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  5. "If he does not come, we do n…

"If he does not come, we do not go."

Translation:Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht.

March 21, 2013



Why does "nicht" need to be in front of "kommt" in this sentence? I posted "Wenn er kommt nicht, gehen wir nicht", and it counted it wrong. I'm having issues understand placement of "nicht" at times.


"Wenn' belongs to the 'nebensatz' group, which means that it turns the sentence into a subordinated clause and the verb goes to the end of the sentence


In other comments I've read that the verb always goes last, but also that "nicht" always goes last when negating a verb. How do we know which takes precedence?


Whatever makes the least sense. It would make more sense for nicht to always be last, so that means it's not.


And what happens when I get used to this order and it starts to make sense not to always put "nicht" at the end? Does your rule still apply?


I totally agree


I think that the conjugation always takes precedence (I think I'm also learning)


Then why it is not at the end ...gehen should be at the end right ??


The way I understand it is this:

In your subordinating clause "Wenn er nicht kommt" the verb IS at the end.

That clause takes Position 1 of the sentence, and since the verb of the main clause MUST be in Position 2, "gehen" comes immediately after the subordinated clause.


But that doesn't explain about 'nicht.' I still don't understand why 'nicht' isn't at the end if it's negating thw whole clause.


it's just the way it works. if it negates a word, it goes before, but when it negates the whole clause/sentence, it's put at the end (but before infinitives in compound verbs)

  • 1777

I like to think of the end of the sentence as "wrapping around" to just before the verb. It also works with verb prefixes that separate (they move to the end).

"Nicht" needs to go before the verb since it is negating it, but "before" is the end of the clause. If there is a separable prefix, that also goes to the end and the "nicht" goes before that.


"He had it coming." Sorry nothing to do with the lesson but loved your name.


You are so beautiful, get a like from me.


ah that's why! right i forgot that! when suboording conjuctions--> then verb in the end!


what I have understood (but I am not native so I might be wrong) is that in secondary clauses the conjugated verb is always placed in final position. "wenn er nicht kommt" is a seconday clause so "kommt" must be placed in final position and that means "nicht" has to be placed before "kommt".


In short, it's complicated. You can search "nicht placement" or "negation" in the German discussions for helpful advice like this: http://duolingo.com/#/comment/45040


Dou , help us PLZ !


Because I think that the verb needs to be sent back since the word "Wenn" is put in. So it would be "Wenn er nicht kommt".


man, i'm getting my ass kicked so hard in this lesson ¬¬"


I am currently feeling your pain. I am on day two trying to complete this section - the longest time I've spent on a lesson. Have a lingot on me!


Up to this point it was a breeze, but this is a firehose to the face.


Have you read the grammar notes? It’s a lot of help. https://www.duolingo.com/skill/de/Conjunctions/tips-and-notes

Also, if you search Forums for German, and search “subordinate clauses” or “subordinate conjunctions”, there is quite a lot of material discussed on that.


Okay, I think I may have figured out a way to make the sentence structuring clearer. Someone tell me if I'm wrong though - Treat the WHOLE sub clause as ONE item.

The rules for verb placement is that 1) the verb is going to always be the SECOND part of a sentence or 2) for a subordinate clause, the verb comes last. With that, I'm going to kind of apply PEMDAS (order of operations) here but for grammar. Considering "If he does not come, we do not go" - Identify the subordinate clause and treat it as ONE item. "(If he does not come), we do not go." Now only do the what's in the parentheses first. It's a subordinate clause, so the verb will come LAST here: "Wenn er nicht kommt". The entirety of the sub clause could be considered the 'first item' of the entire statement. The verb from the main clause will be the 'second item' of the whole sentence: "(Wenn er nicht kommt), gehen wir nicht."

If I'm wrong, someone let me know. But this has been working for me ever since I figured it out. Edit: Assuming it is a valid method to remember the rules, now you just have to be able to IDENTIFY these clauses.


This is fully correct.


Thanks for confirming. In hindsight, other comments that have explained the rules make more sense now. I think the realization of treating the sub clauses as their own monsters was what helped. Took me a while to really put the pieces together.


cry in Hungarian :(


God this is so right thank you for your rule!


Why is the second part of the sentence "gehen wir nicht"? I put in " wir gehen nicht" because the "nicht" always seems to come after the conjugated verb (except in subordinate clauses)


The wenn clause is treated as the first "word", so the verb must be next after the comma. The verb maintains second place with few exceptions.


