1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. "Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen w…

"Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht."

Translation:If he does not come, we do not go.

January 2, 2013



Why is the word order the way it is? i.e. the "nicht" is before the verb in the first part of the sentence and at the end of the second part of the sentence? I assume it is something to do with it being a subordinate or non-subordinate clause but that is just a guess


"Wenn er nicht kommt" is a subordinate clause. You can tell because it starts with a subordinating conjunction such as "Wenn", "Weil", "Dass", "Denn", etc.

In a subordinate clause, the verb (and only the verb) is always kicked to the end of the clause. This is what causes the weird word order. In a normal independent clause, "nicht" would come after the verb, but the subordinate clause moves the verb to the very end.

  • Independent clause: "Er kommt nicht"

  • Subordinate clause: "Wenn er nicht kommt"

There are two different ways to structure this sentence:

  • "Wir gehen nicht, wenn er nicht kommt."

  • "Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht."

Notice how the subject "wir" and the verb "gehen" switch their order. In German, the subject (wir) is normally the first thing said in every sentence and the verb follows. If the subject is not the first part of the sentence, then the verb (gehen) leads and the subject follows.


The rule for affirmative main clauses is that the verb is always in 2nd position. The subordinate clause has already taken the first position. So the verb needs to follow immediately to get its 2nd position.


Thank you so much. I got it better.


that was good and simple explanation thanks.


1000 IQ response, thank you my dear


Is anyone able to explain, please?


I believe it is because the verb must be the second "idea" in a sentence. Since Wenn comes first, it kicks the verb kommt to the end of the first clause ( If he does not come ). This is then treated as a one part.

Because of this, Gehen must come after the first clause for reasons I have mentioned beforehand. After that, wir and nicht kind of just follow.

I'm still having quite a bit of trouble understanding this myself, so someone please correct me if I'm wrong.


sorry but do you have any advice on how to tell when you have to do this? thanks


This is quite a tough one. This sentence is actually a bit shortened, the full construction is 'Wenn X, dann Y' (= If X, then Y). 'Wenn' forces subordinate construction (verb to the end, negation before), 'dann' forces question construction (first verb, then subject, negation somewhere after these).


Thanks, it's a good explanation :) I also found this awesome source about word order for anyone reading this thread and as confused as I was:



There is no question constraction. If the main sentence goes after the subordinate sentence, the main sentence has a verb in the first place.


But Wenn is not accepted as an answer. And I cannot report it.


It does, actually. In X-bar terms, it’s because normally, the subject in Germanic languages moves to specCP, and the conjugated verb to C (i.e. the head of the Complementizer Phrase) in the syntactic tree. Here ‘wenn’ occupies the position of C, so both stay put: the subject in specTP, and the verb at V (the head of the Verb Phrase), which comes at the end of the VP.


OK this cleared it up so much?


Why can't this also be "When he does not come, we do not go." ?


Because 'wenn' means 'if'. Sometimes it means 'when', but very rarely and it never means 'whenever', which would be the meaning of your proposed translation. Always assume it means 'if' unless there are other indications in the sentence that it means something else.


That is oversimplification and also a partially wrong one.

Wenn CAN mean whenever, if you talk about the past

please check section 5 of this link http://www.thegermanprofessor.com/als-wenn-wann/


Why couldnt the translation be "If he does not come, we do not go"? Or does Wenn not translate that way?


That's even the "main solution" (see top of page).


I answered this (except with "doesn't" and "don't"), and it was accepted as correct.


Probably because it was suggested as correct with "When". I think the system automatically add the suggestions if they are added by two or three users, but maybe I am wrong.


No it is not automatic


I guess "Because he doesn't come, we do not go" only makes sense to me. I spent too much of my life waiting for someone before we could go anywhere.


It makes sense to me and that is why I am wondering why my first answer which was denn/because was wrong. Personally, I think both are correct but it only wants if.


I put this same. This question has 2 answers, unless there is some German grammatical rule which states why it can't be Denn.


I think it can't be Denn because then it would be "denn er kommt nicht" (the weird verb word order doesn't apply for denn)


Also, denn is only used to connect two sentences; it cannot occur at the beginning of a sentence.


So wenn means both when and if?


I read this: Wenn = both "when" and "if" Wann = "when" when you are asking a question (wenn is for "answering")

Wann kommst du? (When are you coming?) Ich komme wenn du kommst. (I am coming when you are coming/I am coming if you are coming.)

(Please correct me if i'm wrong, definitely not a native speaker)


Wenn only means "if". Wann, I believe is "when".


