denn: like for in english ("forgive them my lord, for they know not what they have done").
weil: like because in english.
*denn only comes after another idea (if someone asks you why, you cannot answer with "denn", but in a sentence like here you can use it).
*weil makes the verb go to the end of the sentence, and "denn" doesn't.
I can't really see the difference in meaning or usage in English, but I'm interested in your comment that weil makes the verb go to the end. How would this sentence look if using weil instead of denn?
[EDIT: From a comment below, "Es ist perfekt, weil es rund ist"]
It has to do with subordinating and coordinating conjunctions. 'Denn' is a coordinating one, much like 'aber' leading to the correct formation: Es ist perfekt, denn es ist rund. For subordinating ones, (eg: Weil, Ob) and we have the sentence with the subordinated verb pushed to the end of the second clause: Es ist perfekt, weil es rund ist.
In English, for and because can be used interchangeably most times, but because is used to show what caused something while for really just connects two things. For in this context is also less widely used and more formal.
Sorry but that's just not true:
"For example" Correct "Because example" incorrect."
"I walk for exercise." Correct "I walk because exercise" incorrect.
"She looked for the girl." Correct "She looked because the girl." Incorrect
"For the time being" Correct "Because the time being" Incorrect
"I asked him out because I like him." Correct "I asked him out for I liked him." Incorrect.
"Why did you do that?" "I did it because I wanted to." Correct "Why did you do that?" "I did it for I wanted to." Incorrect.
In English the word "for" is used mainly as a preposition: "any member of a class of words found in many languages that are used before nouns, pronouns, or other substantives to form phrases functioning as modifiers of verbs, nouns, or adjectives, and that typically express a spatial, temporal, or other relationship, as in, on, by, to, since."
Whilst because is a conjunction: "any member of a small class of words distinguished in many languages by their function as connectors between words, phrases, clauses, or sentences, as and, because, but, however.
They aren't interchangeable in any form of standard English that people should be learning (In my humble native British English speaking opinion). Generally speaking it's correct and/or all right in written and spoken English to start a sentence with "For" but starting a sentence with "because" should only be used informally in speech.
I'm pretty sure they were referring to the conjunction "for" and not the preposition "for" when they said it was mostly interchangeable with "because."
"For" as a conjunction which "can be used interchangeably most times" with "because" is a dated form which people are not likely to come across in contemporary English whether the language is formal or informal.
"I awaited him for I knew that someday he should come back to me."
though an example of when the two words could be interchangeable, is not a sentence that is likely to be used either in written English or spoken English today or in the future by the vast majority of English speakers in any country where English is spoken as a national language. It is more likely to be put like this
"I waited for him because I knew that he would come back to me someday."
There are other words which are more frequently and more accurate as synonyms of because for example "since" or "as".
For example: "I knew that he was coming because I had seem him walking up the path."
"I knew that he was coming since I had seen him walking up the path."
"I knew that he was coming as I had seen him walking up the path."
So : "Ist es perfekt? Ja, denn es ist rund." (for/since it's round) "Warum ist es perfekt? Weil es rund ist."
Are those both correct?
I see, and I noticed that "denn" and "weil" are like "want" and "omdat" in Dutch, respectively.
As in Afrikaans! Exactly the same two words as Dutch and exact same word order as German: 'Dit is perfek, WANT dit is rond'. 'Dit is perfek, OMDAT dit rond is'.
REALLY thorough explanation here...
A helpful thought I had after reading the link, is that in English "because" can be put in the first or second part of the sentence, but "for" can only be in the second. In that way, "because" works a lot like weil, and "for" works like denn.
It is perfect because it is round = Because it is round it is perfect
It is perfect for it is round ≠ For it is round it is perfect (wrong)
I am thinking it's more like:
- Weil - 'as' - can go either at start or end;
- Denn - because or for (technically should not be used at the start of a sentence).
"for it is round, it is perfect" is absolutely the same as "it is round for it is perfect"......both phrasings are correct.
No, you can't start with the "for" clause. "For" is actually a coordinating conjunction, so starting with "for" would be akin to saying "And it is round, it is perfect" instead of "It is perfect, and it is round."
With the "for" sentence phrased that way, I would actually take it to be effectively two separate sentences ("For it is round, [and] it is perfect").
@speedyguy17: You can start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction, but not in the way you were using it. You can start off a single main clause with a coordinating conjunction ("For it is perfect" or "For it is round"), but you can't connect two main clauses and move the conjunction to the beginning. Again, that would be like saying "And it is round, it is perfect," which is wrong.
That proverb is using "for" as a preposition. "Want of a nail" is a noun phrase, and "For want of a nail" is not a full clause but a prepositional phrase.
Though sometimes disputed, it is widely considered acceptable.
There are numerous sources in that wiki section.
Further, here's a famous proverb based on this exact (legal) construction: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_Want_of_a_Nail
With my partial reading what I understand is when you want to connect two independent sentence/clause we use denn and when we want to connect main clause and dependent clause we use weil.
More like the other way around: you decide whether to use a main or subordinate clause based on which conjunction you use.
You can use whichever you want between "denn" and "weil" (there are some situations where one or the other is better, but they're basically the same). Then if you use "weil" you use a dependent clause (and put the verb at the end) and if "denn" you use a main clause (and put the verb second).
Here are 2 links that have helped me tremendously.
Hope this helps someone else. I found this site thanks to someone who showed a link to canoo.net a long time ago and it has been extremely helpful with German Grammar. ~frankiebluej
Shouldn't the verb go in the last position here? As in "Es ist perfekt, denn es rund ist" ? Or does denn work differently? Another possibility could be "Es ist perfekt, weil es rund ist", right?
Denn works differently, but the word order in your 'weil' sentence is correct, yes.
Danke. As I read in another website, denn is a "coordinating conjunction" and that would be why it doesn't change the word order of its sentence. I occupies position "zero" in the sentence like other conjunctions like oder, und, sondern. Trotzdem danke!
By "position zero" I mean it does not count as a block of the sentence. Normally the subject goes into position one, the verb into position two and the objects go in the third position. So in a sentence like "und ich lese Bücher", und does not count as first block, it just connects two or more sentences together.