I thought "wenn" meant when. So it means "if" as well?


its been 5 months but anyway :) as i know that "wann" is when, "wenn" is "if ".


I thought the same. But then I saw that duolingo also translates "wenn" as "when". ... ¿


It's when in the sense of if. You can use it in sentences like "I will go when he comes" but you cannot use it in sentences like "When are you coming?"


Wann you use for 1 time occurrence, wenn is for multiple


Just read in another thread with a similar construction a comment (way after all the complicated explanations about subordinate/main clauses) and the specific rule here is if it starts with Wenn, then the verb comes last in that part and the clause following must begin with a verb (thus pushing nicht to the end).


thanks, a lingot on me


Can we not use "fahren" as well even though there's no direct mention of driving or flying?


I don't think I'm on enough drugs to understand the sentence order here.


I'm with you.. Every sentence seems to have a different rule. It's doing my head in


No, they don't, really-- but this may be the first time you have encountered subordinate clauses. Remember to read the grammar explanations at the beginning of each lesson (click the light bulb, not the key).


agreed, at least when it comes to subordinating clauses and all that stuff, it's easy to learn. for the most part, there's really only 2 options:

1) subordinating clause 1st, coordinating 2nd (like in this german sentence); then the 2 verbs meet together in the middle on both sides of the comma;

2) vica versa. here, the basic rules are still the same. we just don't have a situation like in (1) where an entire clause is regarded as the 1st position in a sentence.


Why Wenn, and not Ob ?

Could someone explain me why "Ob Er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht" is not correct ?


"ob" is only used as "whether"


I tried "falls kommt er nicht, wir gehen nicht" on the basis that 'falls' means 'if' and 'in case' which seemed to fit the sentence. Could someone explain why it was rejected


How come the first half of the sentence is not "wenn kommt er nicht"? Doesn't the verb always come in the second position in primary clauses?


This is because "wenn" is a subordinating conjunction. So, as with all other subordinating conjunctions, the clause is then a subordinating clause, and the verb must be placed at the end. I'm sorry if this is wrong.


But the verb isn't last in this sentence.


But it is the last element in the clause; that's because of the subordinating conjunction. The next clause is an independent clause, and it is not affected by Wenn....


Could someone explain the word order in both parts of this sentence?


I'll do my best. The first clause is a subordinate (dependent) clause, beginning with Wenn. Therefore, the main verb moves to the end of the clause. Wenn er nicht kommt....

The second clause is an independent clause. However, the verb remains as the first element in the clause because it needs to remain in Position 2 of the whole sentence. That's why it is "..., gehen wir nicht."


Why is "wir nicht gehen" wrong? I thought that the verb always comes last in subordinating conjugations. Why does it go before nicht AND wir? Help please.


"wenn" is a "subordinating conjunction". Remember that a clause containing a "subordinating conjunction" is called a "subordinate clause" (or "dependent clause"). A sentence that has a subordinate clause also has a "main clause" (or "independent clause"). For example, the sentence:

"Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht."

has the subordinate/dependent clause: "Wenn er nicht kommt",

and the main/independent clause "gehen wir nicht".

Makes sense so far?

Note also that when a sentence begins with a subordinate clause, then the subsequent main clause must start with the conjugated verb. In our sentence above, the main clause begins right after the comma, so the conjugated verb must appear right after the comma.

The conjugated verb of our main clause is "gehen", and so the main clause should be "gehen wir nicht" and not "wir gehen nicht".

So our full sentence is: "Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht".

For more reading, see: https://ielanguages.com/german-subordinating-conjunctions.html


And this does not break the V2-rule (verb always in second position in an affirmative main clause), because the complete subordinate clause counts as the first position of the main clause.


So when the verb is moved to the end of the first phrase "Wenn er nicht kommt" does the second verb ALWAYS follow the comma? "Gehen wir nicht" Or is that only for certain conjunctions? Or is gehen placed there because its considered in the second position (Which it doesnt seem like it is.)


Yes, that is exactly right-- it IS in the second position. The first position is occupied by the entire subordinate clause.