This is wrong. Wenn can mean when too


I was starting to get confused when I saw people using wenn to also mean "when". Thanks for correcting me and clearing things up.


Why not "If he doesn't come, we're not going"?


i also thought denn was an adequate answer - because he does not come we do not go! because he does not come to (the shops with us) we (also) do not go!


But the word order is different, "denn" is not a verb hater.


In correct grammatical English We say: If he doesn't come, we will not go. The main clause is in the future tense whereas the sub-ordinate clause is in the present tense.


can someone tell me what is the different between the two options?


This is a conditional sentence. The way we had been taught was: If he does not come we will not go. Any response from English native speakers, please?


Native English speaker here and yes, your translation is better. Because the sentence uses the word "if", it is conditional and "we WILL not go" is the proper conditional form, not "we DO not go." If Duolingo would allow "wenn" to be translated as "when" here as it does in other sentences, then "we DO not go" would be better as it would no longer be conditional.


Sounds right in english


Shouldn't the English conditional sentence be '' If he does not come we will not go''?


Your's is a better translation than Duolingo offers


Why can't the answer be denn

Denn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht

Because he doesn't come, we do not go


Because of two reasons: 1.) In contrast to "because", which starts a subordinate clause, "denn" always introduces a main clause and therefore the word order must be different. 2.) The sentence led by "denn" can never be positioned in front of the sentence which contain the effect, but is always the second clause. So the sentence you think of is "Wir gehen nicht, denn er kommt nicht".

Think of "denn" as "for", not "because".


"Therefore" and "because" have opposite causal meanings. "Denn" cannot be translated as "therefore" - it changes the meaning of the sentence.
"Wir schwimmen, denn wir sind Fische." - We swim, since we are fish. NOT We swim, therefore we are fish.


You are so right. "denn" does not mean "therefore", that would be "deswegen", and using it indeed would change the direction of causality.


Thank you so much for confirming this.


Proper English always requires a "then" with an "if."


Laughing.... I teach precollegiate English grammar and composition. No, it doesn’t. “Then” is certainly possible, but it’s definitely not required.


So 'wenn' means 'when' and 'if', while 'wann' only means 'when'?


yes. "wann" only covers the temporal aspect and is used only as a word introducing a question, "wenn" can have a temporal or a conditional meaning (and is a conjunction).


If he does not come we are not going should be accepted


I wrote the same and it was rejected. I will report it.


There is only 1 not to choose. So I cannot get the correct answer.


If he does not come we shall not go, is a correct translation in English too, since the second idea is future, conditional on the first idea.


yes, you're right. Report it.


"If he doesn't come, we shall not go" is actually better English than the translation.


Why isn't it "If he doesn't come, we will not go"?


Because it is expressed basically as "we're not going" instead of "we will not go". A very subtle difference, but a difference nonetheless.

"Wir werden nicht gehen" vs "wir gehen nicht" auf deutsch.


The correct word order in a main clause is "Wir gehen nicht".


Oops. Good catch. Fixed. Must have been stuck on English mode for a minute.


ha.. there are many valid ways to express this in English. At this stage of the course more should be accepted, not just the clunky literal. shows how so-called "AI" as a language tool is still in its infancy.


There is no "AI" in Duolingo. Every single solution is provided by human contributors. If some valid translation is missing, just report it.


The app (that's what I think they meant?!) is definitely way behind the Duo web version, eg there are zero accents (over or under words) on there....


I wrote "if he doesn't come we won't go" and "won't" was incorrect. Is it really though?


Yes. "Will not" is not the same as "do not".


both choices make sense, how do you decide unless you know wha tthe answer is supposed to be?


you can't start a sentence with "denn" and therefore it doesn't make sense


The problem with these translations at times is that they do it literally ("If he doesn't come we don't go") when in fact this is not an appropriate utterance in the context. "If he doesn't come we won't go." would be appropriate but I imagine it would not be accepted.


The context can make a significant difference. "If he doesn't come we shan't go" doesn't convey the determination of "... we won't go". I don't know how this distinction would be made in German; maybe by 'wollen' compared with 'werden'??


But why does 'nicht' come before 'kommt' in the first half of the clause?


The first part is a subordinate clause, the second part is the main clause. Word order is different in these two.
In an ordinary (=statement; not a question, not an order) main clause, the verb is in the second position, the negation word "nicht" usually goes to the end of the sentence (only followed by infinitives and participles, which are not present here). So it would be "Wir gehen nicht", if it were alone.
However, the complete subordinate clause is counted as the first position of the main clause, so it becomes "Weil ..., gehen wir nicht.
In subordinate clauses the word order changes in that the verb goes straight to the end of the sentence. So "Er kommt nicht", which would be the sentence, if standing alone, becomes "weil er nicht kommt". Note that "nicht" would else be at the end of the sentence, but the verb moves even after that.


