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The use of ' denn' v 'weil'

What are the rules in German for correctly using denn or weil, they both mean because?

May 15, 2017



Basically they're the same but:
1. Denn can only be used when the subordinate clause comes after the independent one
2. Unlike weil, denn doesn't change the word order

  • Ich gehe nicht zum Fußball, denn ich habe keine Zeit

  • Ich gehe nicht zum Fußball, weil ich keine Zeit habe OR Weil ich keine Zeit habe, gehe ich nicht zum Fußball


Just to throw a spanner in the works. One additional function denn serves that weil doesn't is as a modal particle. An example would be in the sentence:

„Wie geht's dir denn heute?“

Here, denn most certainly does not mean because, though, what it does mean, I can't readily tell you - modal particles are almost by definition hard to translate; because a modal particle's meaning is different to its definition in normal contexts. Modal particles typically soften requests or commands, or (unfortunately) pretty much the opposite; and show incredulity, shock, disbelief and/or anger. Basically, they don't change the meaning of the sentence they're in, but rather change the feeling or emphasis.


weil is always used to the describe a reason "weil ich lerne" - because i learn

denn can be used the same as weil "denn ich lerne" - because i learn

(it's more natural to use "weil" though)

but denn can also be used to enhance a question you ask. it does not translate but adds some emotion "was hast du denn"? - what's the matter? "bist du denn sauer?" - are you mad?

denn is also slightly more formal than weil. in poems for example you should see denn alot more. in everyday language weil is used faaar more

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