1. Forum
  2. >
  3. Topic: German
  4. >
  5. "Das ist nicht, was du vorher…

"Das ist nicht, was du vorher sagtest."

Translation:That is not what you said beforehand.

July 29, 2013



Can someone (perhaps a native speaker) speak to the comma placement here? I've noticed this in other exercises too, specifically with relative pronouns. English does not require a comma for this expression, and was wondering what the rule is that requires it.


There's always a comma before subordinate clauses


Is this pronounced/used in spoken German too?


If you're asking whether there is a pause before a subordinate clause that corresponds to the comma, then no, that's not always the case. There isn't necessarily a pause there in spoken German.


Subordinate clauses, or this sentence specifically? The former, yes, the latter, I don't know because I'm not a native.


So "Das ist nicht" is the main clause which can stand by itself? That doesn't seem right to me, though I suppose "That is not." can be its own sentence, however awkward.


The subordinate clause is acting like a noun. It's the complement of 'das' albeit negatively.


This is not two separate clauses in English. How do we know when it will be in German?


Why "vorher" instead of "bevor"? What other words mean "before" in German?


and what about zuvor :/


"Vorher" is an adverb and "bevor" is a subordinating conjunction.

You can't replace "vorher" with "bevor" in this sentence, but you could change the sentence to use "bevor", like "Das ist nicht, was du sagtest, bevor du ins Bett gegangen bist" (That is not what you said before you went to bed)

From my knowledge, "früher" is another word to denote "before", depending on the context; e.g., I did that before/earlier -> Ich habe das früher gemacht. Finally, "zuvor" and "vorher" are interchangeable.


what is the difference between vorher, zuvor, vor, bevor?


Out of curiosity, could the same idea be conveyed by using "Das ist nicht was du hast vorher gesagt" ?


Almost, but you'd have to say, "Das ist nicht, was du vorher gesagt hast."


Could you please elaborate on the "almost" part? :) As in, what would be the difference between "...sagtest" and "...gesagt hast" in this particular case? When would you use one and when the other?


I said "almost" because lucia_mosquito's sentence wasn't grammatically correct. The "hast" needed to come at the end of the sentence, and a comma before "was" was required. With those minor corrections, the sentence conveys the same idea as the original.

Regarding the difference between the German Präteritum (e.g. sagtest) and Perfekt (e.g. gesagt hast), the Perfekt is more common in conversation and informal writing, while the Präteritum is more common in formal writing. There's really no difference in the meaning, though.


Wow, really? I thought Präteritum is more like an unfinished action, and so du sagte can be translated not only as you said but also you were saying same as du sagst can be translated both as you say and you are saying, while du hast gesagt is more finished, like you said or you have said...

Also some phrases about past I only see in Präteritum: Ich dachte, dass... not Ich habe gedacht, ..., Ich hatte keine Zeit, not Ich habe keine Zeit gehabt, while some are really seldom in Präteritum. And some are very common in both but in different situations! Like Ich habe das früher nicht gewusst and Wusstest du, dass...? So I just get quite confused because intuitively I can feel some difference in usage but I can't explain it and don't know any kind of rules, just the feeling...


Aha, yes, you've made some very astute observations! What I stated before is a general guideline, but there are certainly exceptions. Certain verbs like haben tend to be used more often in a particular tense, regardless of the context. Similarly, certain phrases and fixed expressions may also use a single verb form exclusively, and it could sound weird if you used a different form.

I do doubt that the Präteritum is used to indicate unfinished actions, however, as the German language is generally considered to have no continuous/progressive aspect. (Continuous/progressive aspect is how, in English, you indicate an incomplete action, e.g. "you are saying" (present continuous) or "you were saying" (past continuous).) There are, however, colloquial ways of expressing the continuous/progressive aspect in modern German. See for example this explanation from Wikipedia:

The following quote was copied on 2015-07-04:

There is no continuous aspect in standard German. The aspect can be expressed with gerade as in er liest gerade meaning he is reading. Certain regional dialects, such as those of the Rhineland, the Ruhr Area, and Westphalia, form a continuous aspect using the verb sein (to be), the inflected preposition am or beim (at the or on the), and the neuter noun that is formed from an infinitive. For example, ich bin am Lesen, ich bin beim Lesen (literally I am on/at the reading) means I am reading. Known as the rheinische Verlaufsform (roughly Rhinish progressive form), it has become increasingly common in the casual speech of many speakers of standard German, although it is still frowned upon in formal and literary contexts. In Southern Austro-Bavarian, the aspect can be expressed using tun (to do) as an auxiliary with the infinitive of the verb as in er tut lesen for he is reading.


Cool, thanks :) Well, my language (Ukrainian) doesn't have continuous either, for us "he reads" is the same as "he's reading", just a not in the past criterium x) But didn't know about these nice ways to make it more like "right now" in German, thank you!


I believe that all you have said about the differences between the Präteritum and the Perfekt are very real. This is a very common thing to say "ah, there's no difference", when obviously there is. Surely the difference in the English tenses does not align with the German ones (why would it?), so that difference that you have in English is obviously not there, but other differences are. And this is all the Indikativ we are talking about. In Konjunktiv there are massive differences.