Why can't 'denn' take the place of'wenn'? İt still makes sense.


No, it doesn't. "wenn" means "if", whereas "denn" means something like "because" or "for". Besides, "denn" can never start a subordinate clause in front of a main clause, because "denn" is a coordinating conjunction and thus appears between two main clauses, and it forces a different word order.

So, no. For lots of reasons.


Thanks. Then I know denn can only appear in the middle of a sentence.


Her voice is misleading, it didn't sound like kommt, it sounded like kott or cott, no "m" sound at all!!


Pretty sure the voices are computer generated, so they can sound odd at times.


If he doesn't come. We are not going


why was wenn used for the word if? can anyone please answer that


Because "wenn" is the translation of "if".
"wenn" can also mean "when", but when translating from English to German that should not be a problem.


wenn means IF or WHEN or BOTH?


It can mean both.


when does gehen means walk or go?


I wrote ' arrive ' and it was not accepted. Why?


Arrive is ankommen, which is different from come/kommen. When he arrives would be Wenn er ankommt.

To draw a distinction between arrive and come, you only use to come when you are at the traveler's destination. This is not necessarily true with to arrive.

Speaker at airport: When he comes, I will take him to work.

When he arrives, I will take him to work.

Speaker in the US: When he comes to Japan, she will take him to work. WRONG

When he arrives in Japan, she will take him to work.


I had an extra "then" before "we do not go", and that was considered incorrect. Sounds quite natural to me, though.


By adding another word, you changed the meaning they were trying to come across, it may sound natural, but sometimes Duo is picky.


Why does "gehen" come before "wir"?


Why is it "Wenn er nicht kommt" and not "Wenn er kommt nicht"?



In relative clauses, the verb is pushed to the end of the sentence.


why is the placement of "nicht" so odd? Is this because of the word "wenn?"


What about this translation? Wenn er nicht kommt, werden wir nicht gehen.


grateful thanks to the folk who have posted links to such helpful websites giving additional teaching and explanations


Why not Denn rather than Wenn? Because he does not come we do not go


So does 'wenn' mostly mean 'if' and not 'when'?


I think I understand the order of the sentence except the negation, I would have written it like: "Wenn er kommt nicht, gehen wir nicht" Is this wrong?


I thought when using subordinating conjunctions, the verb goes to the end of a statement. So why is "gehen" place in front of "wir" like a question?


The verb indeed goes to the end of the clause within the subordinate clause, i.e. the "kommt" is the last word in that clause. However, things remain unchanged in the main clause. As the complete subordinate clause counts as first position, the "gehen" comes second.


I'm a tad confused about the use of Wenn for both If and When. Would this sentence be equivalent to an English zero conditional (as in a general truth, 'whenever he doesn't come, we don't go'), or does it also have the meaning of 'In the event of him not coming, we will not go'? How do you differenciate between If/When?


"wenn" can indeed mean both. If need be, you can differentiate by using "immer wenn" or "wann immer" for the former, "falls" for the latter.


is the positioning of the verb in the second sentence due to a missing word 'dann'.

Wenn er nicht kommt, dann gehen wir nicht??


No, it is because the whole subordinate clause counts as one (= the first) position.


Either answer could be used. The sentence could just as easily be "Because he does not come we do not go".


No. "wenn" does not have the meaning "because". It can mean "when" or "if", however.


This got me a bit confused until I remember that eccentric way of German word order using emphasis.

Clearly, the subordinate clause is the first part of the sentence because of 'wenn'. So naturally, the verb 'kommt' is at the end.

The last clause is different because the verb comes first. I believe it is like that because the speaker wants to emphasize the verb here.



No, the verb doesn't come first. The complete subordinate clause is counted as the first position of the main clause. So the verb is indeed in second position.
Emphasizing doesn't change the V2-rule. And, btw., I don't think that to be eccentric, you have that in many languages.


Thanks! I just realized after posting this that the whole subordinate clause is counted as the 'first' part of the whole sentence. This made a lot more sense!


'If he not come, go we not' ?


German has different rules for word order than English. Those should be learned during this course.


What they actually did was translate the sentence word for word, but it wasn't really even the right words to use in English on top of not being in the correct order.

Many words can be translated into many other words. One thing I've noticed is that there are almost no words that only have one word that they can be translated as. That's mostly because there are many different ways to say the same thing in both languages usually, and that's why there are lists of correct answers that are accepted for each translation.

