Mastering German Grammar: A Comprehensive Guide to Conjunctions and Dependent Clauses

Understanding German grammar can be a challenging task, but it is essential for anyone who wants to communicate effectively in the language. One of the key aspects of German grammar is the use of conjunctions and dependent clauses. In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about these important elements, including the different types of conjunctions, how they work, and how to use them correctly in sentences.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Conjunctions and Dependent Clauses

Conjunctions are words that connect elements within a sentence, such as phrases, clauses, or individual words. In German, there are three main types of conjunctions: coordinating, subordinating, and two-part conjunctions.

Dependent clauses, on the other hand, are groups of words that contain a subject and a verb but cannot stand alone as a complete sentence. They rely on a main clause to make sense and are often introduced by a conjunction.

In this guide, we will focus on how conjunctions are used to create dependent clauses in German sentences.

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are used to connect two independent clauses or phrases of equal importance. They do not change the word order within the clauses. The most common coordinating conjunctions in German are:

  • und (and)
  • aber (but)
  • denn (because)
  • oder (or)
  • sondern (but rather)
  • doch (however)

Examples of Coordinating Conjunctions

  1. Ich mag Äpfel und Birnen. (I like apples and pears.)
  2. Sie ist schlau, aber faul. (She is smart, but lazy.)
  3. Er kommt nicht, denn er ist krank. (He is not coming, because he is sick.)
  4. Willst du Kaffee oder Tee? (Do you want coffee or tea?)
  5. Sie ist nicht traurig, sondern wütend. (She is not sad, but rather angry.)

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions are used to connect a dependent clause to an independent clause. When a subordinating conjunction is used, the word order in the dependent clause changes, and the verb is moved to the end of the clause. Some common subordinating conjunctions in German are:

  • dass (that)
  • obwohl (although)
  • weil (because)
  • wenn (if, when)
  • als (when)
  • ob (whether)

Examples of Subordinating Conjunctions

  1. Ich weiß, dass du Recht hast. (I know that you are right.)
  2. Obwohl es regnet, gehen wir spazieren. (Although it is raining, we are going for a walk.)
  3. Er kommt nicht, weil er krank ist. (He is not coming because he is sick.)
  4. Wenn es regnet, bleibe ich zu Hause. (If it rains, I stay at home.)
  5. Als ich jung war, spielte ich Fußball. (When I was young, I played soccer.)

Two-Part Conjunctions

Two-part conjunctions, also known as correlative conjunctions, consist of two words that work together to connect two clauses or phrases. The first word is placed at the beginning of the first clause, and the second word is placed at the beginning of the second clause. Common two-part conjunctions in German are:

  • entweder…oder (either…or)
  • weder…noch (neither…nor)
  • sowohl…als auch (both…and)
  • nicht nur…sondern auch (not only…but also)
  • je…desto (the…the)

Examples of Two-Part Conjunctions

  1. Entweder du gehst jetzt, oder ich gehe. (Either you leave now, or I will.)
  2. Er spricht weder Englisch noch Französisch. (He speaks neither English nor French.)
  3. Sie kann sowohl Klavier als auch Geige spielen. (She can play both piano and violin)
  4. Er ist nicht nur klug, sondern auch fleißig. (He is not only smart, but also hardworking.)
  5. Je schneller du arbeitest, desto früher bist du fertig. (The faster you work, the sooner you will be finished.)

Using Conjunctions to Form Complex Sentences

By combining coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, you can create complex sentences with multiple dependent clauses. This allows for more nuanced and detailed communication in German.

Example of a Complex Sentence

  1. Obwohl ich müde bin, werde ich meine Hausaufgaben machen, denn ich möchte gute Noten bekommen. (Although I am tired, I will do my homework, because I want to get good grades.)

In this example, “obwohl” introduces a dependent clause with a subordinating conjunction, while “denn” connects two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  1. Incorrect word order in dependent clauses: Remember that when using a subordinating conjunction, the verb moves to the end of the dependent clause. For example: “Ich gehe ins Kino, weil ich den Film sehen will.”
  2. Confusing coordinating and subordinating conjunctions: Be aware of the difference between coordinating and subordinating conjunctions, as they affect word order differently. For example: “Er kommt nicht, denn er ist krank” (coordinating) vs. “Er kommt nicht, weil er krank ist” (subordinating).
  3. Choosing the wrong conjunction: Some conjunctions have similar meanings but are used in different contexts. For example, “wenn” is used for conditional sentences, while “als” is used for past events. Make sure to choose the right one for your sentence.

Practice Exercises and Examples

  1. Combine the following sentences using a coordinating conjunction: a) Ich will ein Eis. Es ist heiß.
    b) Er hat Hunger. Er hat Durst.
  2. Combine the following sentences using a subordinating conjunction: a) Ich bleibe zu Hause. Es regnet.
    b) Sie hat Angst. Sie schreit.
  3. Combine the following sentences using a two-part conjunction: a) Du kannst tanzen. Du kannst singen.
    b) Es ist kalt. Es ist windig.


Mastering the use of conjunctions and dependent clauses is essential for anyone learning German. By understanding the different types of conjunctions and how they affect word order, you will be able to create complex sentences and communicate more effectively in German. Use this comprehensive guide as a reference to help you improve your German grammar skills and become a more confident speaker.

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