German for Music Lovers

Dependent Clauses in the First Position

subordinating conjunctions ("boot-words")  kick the finite verb to the end of the clause

Before you work on this topic, please click here to learn about "boot"-words, or subordinating conjunctions.

The dependent clause occupies the front field, and is immediately followed by the inflected verb ("Vi") of the main clause.

Remember the first rule you learned about word order in German: the inflected verb occupies the second position in the sentence. Follow this rule when the dependent clause is the first element in the sentence. The dependent clause occupies the front field, and is followed immediately by a comma and the inflected verb of the main clause. What you can end up with is a "verb pile-up" in the middle of your sentence, so it is important to remember the comma when you write, and to look for it when you are reading a long sentence, so that you can separate the clauses properly.

This chart reviews word order in a dependent clause which FOLLOWS the main clause.

diagram of "boot-word" kicking finite verb to end of clause 

The following chart shows you the dependent clause in first position, in the front field.

 

a dependent clause in first position is immediately followed by the finite verb of the main clause

Was hat er nicht gewusst?

What didn't he know?

Dass er hier nicht so schnell fahren soll, hat er nicht gewusst

diagram shows positions of verbs in complex sentences 

Following are the sentences you learned with subordinating conjunctions, or "boot-words."

First, the clause is shown as an independent clause with normal word order. Then, the clause is changed to a dependent clause, with the inflected verb booted to its end. It is used in a complex sentence,* following the main clause. Finally, the dependent clause is shifted to the front field of the complex sentence.

 * (a sentence containing at least one independent and one dependent clause)

normal word order Er soll hier nicht so schnell fahren.
He's not supposed to drive so fast here.
dependent clause following main clause
1. Er weiß, dass er hier nicht so schnell fahren soll.
He knows that he is not supposed to drive so fast here.
dependent clause in front field
1. Dass er hier nicht so schnell fahren soll, weiss er.
  The dependent clause is the one element in the front field. The verb of the main clause is in the second position.
2. Sie besuchen uns. Sie bringen Blumen, wenn sie uns besuchen.
They visit us. They bring flowers whenever they visit us.
2.Wenn sie uns besuchen, bringen sie Blumen.
 
3. Ingrid kommt ins Kino mit. Ich weiß nicht, ob Ingrid ins Kino mitkommt.
Ingrid is coming along to the movies. I don't know whether Ingrid is coming along to the movies.
3. Ob Ingrid ins Kino mitkommt, weiß ich nicht.
 
4. Ich will nicht ins Kino gehen. Ich bleibe zu Hause, weil ich nicht ins Kino gehen will.
I don't want to go to the movies. I'm staying home because I don't want to go to the movies.
4. Weil ich nicht ins Kino gehen will, bleibe ich zu Hause.
 
5. Sie ist meine Nachbarin. Ich kenne sie nicht so gut, obwohl sie meine Nachbarin ist.
She is my neighbor. I don't know her very well, although she is my neighbor.
5. Obwohl sie meine Nachbarin ist, kenne ich sie nicht so gut.
 
6. Wir waren noch Kinder. Ich lernte ihn kennen, als wir noch Kinder waren.
We were still children. I met him when we were still children.
6.Als wir noch Kinder waren, lernte ich ihn kennen.
 
7. Wir gingen ins Restaurant. Ingrid hatte schon gegessen, bevor wir ins Restaurant gingen.
We went to the restaurant. Ingrid had already eaten before we went to the restaurant.
7. Bevor wir ins Restaurant gingen, hatte Ingrid schon gegessen.
 
8. Sie gehen in die Disko. Sie kommen erst nach Hause, nachdem sie in die Disko gehen.
They are going to the disco. They'll be home only after they go to the disco.
8. Nachdem sie in die Disko gehen, kommen sie nach Hause.
 

 Übung

Click here to return to the worksheet with which you practiced earlier, when you learned about subordinate clauses. Rewrite the complex sentences with the dependent clauses in the first position. End each new sentence with ". . . , haben sie nicht gewußt." (". . . they didn't know."). When you are through, click here to check your answers.

 

"boot-word" follow their own rhythm

 

 ©A. Campitelli, Greensboro, NC 1999-2004