If this guy keeps on learning with this course, he'll figure it out eventually. It's not easy, but with practice it is possible. A year and a half ago I only knew a few words that my parents picked up while my dad was stationed over there and he brought my mom with him, before I was born. Now I can almost have a conversation, but I'm scared to try with a native speaker. I sometimes take a minute to translate a sentence in my head before I say it and then have to think about each word before I say it, so it comes out alot less fluid then I would like, but if I've come this far already, I know I can improve.

So my suggestion for the OP is to keep at it. If they are an English speaker, they should know that their sentence is not correct, and even if it isn't clear right now, it will get better.

I may be rambling, I'm barely awake, lol.


'If he not come, go we not.'


That you, Master Yoda?

Around the survivors, a perimeter create!


Is there another word for "if" or is Wenn always it? Do I have to worry about which to choose like with "because"?


You can use "falls" instead.


Again, the English translation is clumsy here. We would not normally say, we do not go', but 'we are not going', or we will not go.'!


It’s not that odd, really. I am the teacher, waiting outside with a group of students as we are about to go on a field trip. The bus driver taking us there hasn’t arrived yet.

I could say, “Well, I don’t know, kids... if he doesn’t come, we don’t go.” In other words, it’s not possible— I cannot take them all in my car, and we certainly can’t walk all the way there.

If I said, “... we aren’t going,” it’s more like I am deciding not to go because my friend isn’t coming, or something like that.


Could someone help me with some rules for german sentences... Why do verbs, adjectives and pronouns move around so much as a whole?

Also, this is a rather strange question but, how come Wenn mean "if" and "when" while Wann means also "when"

When do you use what and why?

Vielen dank.


What do you mean by "Why do verbs, adjectives and pronouns move around so much as a whole?"?
Are you talking about the fact that the words in the German sentence are in different positions than in the English ones? This is so. Different languages have different rules for word order. You can't just translate word by word, but have to learn the logic of the foreign language (this is also true for Germans learning English. They find the English word order weird as well).
Or are you talking about that there are different possible placings for words in a German sentence than there typically are in English? This is true as well, because the existence of cases allows for a somewhat less restricted word order (note the "somewhat", there are still rules).

Concerning your second question: this has to do whith the fact that words in different languages seldom match one to one. So one English word has to be translated to different German words and vice versa. You have to get accustomed to that.
For the word "when". Germans find it funny that one word can have so many meanings. For us the different uses of "when" are indeed different words.
"wann" is used as a question word ("when do you leave?)"
"wenn" is a conjunction (a word starting a subordinate clause), which either denotes a condition ("if"), or a temporal aspect ("at that time when"), but only for sentences talking about the future or about a timeless habit, else (for single present events or past events) it is "als".


Chances that learners find this sentence tricky: 50%. Chances a MOD will condescendingly use the phrase "you can't just translate word for word": 99%.


It’s not condescending— it’s just a fact.

There are quite a number of people who have never studied a language before, and they truly don’t realize that the structures are different too, and not just the vocabulary.

They have to learn that it’s not a matter of swapping out English words and plugging in French words, like different colored Legos. And they are some of the ones who get very distressed to find that Gaelic sentences have the verb first, for example.


Yes I am aware of the fact that different languages have different rules, in fact I like them all... And the rules often help me follow the patterns so in order to learn it, understand it and get to speak it better as a whole...which is an aspiration for me... And it's very important for other reasons related to that dream too. German in particular, is fascinating to me because a) it allows me to see more aspects of English that quite frankly I didn't even know existed in action( by this I mean not only in literature or grammar books but used to speak in the actual language) like the Direct/ indirect object, the pluperfect tenses...and many others...

b) it also opened a door for me to learn Dutch; one of my target languages because of family.

C) even though, German along with English, Dutch and even Afrikaans are sister languages of the same Germanic family, For me it was quite amazin to find that actually some of the word order and grammar are somewhat similar to my mother language; Spanish In Spanish verbs and pronouns also change depending on gender and number and person when conjugating the verbs) like: "él está conmigo"=he is "with me" for instance, if it was "with you" that would change to "él está contigo" and from then on it's just "con+ the remaining personal pronouns, that way we get: "con él","con ella"," con nosotros/as"," con usted", "con ustedes/vosotros" and "con ellos"... Likewise in German I've recently learnt: "Er ist... mit mir, mit dir, mit ihr, mit uns but for instance, in this case does it always go like that with "not" is there a rule for it... How is it for "you plural","them" and "him/her"? It's just that I cannot get the pattern because at glance on Duolingo it changes a lot from one sentence to the next and it's quite frustrating to not have that "key" so to speak, to figure it out... Like those ever mysteriously mind-blowing cases ... Or the changes between: ich habe Hunger, ich hunger habe and hunger habe ich or wir rennen and rennen wir... Like as if we were to always speak in almost like a passive voice... but why? That's what I meant when asking why do they move so much to convey kind of the same message? What is the difference? and how do I know which to use and when?

