When to use 'weil' vs. 'denn'.

I am REALLY having trouble deciding when to use 'weil' and when to use 'denn'. Of course, both mean 'because' in English. Will someone take pity on me and describe a simple means of knowing which one to use? I have tried identifying subordinate clauses with little to no success. Thank You!!!

November 6, 2018


well... I think the main difference is the sentence structure that follows "weil" and "denn". "Denn" is always followed by a main clause, for example: Heute gehe ich nicht nach draußen, denn es ist kalt. Whereas "weil" is followed by a subordinate clause, for example Heute gehe ich nicht nach draußen, weil es kalt ist. As you can see, you have to change the position of the verb here.

Another point is that you can't start a sentence with "denn". It just doesn't work.

Basically, you can use both, but we use "weil" way more often than "denn".

November 6, 2018

So, are you saying that I can use whichever I want as long as the sentence structure agrees with my choice??

November 7, 2018

To make things even more complicated, there is also the word "da", wich can also mean "because".

It works the same way as "weil" (Heute gehe ich nicht nach draußen, da es kalt ist.).

However, they say that you can start a sentence with "da", but should not with "weil". Don't ask me why. In spoken German people use those words interchangeably. Normally, people say "weil" more often.

In written German, however, people like you to follow this rule. It is a matter of style, I guess.

November 7, 2018

i have seen Denn start sentences...Denn also hat Gott die Welt geliebt, dass er seinen eingeboren Sohn gab.

November 8, 2018

Yes, you're right, this example exists, but it's from the bible and the bible's German is not like the modern German. There are a lot of sentence in the bible or older novels that wouldn't be considered correct anymore, because the language developed

November 8, 2018

Careful with this! Hannah explains the grammatical aspect of it very well! :)

There is a difference in semantics between the two though:

The ever so slight difference between the two lies in the implication of causality. "Weil" is only used in cases where immediate causality is implied. Or in other words: "Weil" is only used in cases where the immediate reason for something is mentioned.

(Example: Das Licht ist an, weil ich es angeschaltet habe. But not: Das Licht ist an, w̶̶e̶̶i̶̶l̶̶ ̶̶e̶̶s̶̶ ̶̶l̶̶e̶̶u̶̶c̶̶h̶̶t̶̶e̶̶t̶. ←This doesn't work because it is semantically incorrect.)

"Denn" can be used either if the immediate reason is revealed AND/OR if the reason is NOT given, but rather another observation is used to deduct that the statement in the main sentence is true.

(Examples: Das Licht ist an, denn ich habe es angeschaltet. BUT ALSO: Das Licht ist an, denn es leuchtet. ←This works because "denn" doesn't imply immediate causality.)

Sorry for the slightly dull examples. I hope they still work to convey what I'm trying to say. Hope this helped! :)

July 19, 2019
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