Let me get this straight - this sentence is made up of the following: [Wenn er nicht kommt], [gehen] [wir] [nicht]

In the first position, which doubles as a suboordinate clause, Wenn's suboordinate-ness pushes the verb to the end of the clause, forcing nicht in front of it where it would otherwise be at the end of the sentence.


Exactly. Gut gemacht!


at reformergirl... THANK YOU!!!!!!


I thought "gehen wir nicht" meant "are we not going?" Could someone explain why this is wrong please


You have twisted it into a question, but it is a statement "We are not going."


why can "ob" not be used in place of "wenn" in this sentance?


"ob" can only be used as "whether", which is sometimes represented by the word "if" in English. but this is not that case.


A simple thumb rule I discovered by practice... When at the start of a sentence there is a conjunction, the verbs are placed together at the middle of the sentence... Does this apply at all times i need to discover yet


ob er kommt nicht wir gehen nicht is this right?

[deactivated user]

    Germany sure does have some wacky sentence structure. Very confusing, but interesting nonetheless


    i'd say the sentence in this lesson though is of very basic structure and easy to get used to. try reading german newspapers, then you'll agree with me haha, that's a whole other beast


    I am having an extreme amount of difficulty with word order in this lesson. I understand how the nebensatz works... but it seems a lot more complicated than just 'put the verb at the end of the sentence.' If anyone could help me understand why THIS sentence has the order it has it would be a great help. But beyond that it does seem that there is more than just moving the verb to the end, for example in the sentence "Es ist wichtig, dass du jeden Tag Deutsch lernst." If I were to do it in an English order it would read like, "It is important, that you every day German learn." So clearly there's a lot more moving than just the verb and my English brain is melting down at this.


    The rule for subordinate sentences is indeed to move the verb to the end.
    But maybe you have not noticed that the subordinate clause is the first part of the sentence here: "if he does not come". That becomes "Wenn er nicht kommt" with the verb in the final position.

    But there are rules for the position of the verb for the main clause as well. In affirmative sentences the verb must always be in the second position (position does not refer to counting words, but complete syntactical elements). In this case, the complete subordinate clause counts as position one of the main clause, so the verb in the main clause has to follow immediately.


    Why can't Duolingo put the rules of verb order in the Tips section? I am struggling to understand the rules!

    • 1777

    Look through the comments on ones where you don't get the right word order. "fehrerdef" has several posts for this question. Search for them on the page.

    This sentence starts with a subordinate clause (Wenn er nicht kommt). In a subordinate clause, the verb comes at the end. The main clause (gehen wir nicht) appears to start with a verb, but the first position of the sentence is occupied by the subordinate clause, so the verb is in the normal second position.

    Here is a link that might help explain verb position:


    'Ob' can also be used here, ja?


    I wrote "kommt nicht er, gehen wir nicht" and it did not accept this as it said I missed the word er.. but its there in what I posted. Is this also an acceptable answer? Do we need that "Wenn" in it if put like I did?


    No, I'm fairly sure that you need the word "wenn" here because without "wenn" (if, when), the meaning of the sentence is changed. Also, without "wenn", the verb "kommt" would need to come second after the subject "er"; the verb placement for the second clause would also need to change. Correct me if I'm wrong.


    Why can't the second clause be "wir gehen nicht"? Does the verb have to come first because of "Wenn" in the first clause?


    The verb stands behind after a comma???


    its seems that germans speak just like yoda


    No. They speak like Germans.


    no, yoda is german


    what a terrible lesson this was, no explanations whatsoever, repetitive yet no consistancy


    There ARE explanations at the beginning of every lesson. Click the light bulb button.


    Why is German so extremely difficult!!


    All languages are difficult to the learner.... and English is among the most difficult of all, btw.


    whoever invented the sentence structure for German just wanted people to suffer


    Nobody "invented" that. It just developped over time.


    I wish that there was an option to report English that just sounds weird. I'd say, "If he isn't coming, then we aren't going" or "If he isn't coming, then we aren't going to go either". This sentence sounds like it was made by someone who is learning English.


    Please explain why 'gehen' goes at the beginning rather than at the end. Isn't it a subordinating conjunction? Is 'Wenn' a coordinating, subordinating, or correlative conjunction? Do you have a good explanation of the difference? Does the rule about the verb at the end apply to 'kommt' or to 'gehen'?


