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"Nicht solange ich seine Mutter bin."

January 27, 2013



Can someone please explain why 'bin' is at the end, rather than, 'Nicht solange, ich bin seine Mutter'.


This is kind of dependent clause in a shortened sentence. The full sentence could be, for example: Er trinkt Wein nicht, solange ich seine Mutter bin (I hope I wrote this right). The main clause is "Er trinkt Wein nicht", the verb being the second as usual. In the dependent clause, however, the verb goes to the end of the sentence. Other examples: Ich weiß nicht, ob er ins Kino gehen kann (instead of "er kann ins Kino gehen"). Sie sagt, dass ihre Mutter schön ist (instead of "ihre Mutter ist schön").

Hope this helps.


Thanks very much, that was very helpful!


Helped me too, danke! Btw, "trinkt." ;)


Of course "trinkt"! Thanks, fixed that.


but in previous lessen there came a sentence "Wenn ich esse, laufe ich nicht" now isn't second sentence dependent one and the verb (walk) is coming first? What was that all about?


The first part (Wenn ich esse) is the dependent clause. It comes as the first "member" of the sentence. The verb of the main sentence has to come second, so it is right after the dependent clause (laufe).

Ich lese Zeitungen nicht, wenn ich Reis esse.

Wenn ich Reis esse, lese ich Zeitungen nicht.


wow, olimo.. i got that all backwards.. thanks for clearing that up...btw that M of your stands for Master :)


I don't fully understand this explanation could you give a second example. I see that the dependent clause doesn't change based on where it is in the sentence "Wenn ich esse" but I don't fully understand why the Ich lese Zeitungen nicht changes based on location of the sentence.


Here is a simpler example:

Ich gehe heute spazieren. (I go for a walk today.) Heute gehe ich spazieren. (Today I go for a walk.)

The verb must be always in second position, so when you put "heute" first, unlike English, the verb and subject order changes.

In the previous example, "Ich lese Zeitungen nicht" is the main clause. In the first example, everything is all right with the word order as is: the subject (ich), the verb (lese), everything else (Zeitungen, nicht, and the dependent clause).

In the second example, the dependent clause comes first and is like the first member of the sentence. When you consider the main clause, you can think of the dependent clause as of a single "member". So, it comes first, but the verb is always second! That is why we write "lese ich" instead of "ich lese" here.


What is the difference between "solange" and "sofern"? Tks


"Solange" is "as long as" meaning "while", "sofern" is "provided that" or "if". You would hardly say "provided that I am his mother".


I find it helps to think of "sofern" as "so far as" -- "fern" does mean "far" -- though the real usage of "sofern" is a whole lot broader than that.

Similarly, as olimo says, you can think of "solange" as "so long as" -- and "lange" means "long".


Why not accepting "her mother" as well as his mother


"Her mother" would be "ihre Mutter".


I translated it as "So long as I am not his mother," which seems silly now that I see the correct translation, but I was totally confused as to where the 'not' was supposed to go in the sentence. Why isn't "So long as I'm not his mom" acceptable? Other than it sounds funny. How do you know where the not is supposed to go?


I would place "nicht" in front of "bin" if I wanted to negate my being someone's mom.


So, generally, if you want to negate the verb of a sentence, you put the "nicht" right before it, and if "nicht" is at the beginning of the sentence it serves another purpose? The flexibility of this language is at once liberating and confusing to me. In German, how would you show the difference between these two sentences;

"Not that I am his mother."

"I am not his mother."

Is it mostly reliant on context or are there distinctly different ways of saying things like this? Anyhow, thank you for the response. I love seeing that I've got messages :)


I can't explain it, but somehow I had no doubt as to the meaning of the original sentence in the task. I can't see much difference in flexibility of English and German in these cases:

  • Nicht solange ich seine Mutter bin = Not as long as I am his mother

  • Solange ich seine Mutter nicht bin = As long as I'm not his mother (I'm not 100% sure about the German translation)

English also uses the "not" position to tell which part of the sentence is negated.

Sorry, I'm not sure how to translate your first sentence into German. As for the second, it will be "Ich bin nicht seine Mutter". Maybe a native German speaker would clarify this. Anyway, it is not possible to cover all the subtleties in theory, some of them are only learnt with practice :)


I am so glad there are people like you on this site; you make learning another language so much more enjoyable! I see the difference in the placement of "nicht" now, thank you. Hopefully all the German broadcasts I watch and listen to will help to cover some of the subtleties I'm confused about :)

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