Sorry for all these questions at once, it's just that I'm trying to learn as much German as possible because this September I'm planning on enrolling into a GCSE German course and I want to do well in my german... As well as in my other languages... Like in Greek there are also cases and in Dutch that word order blows my mind as well... Sometimes things are kind of similar to Spanish and Italian which is very amazingly surprising: given the fact that Spanish is a romance language, and it has little to do with the Hellenic or Germanic language tribes... So when I find a pattern like that... It's very convenient and truly fascinating because it means that there are more connections than one can apparently see as language knowledge grows in one's mind...

Now how does these connections go in German?


Glad to read that you are really interested in these things. Have you read the "tips and notes" (lightbulb symbol)? If not, you definitely should, because many of those questions are answerd there. Of course it is not a complete grammar book, but they are definitely worth reading.

For the moment, I'll try to answer at least one of your questions:

the changes between: ich habe Hunger, ich hunger habe and hunger habe ich or wir rennen and rennen wir...

Though cases allow for some flexibility in word order, there are some very strict rules. One very important rule is the so-called "V2-rule" (holds for most Germanic languages, but not for English). It says that in ordinary affirmative sentences (no questions, no orders) the main (= conjugated) verb is always in the second position. For determining the position you don't count single words but phrases that belong together.
When the first position is occupied by the subject, sentences look rather similar to English ones. But in German you can move nearly everything to the first position, if you want to emphasize it. In those cases the subject will have to move after the verb, because this has to stay in second position, and this may sound strange to English ears.
Concerning the examples you quoted: "Ich habe Hunger." is the most common word order. "Ich Hunger habe." is simply wrong (I'll come back to that in a minute), and "Hunger habe ich" is rather rare, but grammatically correct, if you e.g. want to say that you are hungry, not thirsty.
If the sentence contains infinitives and/or participles in addition to the conjugated verb, all of them go straight to the end of the sentence, leaving all the objects in between, e.g. "Ich habe ein Haus gekauft." or "Ich will dir einen Brief schicken".

Those are the rules for affirmative sentences. I won't talk about questions and orders here, but I have to mention subordinate clauses. In subordinate clauses the conjugated verb goes all to the end (even after the infinitives and participles). So while it is "Ich habe dich gesehen." ("I have seen you"), "because I have seen you" becomes "weil ich dich gesehen habe." This holds for all subjordinate clauses, no matter if they appear before or after the main clause.

For the main clause, which is accompanied by a subordinate clause, the V2-rule does not change. This is easy to be seen if the main clause comes before the subordinate clause (e.g. "Ich esse Brot, weil ich Hunger habe".), but it is not noticeable on first view if the main clause is following the subordinate clause, as in "Weil ich Hunger habe, esse ich Brot." The word "esse" seems to be in 1st position here, but this is not true. The trick is that you have to count the complete subordinate clause as position one of the main clause. Then follows the verb in its usual position!


Because he does not come we do not go is a perfectly reasonable sentence.


only that "wenn" is "if", not "because"


I wrote "If he doesn't come, we don't go" and it is wrong ... any idea why? Or is it just because Duolingo can't keep up with that much shortcuts?


It should be accepted. If not, report it.


The word "dass" was also among the choices. Could that have been the first word to make "Since he's not coming, we're not going?" Or would that have to be "da"? If that wouldn't work either, how would we make that sentence?


"dass" does not fit here. It denotes the conjunction "that".
"da" is a synonym of "weil", both meaning "because". This is close, but not an exact translation.

The best translation of "if" is "wenn". Does it not show up here?


We're given a German sentence with one word missing. The two options listed are "wenn" and "denn". Both of them can be correct, depending on the meaning of the sentence, which isn't shown. This doesn't work if there are no incorrect answers.


"denn" cannot be used in this place. It is a coordinating conjunction that joins two main clauses, so it can't introduce a subordinate clause that comes before the main clause.


From what I understand so far, the usual approach can be either "subject-verb-object" or "object-verb-subject" when learning German. Both are considered correct. For example, "ich mag das" and "das mag ich". Both mean the same but follows a different style of (general) sentence construction.