    The rule for subordinate clauses is, that the verb goes to the end. That's the case here with "kommt", in the subordinate clause headed by "wenn".
    But the second part of the sentence is the main clause. The rule here is that the verb comes second. And since the complete subordinate clause has already taken the first position of the main clause, the verb needs to follow immediately to be in 2nd position. That's what heppens to "gehen".


    Sounds like something Yoda would say.


    isn't verb used in the end of sentence ? why gehen is in front of the sentence?


    The verb is in the end of a subordinate (dependent) clause. This happens here with "Wenn er nicht kommt, ...".
    But in the main clause the verb takes the 2nd position, as usual. And since the first position is already taken by the subordinate clause, it needs to follow immediately: "XXX, gehen wir nicht".


    If "Wenn" is used (=if, when), in the first clause the VERB goes at the END, then you put a comma, then in the second clause you START with the VERB. (taken from the lesson notes)


    i typed in wir gehen nicht instead of gehen wir nicht , can someone explain why it is wrong


    Wenn is a type of conjunction known as subordinate conjunction. These words (there are many) will put the verb at the end of a sentence e.g. Ich bin gesund, weil ich oft laufe. Here the subordinate conjunction is "weil" and it throws the verb "laufe" at the end.

    This does not happen with coordinating conjunctions (there's a list of such words too e.g. "und"). E.g. Ich mag Schokolade und sie mag Pizza. - The verb "mag" doesn't got at the end.

    If the subordinate conjunction is the first word of the sentence then again the verb goes at the end, but of the first part of the sentence i.e. "Wenn er nicht kommt,". "Kommt" is at the end.

    And the second part of the sentence must start with the next verb i.e. gehen wir nicht. So it looks like: "Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht".

    The second part of the sentence must start with a verb so it complies with the normal rule that the verb goes in 2nd position of a sentence. When the sentence is using a subordinating conjunction as the first word the entire first part of the sentence [Wenn er nicht kommt,] is considered in position 1.

    I learned this stuff from Youtube.

    If I'm wrong correct me.


    This has already been explained. In a main clause the verb must be in second position. The complete dependent clause has already taken the first posituion of the main clause. So the verb must follow immediately.
    If the main clause stood alone (without the "if he does not come"), it would be "Wir gehen nicht". But with it it needs to be "..., gehen wir nicht.


    I believe I need to buy a book to seriously learn this. All these rules throw me off, lol. But then again, I just started like 3 weeks ago, but still, it would be nice to know these rules before hand.


    How come Jason Bourne learned German while fighting bad guys on the side? Life is unfair


    Why doesn't "Wenn er nicht kommt, fahren wir nicht" work? When I was in germany people used that all the time


    Why does the independent clause begin with the verb gehen?


    Because in main clauses the verb is in second position, and the first position is taken by the complete dependent clause.


    How come 'kommt' is at the end of the first clause (Wenn er nicht kommt,) when the rule is that the verb goes in second place always?


    That rule applies to main clauses that are statements (not questions, not commands).
    But in dependent clauses the verb always goes last.


    This lesson is whack.


    this sentence is just about the simplest example possible. only simpler would be the same but without negation: "wenn er kommt, gehen wir"


    As I learnt languages(English and my mother tongue) by reading and watching rather than through grammar workbooks, I find German hard to learn. Especially since I don't know what the grammatical terms used in discussions here stand for :(


    Looking them up is a good idea...


    yea man, that's like saying "oh, i don't know the alphabet of this language, so i can't learn the language". things have names, those names are called terms. no way out of learning them.


    This is stupid. The word order is jumbled for no good reason.


    It's not "jumbled", it is the correct German word order. And the reason to show it here is to teach you proper German.


    No, it’s not jumbled. Every word is in the correct place, in both sentences. “If he doesn’t come, we don’t go”/ Wenn er nicht kommt, gehen wir nicht.

    If you take the time to read the explanations in this comment section, several moderators have explained everything about it, more than once.


    Don't pretend it isn't jumbled. Even this sentence you gave doesn't follow its own rules and uses two different orders.


    Sure it does. It does because it follows the rules. There are different rules for main clauses and subordinate clauses.


    Laughing myself silly.

    1) That’s exactly the sentence from the exercise.

    2) I’m not a native speaker, but I’ve been using German since 1980. Fehrerdef and mizinamo ARE native speakers. And somehow you understand how their language works better than they do? Lächerlich!

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