My German husband said "nobody would ever say '...was du vorher sagtest', it sounds very pretentious". According to him one should say "...was du vorher gesagt hast".


This entire section would sound pretentious to native German ears, from what I gather. As is laid out in the Tips and Notes section, Praeterite is only used for very form speech and writing. Perfekt is much more common in casual speech and writing, I believe.


sometimes "vorher" is translated as 'before' and sometimes as 'before that'. How can I know which one to use


I think this is the single most useful sentence Duo has taught us yet.


could it be "That is not something you said before", since "was" can be etwas shortened?


It's a good question, but I don't think "Das ist nicht, was du vorher sagtest" quite translates to "That is not something you said before."

To my knowledge, the only way to interpret this German sentence is to consider "was du vorher sagtest" to be a relative clause that uses the relative pronoun "was". The Duden has an entry for this meaning of "was", which you can read here (definition 1). It may help to look at the examples given and compare them to the examples given for "was" with the meaning of "etwas" here (definition 1).

So you're right that "was" is sometimes just "etwas" shortened, but that's not the case here. In this sentence, they aren't interchangeable: "Das ist nicht, etwas du vorher sagtest" simply isn't a proper German sentence. While "was" can be used as a relative pronoun, "etwas" cannot.

Similarly in English, "what" can be used as a relative pronoun, but "something" cannot.

This is a little difficult to explain, but I hope this helps.


How do I know whether it is das or dass?


You have to determine it based on the context. In this case, "Dass ist nicht, was du vorher sagtest" is an illogical sentence, so it must be "das". Just like in English, when people say, "You were there", you know they didn't mean "their" or "they're" because then the sentence wouldn't make sense.


If you could also use "this", it's "das".


Why does the very at the last position? I thought it always should be second as - "Das ist nicht, was sagtest du vorher"


"what you said before" is a subordinate clause, so the verb gets kicked to the end.


how do i know how to translate before? when is it zufor, befor, vorher, etc..?


pl let me know the difference between bevor und vorher


"That is not what you had said before" was not accepted


Why "That is not what you have previously said" got marked wrong :(


I've never heard "beforehand" used in this way. I don't know if it's technically wrong... It just sounds... German rather than English. Like if Google translated it word by word (no offense to the translator). Like a direct translation. It's sounds old fashioned and overly complicated. "That's not what you said before" or "said previously". My German is very basic though. From the comments I've read here, there's something in the German grammar trying to reach the English grammar... but something seems lost in translation.


"That is not what you said before" is natural in spoken English. "Beforehand" sounds odd and unnecessary to my anglo ears.


can someone explain why this is a "nebensatz"


"Nebensätze" often end with verbs.


I believe that MeherP was asking why it becomes a nebensatz and couldn't simply be phrased as a single sentence; at the very least, that's what I'm wondering! I'm still learning when to use subordinate clauses, so situations like this can prove confusing!


that is indeed what I meant. And I think the reason is because "was" in this case is a relative pronoun referring to "Das".


I believe you are right.


You mean end with the conjugated verb. I'm trying to think about a case when it doesn't. I think it always does.


Why is "das ist nicht dass du vorher sagtest" incorrect? Is the difference between what and that critical? why? thanks


Yes, the difference is critical. Saying that would be like saying "That is not that you said before" in English, which is also wrong. Also, don't forget the comma before "was", as it's also necessary. Finally, be aware that you may also come across this construction: "Das ist nicht das, was du vorher sagtest." The only difference is that extra "das" after "nicht".


Why/when would one say this phrase as opposed to the one ending in gesagt?


This question has already been posed and answered here, but I'll try to provide a more thorough explanation. In the sentence "Das ist nicht, was du vorher sagtest", "was" is a relative pronoun (das Relativ) used to begin a relative clause (der Relativsatz) that further explains the pronoun "das" in the main clause (der Hauptsatz). Relative clauses are always surrounded by commas, unless another punctuation mark would go in the same place (like the period in our example sentence).

Also, since relative clauses are subordinate clauses, the relative clause's verb always comes at the end of the relative clause.

For a rather comprehensive look at relative clauses, see this webpage.


Could I use "zuvor" instead of "vorher"?


Yes, zuvor sounds a tad more formal and isn't as common


What if we put the "sagtest" before "vorher" -> was du sagtest vorher ? Is it wrong?


Yes. It's a subordinate clause, so the verb must be the last word.


why translation to "that is not what did you say before" is incorrect??


That's not valid English. You can't start a question halfway through a sentence.


A helpful link to know the difference between the different words for before and after... https://yourdailygerman.com/vor-bevor-exercise/


Why not 'gesagt'?


Why not 'gesagt'?


Why not 'gesagt'?


Why not 'gesagt'?


Das ist nicht was du vorher gesagt hast


Hey guys, can you tell me the difference between these phrases? "Du hast gesagt." "Du sagtest"

Learn German in just 5 minutes a day. For free.