So what helped me understand this sentence better was actually by re-orientating it in the "subject-verb-object" form (I'm more used to that) instead of the alternative. So it becomes "Wir gehen nicht, wenn er nicht kommt" (I'm ignoring the subordinate clause present here and it's special rules for the moment, bear with me).

So if I was to write that in the "object-verb-subject" form, after the object has been placed i.e. "Wenn er nicht kommt" (again, ignore the special rules for this subordinate clause for now), I need to place the verb i.e. "gehen" and then the subject (basically the remaining words from "Wir gehen nicht") i.e. "wir nicht".

So by doing that, I've already figured out 2/3 parts of the general sentence structure i.e. the "verb" and the "subject", i.e. "gehen" and "wir nicht" so ultimately you have at hand: "..........object......... gehen wir nicht".

So for the "object" I keep referring to, since it's a special one having to do with the rules of a subordinate clause, we know that when "wenn" is present in a clause, it automatically pushes the "verb" (this time, the verb in the clause should be kommt) to the end. So if you just follow through, you'll have at hand "Wenn er nicht kommt" and there you go, you also have found out the "object" of the general sentence structure.

So ultimately, you're ending up with: "Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht" :)


You described the rules for ordering well and came out with well-formed sentences.
Just one remark: strictly speaking there is no object at all in these sentences.
"Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht" has the structure

(conjunction - subject - adverb - verb)= subordinate clause - comma - verb - subject - adverb


Thank you so much for laying everything down so precisely from the grammatical perspective!

What I wrote is perhaps a reflection of how my brain is processing everything at the moment, subconsciously, and trying to simplify everything the best it can :P.


Ok this is going to be a stupid question, but why is it not "if he didn't come, we don't go"? I thought in English when you're using supposition you have to change the 'do' form into 'did'. CMIIW cuz my English is still not really good either.


That's a different sentence. The given one talks about facts. But the one you propose talks about an irreal possibility, and the second part should be "we would not go". In German "If he didn't come, we would not go" is "Wenn er nicht käme, gingen wir nicht".


The word gehen was not audible correctly


So, I had "[...] er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht." with the option of "Denn" and "Wenn". As a native English speaker, both would make this sentence valid (provided I'm right in saying "Denn" is a form of "Because" and "Wenn" is "If (/when)"), so can somebody kindly explain why I can't start this sentence with "Denn" ?


"denn" does not work. Though it indeed can mean "because", it is a coordinating conjunctions (same class as "and", "or", "but"). So it does not introduce a dependent clause, but connects two main clauses.
That has two effects:
1.) The second main clause cannot be in front of the other one, it must come after it in order to use the "denn" as a connector.
2.) The word order is different, because in main clauses the verb must be in second position.

So it could be "Wir gehen nicht, denn er kommt nicht", but that's not an option here.


Does "ob" means the same as "wenn"?


No, it means "whether" and can mean "if" if used to mnean "whether".
"wenn" means "if" in the sense of "if it is the case".


could it not be denn? "because he is not coming, we are not going"


No. "denn" means "because", not "if" or "when". And it is a coordinating conjunction, so it joins two main clauses and can't start a dependent clause.


I translated in a more natural English way If he does not come, we aren’t going! This was marked incorrect yet this is exactly what would be said in English! Hmm!


Is it wrong to say - '' Wenn er kommt nicht, wir gehen nicht'' ?


Yes, it is wrong. That's not an admissible word order. In the subordinate clause the "kommt" must be in the end, and the main clause must start with "gehen" before "wir".


I believe "wenn" means "if )" or "when" interchangeably. So why is my english translation of "when he does not come, we do not go" incorrect but "if he does not come, we do not go" is correct, very confusing.


Wenn looks like “when”, but it doesn’t mean “when” in the same way that wann does.

I am quoting from fehrerdef’s comments above to another person:

"wenn" is a conjunction (a word starting a subordinate clause), which either denotes a condition ("if"), or a temporal aspect ("at that time when"), but only for sentences talking about the future or about a timeless habit, else (for single present events or past events) it is "als".


It gave me a choice between wenn and denn, and said that denn is incorrect. Wouldn't the sentence make sense with denn as well?


No, because they function differently. Denn cannot be used at the beginning of sentences; its function is to connect two sentences.


And it would change word order.


I read below that 'denn' cannot be used at the beginning of a sentence, but I hadn't had that information before in the notes. And in English, 'because' or 'if' would both be acceptable choices. I feel slightly aggrieved.


