Some clarification, courtesy of my German wife . . .
Wenn is always spelled 'Wann' when used in a question.
Germans generally use Wenn when they want to say "If." However, Wenn means 'When' when there is a time element indicated.
This explanation is clearer and easier for old dummies like me to remember.
Yeah, the German wife is correct. Examples:
Wann as when:
When is your mother coming? - Wann kommt deine Mutter?
Wenn as when:
The sentence right above.
Wenn as if:
If it rains, I get wet. -Wenn es regnet, werde ich nass.
Also, just something to add. Sometimes 'als' is also used to say 'when' just as 'wenn' is. But what must be remembered to differentiate between the two is that 'wenn' talks about a continuous habitual occurence of the past. Like the sentence "Wenn ich esse, schlafe ich nicht". This refers to the fact that no matter how many times in the past it happens, I do not sleep when I eat (HABIT).
Compare this with: When I was in London, I saw your father. -Als ich in London war, sah ich deinen Vater.
(please ignore the past tense forms of the verb, the thought is more important)
I hope this helps. Prost!
Surely, as far as english goes the two wenn examples given are exactly the same? As the words if/when are interchangeable.
When I eat, I do not sleep/If I eat, I do not sleep When it rains, I get wet/If it rains, I get wet.
If translating both of them sentences from Deutsch using 'Wenn' surely there is no way to distinguish it as an English 'I'f or English 'When' apart from context
I thought it sounded strange to use Wenn instead of Wann, because my family is German and I only ever heard them use Wann to say when.
Both, actually – almost at least.. The given example mostly qualifies for the latter, but if you add the right context or one or another word, like 'spät', 'nach 22 Uhr' or something similar and correct the tense, you would get something like: Wenn ich so spät noch esse, kann ich nicht schlafen - When I eat that late, I can't sleep. That's not exactly the same, but not far apart either, I guess.
I don't understand words like 'doch', 'noch', at all, and yet they seem to be so common. I get it when 'noch' means 'yet' or 'still', but sometimes they just seem to be randomly thrown into sentences without having any of those meanings.
Like, even your sentence, I can map 'Wenn' to 'when', 'ich' to 'I', 'so spät' to 'that late', and 'esse' to 'eat'. What's 'noch' doing there...
Good question, I had to look it up and I think I can explain it: "Wenn ich esse" is a dependent clause ("Nebensatz"), in which the finite verb ("esse") has to be in the last position. In the independent clause ("Hauptsatz") the verb order actually doesn't change: The verb is still in the second position, with the Nebensatz being in the first one.
Imagine replacing the Nebensatz with a single word, for example "morgens" meaning "in the morning":
[Morgens] schlafe ich nicht.
[Wenn ich esse,] schlafe ich nicht.
TheSentry covered it very well! For more detail, I've found this this page useful in explaining what affects the order of words in a sentence.
In a declarative sentence, the verb goes in "second place", where "first place" is a single phrase, which may be multiple words. For instance, in the sentence "Du und ich essen Äpfel.", "Du und ich" takes first place. If you're unsure about whether a group of words constitutes a single phrase, see if you can find another word or set of words that can take its place in the sentence. E.g., Du und ich" can be replaced with "Wir".
A coordinating conjunction can be used to join two independent clauses. These clauses can be treated as two self-contained sentences for the sake of word order.
On the other hand, a subordinating conjunction creates a subordinate clause, also called a dependent clause. A subordinate clause is not a complete sentence, so the sentence must "fit" the clause into its word order.
In this case, "Wenn ich esse" is a subordinate clause, and it's at the beginning of the sentence. It takes "first place", which means the verb "schlafe" must come right after it. If we move it to after the independent clause, "ich" takes first place, and '"schlafe" takes second place, which is the same place as what we've usually seen. Compare:
- Wenn ich esse, schlafe ich nicht.
- Ich schlafe nicht, wenn ich esse.
For more information about sentence structure, I recommend the link above. :)
According to my grammar book (Chamäleon - Argelès, Hḧnel-Mesnard, Knörzer):
'als' is used to mean 'when' when it is a single event in the past ("Als die Berliner Mauer fiel,...", "Als ich ein Kind war,...")
'wenn' is used to mean 'when' when indicating several events in the past or for a defined time of the present or the future ("Wenn ich lese, brauche ich meine Brille")
'wann' is used when the time is uncertain, and thereby also in questions ("Wann kommst du?", "Du kannst kommen, wann du willst")
I think 'wenn' can also be used in the sense of 'if', unless it is a question, in which case one should use 'ob': "Ich weiss nicht, ob er kommt" (I don't know if he comes); but "Wenn er kommt, sage ich ihm" (If/when he comes, I tell him).
"Ich" is not a verb. You can't "I"; that's not an action. If the verb had been at the end of the second clause, it would have been "Wenn ich esse, ich nicht schlafe", which definitely doesn't look right.
Apparently the reason the verb (schlafe) is where it is ("Wenn ich esse, schlafe ich nicht") is that the first clause counts an the first position, and so the verb is in the second position as usual.
I figured it out. https://www.germanveryeasy.com/conjunctions#sondern Subordinate conjunctions change the verb position to last in the sentence.
oh, I know this one. Verb is "always" the second word, and in this case, first sentence serves as the first word, or, better yet, first part of the sentence, making the verb second part of the sentence.
the verb being second word falls apart if it's in a dependent clause, when it moves to the end instead. when verb is second part of the sentence, the sentence could stand on it's own, but as it's always the case with dependent sentence, one with verb at the end, can't
Ok all these sentences are confusing the hell out of me. I read through this thread and as I understand it "Wenn ich esse" counts as the first "part" of the sentence so the verb "Schlafe" is second, and "Ich nicht" comes at the end. Got it. But wait...a previous sentence
"Du trinkst, weil du durst hast"
Is this because "weil" pushes the verb to the end, but 'wenn" does not?
Please tell me I'm right for the sake of my sanity.