noch seine Haare im Haus finde.
Since my dog died, I am sad, when I still find his hair in my house.
Yep, you can use more than one subordinating conjunction in a single sentence and you can make them use both versions of the word order rules that I mentioned at the beginning of the lesson. The first part uses the subordinating conjunction first, which pushes the conjugated verbs to the middle by the comma. The second part introduces another clause with another subordinating conjunction, which pushes that clause’s conjugated verb to the end of that clause. There is a lot going on in that sentence.
Wow! Congratulations! You made it to the end of this lesson. Give yourself a pat on the back.
More about Conjunctions in German
Below is a list of posts about various kinds of conjunctions in German. If you enjoyed this lesson, you will love these as well.
- Coordinating Conjunctions in German (nebenordnende Konjunktionen)
- Subordinating Conjunctions in German (unterordnende Konjunktionen)
- Two-Part Conjunctions in German (zweiteilige Konjunktionen)
- Adverbial Conjunctions in German (Konjunktionaladverbien)