I see aot of debate over the first half, but what I'm not understanding is why the second half is "gehen wir nicht" instead of "wir gehen nicht." Usually when you have the verb first, it makes it a question. Is it because of where it lies in the sentence? I would much appreciate some insight.


The verb in the main clause (the "second part") is in 2nd position. The complete subordinate clause (the "first part") counts as the 1st part of the main clause.


THANK YOU!!!! That was never explained to me, and you worded it perfectly. Vielen dank!


A question, if I may ask — what Skill are you in, or in which Skill topic is this sentence now? It was in the ‘Conjunctions’ Skill, but I think that was eliminated with the course reboot.


It's still under conjunctions. I'm glad they still have it, since I clearly need more work on it.


You must still have the original tree. In my tree there is no such Skill item now, only Grammar 1, 2, 3, 4, usw.


I put "When he doesn't come, we don't go". It wasn't accepted. Is there a good reason for this or should it have been accepted?


Does not = doesn't. Why it is mistake and got 1 heart down?


It is not a mistake and both are accepted. You probably had another error elsewhere.


Hint: If you use Duo from the website www.duolingo.com, there are no hearts to bother about.


If he's not coming, we're not going, is this a proper translation too?


Hmm. I would think so, in the sense of a specific activity in the near future. (English uses present continuous/progressive to express planned actions in the near future— in fact, in my experience, we use that MORE than the future “going to”).

You wouldn’t say it that way in English if it were something that reoccurs on some kind of regular basis, though— for that we use simple present..


Yes, that's one of the accepted answers.


Does "wenn" mean both "when" and "if"?


as a conjunction, yes.
The question word "ewhen" is "wann".


Why do you have all the conjunctions jammed into one lesson?


Is wenn if or because?


"if", and in some contexts "when". Never "because".


surely we are not going is the same as we do not go ??


i tried "if he doesnt come we dont go" thinking that duolingo would pick up on the errors itself. but alas, it didnt.


duolingo is the besssstttt


The German language really likes to over-complicate things, huh?


Not more than any other language. Every language has its rules. They differ from one another.


And English is horrendously difficult in many various ways— just ask any ESL student.


Why can't it be denn? The sentence still stands in English,- when he comes or if he comes are different in context but valid. Can Denn start a sentence in German?


"denn" means neither "if" nor "when". It means "because" or "for".
And in addition "denn" can't introduce a subordinate sentence, because it is a coordinating conjunction that connects two main clauses.


Why not, 'Wenn er nicht kommt, wir gehen nicht'? Does the comma not separate the subordinate clause ('Wenn er nicht kommt') from the second clause and so the 'wenn' does not affect the second clause?


This has already been explained several times, but the short version is that the whole subordinate clause occupies the first position in the sentence, so the main verb gehen MUST remain as the second element in the sentence. The subject is movable, so it follows the verb in this case.


So I got the exercise in which it asked me to choose a suitable word for the first word. The options were 'wenn' and 'denn' and I feel that with the absence of context clues both of them are acceptable words to use. Either wenn (if he doesn't come) or denn (because he doesn't come) make sense here. I chose denn but was marked wrong; while I understand that the sentence the machine has been taught was 'wenn er nicht kommt', I think at least confusing alternatives should be removed from the choices.


No. If you are given "wenn" and "denn" as choices and the rest of the sentence is fixed, the choice is uniquely determined.
"denn" is a coordinating conjunction, so it
a) uses the word order of a main clause and
b) can never appear in the first part of a two-clause sentence

The clause headed by "denn" would be "denn er kommt nicht", and, as already said, can only be the second part, because "denn" connects two independent main clauses, therefore has to be positioned in between them.

If the clause is "... er nicht kommt", it must be a subordinate clause (verb at the end of the clause), so it needs to be introduced by a subordinating conjunction like "wenn".
"denn er nicht kommt" is grammatically impossible.


What word could I use to mean 'because' while keeping this sentence structure? Would 'weil' cut it?


Duo did not like," If he is not coming, then we are not going." Duo's sentence makes no sense.


"If he is not coming, we are not going" is one of the accepted answers (there is no "then" in the German sentence).

And of course other translations do make sense, too.


I think that both words fit the sentence and to my humble opinion, the second one (word Nr1 - denn) fits better. Like "...Because he doesn't come, we don't go" Right ?


What are you referring to? What do you mean by "both words"?

The word "denn" does definitely not fit, because the German sentence says "If he doesn't come, we don't go". There is no "because" in the German sentence.

