- Conditional Clauses with Wenn and Falls/Sofern
- Concessive Clauses with Obwohl
- Causal Clauses with Da and Weil
- Relative Clauses with Relative Pronouns
- Final Clauses with Damit and Um....zu
There are several types of dependent clauses in German. Some of them are used to show the reason, cause, consequence, or condition related to the action in the main clause.
Let's learn how to form and use dependent clauses in German using different conjunctions.
Das ist die Frau, welche die Rechnung bringt.
This is the woman, which brings the bill.
Conditional Clauses with Wenn and Falls/Sofern
Rule 1: Clauses with wenn (when) or falls/sofern (if) indicate a condition that must be fulfilled for another action to take place.
Wenn das Wetter schön ist, gehe ich morgen spazieren.
If the weather is nice, I'll go for a walk tomorrow.
Rule 2: There is a difference between wenn and falls/sofern. When using falls/sofern, the probability of the main action happening is rather low. The action used with wenn is expected.
Moreover, sofern can only used with negative sentences. Falls can be used whenever.
Falls ich keine Zeit habe, gebe ich dir Bescheid!
If I don't have time, I'll let you know!
Conditional Clauses with Wenn and Subjunctive 2
Rule 3: To say that the past or present would be different if the past was changed right now, we use the past subjunctive 2 in a conditional clause together with wenn. This is the German alternative of the English Third Conditional.
It is used to express:
- Desire to change the past based on the past: If I had known fact A, then I would have done action B.
- Desire to change the present based on the past: If I had known fact A back then, I would do action B today.
Rule 4: To form conditional clauses with this construction, you just have to use the subjunctive of haben/sein + past participle of the main verb.
Wenn ich mehr gearbeitet hätte, hätte ich meine Prüfung bestanden.
If I had worked more, I would have passed my exam.
Concessive Clauses with Obwohl
Rule 5: When using obwohl (even though), we express an opposition or an illogical consequence of the statement of the main clause.
The subordinate clause with obwohl formulates a condition and the main clause formulates a non-logical consequence (= other than expected or consequence does not occur).
Ich habe die Prüfung nicht bestanden, obwohl ich viel gelernt habe.
I failed the exam even though I learned a lot.
Causal Clauses with Da and Weil
Rule 6: Causal clauses introduce a reason or a cause: We would ask: "Why?" or "For what reason?" when creating them. Weil and da (both translated as "because") are placed at the beginning of causal clauses.
Stefan arbeitet nicht, weil er krank ist.
Stefan doesn't work because he's ill.
Rule 7: Both weil and da have exactly the same meaning, but when a causal clause comes before a main clause, we usually use da. Causal clauses introduced with weil could also stand alone if they are the answer to a question.
Da er krank ist, arbeitet Max heute nicht.
Because he is ill, Max is not working today.
Relative Clauses with Relative Pronouns
Rule 8: Relative clauses give additional information about a noun from the main clause and describe it in more detail. They are introduced with a relative pronoun that stands for the noun of the main clause.
Rule 9: Relative pronouns are:
- der, die, das for everyday speech (who)
- welcher, welche, welches to avoid repeating the same word (which)
Relative pronouns must be declined according to gender, number and case. They are generally placed directly after the subject or object to which they refer, and always start the relative subordinate clause.
Das ist die Frau, die die Rechnung bringt.
This is the woman, who brings the bill.
Final Clauses with Damit and Um....zu
Rule 10: Final clauses indicate an intention, a purpose, or a goal. If the subject in the main clause is not identical to the one in the subordinate clause, we must use the conjunction damit (so that, in order to).
Wir kaufen einen Saugroboter, damit die Wohnung schneller sauber wird.
We are buying a vacuum robot, so that the apartment can be cleaned faster.
Rule 11: If the subject is the same in the main clause and final clause, we use the conjunction um ... zu (in order to) with an infinitive verb.
Um introduces the subordinate clause and zu + infinitive concludes the sentence. There is no subject in the subordinate clause. When writing, we put a comma before um.
Ich lerne viel, um den Test zu bestehen.
I study a lot to pass the test.
Rule 12: If you have a separable verb, then zu gets in between the prefix and the rest of the verb.
Er bleibt zu Hause, um fernzusehen.
He's staying at home to watch television.