- Subordinate Clauses: the Basics
- Subordinate Conjunctions
"Nebensätze" (subordinate clauses) are not complete and cannot stand alone. We always need a main clause for them to make sense. They give additional information and are connected to the main clause with subordinate conjunctions (dass, weil, ...) or relative pronouns (der, die, das,...).
Ich sagte ihr, dass ich Tee möchte.
I told her that I wanted tea.
Subordinate Clauses: the Basics
Rule 1: In subordinate clauses, the conjugated verb is always pushed to the end of the clause.
Rule 2: These clauses can be placed after, in front of or in the middle of the main clause, but are always separated by a comma.
Ich weiß nicht, ob er dir hilft.
I don't know if he will help you.
Rule 3: If you start with a subordinate clause, the conjugated verb in the main clause must then stand directly behind the comma. This is so because the complete subordinate clause counts as the 1st position in the sentence, and the verb in the main clause always must take the 2nd position.
Ob er dir hilft, weiß ich nicht.
Whether he will help you, I don't know.
Subordinate Causes with More Than One Verb & Separable Verbs
As we have mentioned, in a subordinate clause, the finite verb (the one that must be declined to match the subject in number and person) must always stand at the very last position. This creates two additional rules:
Rule 4: If there is more than one verb at the end of a subordinate clause, they appear in this order: full verb - auxiliary verb - modal verb
Das ist die Telefonnummer, die ich aufgeschrieben habe.
This is the phone number I wrote down.
Rule 5: If we deal with separable verbs, the two parts (prefix + conjugated verb) will be placed together again.
Wenn ich das Fenster aufmache, wird es kalt.
When I open the window, it gets cold.
Rule 6: Subordinate conjunctions connect main clauses with subordinate clauses. Subordinate conjunctions always introduce a subordinate clause that is separated by a comma.
These conjunctions include:
|als||when (with past tenses)|
|als ob||as if|
|damit||so that, in order that|
|so dass||so that|
|wenn||when (with present tense), if|
Dass – That
Rule 7: If there is a subordinate clause starting with "dass," the corresponding main clause does not make sense without the information of this subordinate clause.
- We use "dass" with verbs that express opinions, perceptions, feelings, knowledge, and intentions: "glauben" (to believe), "meinen" (to mean), "versprechen" (to promise), etc.
Ich verspreche dir, dass ich da sein werde.
I promise you that I will be there.
- We also use it in indirect speech to report something with verbs such as : "sagen" (to say), 'hören" (to hear), etc.
Er hat gesagt, dass er kommen würde.
He said that he would come.
- Some impersonal phrases introduce a subordinate clause with "dass":
Es ist wichtig, dass...
Es ist möglich, dass…
It is important that...
It is possible that...