And even if it were "because he doesn't ...", it would be "Weil er nicht kommt ...". You can't start the first part of a sentence using "denn". "denn" uses a different grammatical construction. It is a coordinating conjunction and links two main clauses, so it
- has to start the second clause
- uses the word order for a main clause, like in

"Wir gehen nicht, denn er kommt nicht", as compared to "Wir gehen nicht, weil er nicht kommt".


This is a completely "personal" explanation and a "personal" Grammatic rule as well. I have read too many sentences starting with "denn" in German sentences. And I insist that "denn" is a perfect way to start this sentence and a more poetic one. Hint : The German sentence DOES NOT say "If he doesn't come, we don't go". It is just suggesting TWO WORDS and, to my humble opinion, the first one, fits MUCH-MUCH better..!


This is not "personal" at all. When a sentence starts by "denn", it is a complete main clause. It may be written as a separate sentence, but it is always the second part of a series of sentences that belongs together.
Like in: "Wir gehen nicht. Denn er kommt nicht". = "We don't go. For he doesn't come".
(or, more common: "Wir gehen nicht, denn er kommt nicht").
Two connected main clauses (note the word order!) connected by "denn".

In one sentence, consisting of a main clause and a dependent clause, there can't be "denn", because "denn" always connects two main clauses.

"Denn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht" is not a correct German sentence. It does not only not sound "much much" better, it sounds (and is) wrong.

If you want to start the combined sentence by "because", you have to use "weil" and form a dependent clause.

You can find this in any grammar book. So please don't confuse other learners by suggesting wrong things. And you really should believe what a native German with a degree in linguistics tells you.



We are not Asian Monarchs or Sultans and we are not Nazis as well. We use the language like a worker uses a tool, because the language IS a tool, and nothing more or less. My intention was - by all means - NOT to confuse anybody. What I'm hereby saying are only "suggestions" just for a free and pleasant exchange of opinions and, by no means, "orders" with a gun stuck at the forehead...!!!


Please stop those Nazi comparisons immediately!
Nobody holds a gun to anyone's forehead.

In a poem you might turn language like you want, but for ordinary usage there are grammar rules. Your "suggestions" are grammatically incorrect, no matter how poetic they may sound to you.
For a native German ear a sentence like the one you propose only sounds wrong, not "much much better". So you are confusing leaners by your "suggestions". They are not proper language.

Grammar rules are not a matter of "opinions".
And learners are here to learn those rules for proper language usage.


What two words? Oh, it’s an exercise where you have to choose one. Got it.

Anyway, “poetic” has nothing to do with the grammar question… that’s illogical.


Well, ridiculous is any kind of Nazi method to teach a language. Ridiculous is also any shameless way of mocking a fellow user's objections.


Being “poetical” has nothing to do with grammar, was my point. A structure is correct, or not correct— that’s what fehrerdef is saying. However, I should have said that differently, and not said ‘ridiculous’. Fair enough— changed it.

But accusing the moderator fehrerdef of being a NS —because they are definitively explaining grammar rules— is totally inexcusable.


Can we also say: "Ob er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht."?


That is not gehen


NOW DUO: Did you learn to accept "If he doesn't come we will not go" ? This is the proper English way! This is a conditional sentence. You better learn that quick.


1.) "If he doesn't come we will not go" is one of the accepted solutions.
2.) Whom are you talking to? This is a user forum.


I guessed that the intended English was "But he does not come, so we do not go." It still works because I didn't know what the author had intended. I think either word would be valid depending on the intended meaning.


Wenn does not mean “but”; it means “if” or “whenever”. There is nothing in the sentence that would be translated as “so”. It’s a conditional sentence: “If X, (then) Y.”


These like Yoda's speaking sound, if serious i am... :'D

There is simply no logic sometimes with the order of words and specially with the "nicht"!


Just because you haven't understood the logic doesn't mean there is none. There are exact rules for word order and they have been explained numerous times within this forum.

One more time:
In (affirmative) main clauses the verb comes always in the second position, the negation word "nicht" usually goes to the end. So the main clause alone would be "Wir gehen nicht".
The preceding subordinate clause, however, is counted as the first position of the main clause, so the verb has to follow immediately in order to keep its second position. Therefore we get "bla bla bla, gehen wir nicht."
The rules are different for subordinate clauses. Here the verb always takes the end position, even after the "nicht", which would else be in the end of the sentence. Hence "Wenn er nicht kommt, ...".

This may be complicated, but those are the rules, and if you follow them (and all the others) strictly, you will create perfect German sentencees.


@fehrerdef— Thank you.


If he not come, go we not


no, that is not English at all, but some kind of word-by-word translation from German that results in an ungrammatical sentence.

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.