The Use of Subordinate Clauses in German
The German language is known for its complex grammar and syntax, and one of the most important elements of this complexity is the use of subordinate clauses. Subordinate clauses are a type of dependent clause that function as part of a larger sentence, providing additional information or detail about the subject or action of the main clause. In this article, we will explore the various types of subordinate clauses in German and their functions within a sentence.
Types of Subordinate Clauses
There are several different types of subordinate clauses in German, each with their own specific function. These include:
- Relative Clauses: A relative clause provides further information about a noun in the main clause, usually by specifying its characteristics or qualities. For example, in the sentence “Der Mann, den ich gestern gesehen habe, war sehr groß” (The man whom I saw yesterday was very tall), the relative clause “den ich gestern gesehen habe” (whom I saw yesterday) provides additional information about “der Mann” (the man), specifying that he was seen by the speaker on the previous day.
- Adverbial Clauses: An adverbial clause provides further information about the action or situation described in the main clause. These types of clauses can indicate the time, place, manner, or cause of the action, among other things. For example, in the sentence “Ich gehe ins Kino, wenn ich Zeit habe” (I go to the cinema when I have time), the adverbial clause “wenn ich Zeit habe” (when I have time) specifies the circumstances in which the speaker goes to the cinema.
- Infinitive Clauses: An infinitive clause consists of an infinitive verb (such as “to run” or “to eat”) and any necessary objects or modifiers, and functions as a noun or adjective within the sentence. For example, in the sentence “Ich habe keine Zeit, um ins Kino zu gehen” (I don’t have time to go to the cinema), the infinitive clause “um ins Kino zu gehen” (to go to the cinema) functions as the object of the preposition “um” (to), indicating the purpose or intention of the speaker.
Functions of Subordinate Clauses
Subordinate clauses can serve a variety of functions within a sentence, depending on their type and placement. Some common functions of subordinate clauses in German include:
- Adding Detail: Subordinate clauses are often used to provide additional information or detail about the subject or action of the main clause. For example, in the sentence “Das Buch, das ich gerade lese, ist sehr interessant” (The book that I am reading now is very interesting), the relative clause “das ich gerade lese” (that I am reading now) adds detail about the book being discussed.
- Indicating Time or Circumstances: Adverbial clauses can be used to indicate the time, place, or circumstances in which an action is taking place. For example, in the sentence “Ich gehe ins Kino, weil es regnet” (I’m going to the cinema because it’s raining), the adverbial clause “weil es regnet” (because it’s raining) indicates the circumstances in which the speaker is going to the cinema.
- Expressing Purpose: Infinitive clauses can be used to express the purpose or intention behind an action. For example, in the sentence “Ich gehe ins Kino, um einen Film zu sehen” (I’m going to the cinema to see a film), the infinitive clause “um einen Film zu sehen” (to see a film) indicates the purpose of the speaker’s trip to the cinema.
Placement of Subordinate Clauses
In German, subordinate clauses can be placed either before or after the main clause, depending on their function within the sentence. For example, a relative clause that serves to specify a noun in the main clause is usually placed immediately after the noun. In the sentence “Das Buch, das ich gerade lese, ist sehr interessant” (The book that I am reading now is very interesting), the relative clause “das ich gerade lese” (that I am reading now) follows the noun “Buch” (book).
On the other hand, an adverbial clause that indicates time or circumstances is usually placed at the beginning of the sentence. In the sentence “Weil es regnet, gehe ich ins Kino” (Because it’s raining, I’m going to the cinema), the adverbial clause “weil es regnet” (because it’s raining) comes first, followed by the main clause.
Here are 10 examples of sentences with their respective translations illustrating the use of subordinate clauses in German
- Ich weiß nicht, ob ich heute Abend ausgehen soll. (I don’t know if I should go out tonight.)
- Peter hat gesagt, dass er später kommen wird. (Peter said that he will come later.)
- Wir haben die Party verlassen, weil es zu laut war. (We left the party because it was too loud.)
- Obwohl es geregnet hat, sind wir spazieren gegangen. (Although it was raining, we went for a walk.)
- Ich brauche Zeit, damit ich die Hausaufgaben machen kann. (I need time in order to do my homework.)
- Ich glaube, dass Maria nicht zuhause ist. (I believe that Maria isn’t at home.)
- Da ich Grippe habe, kann ich nicht arbeiten gehen. (Since I have the flu, I can’t go to work.)
- Ich habe das Buch gelesen, welches du mir empfohlen hast. (I read the book which you recommended to me.)
- Wenn es morgen regnet, bleiben wir zu Hause. (If it rains tomorrow, we will stay at home.)
- Solange ich genug Geld habe, kann ich mir ein Auto kaufen. (As long as I have enough money, I can buy a car.)
In conclusion, subordinate clauses are an integral part of German grammar and syntax, providing additional information and detail about the subject and action of a sentence. There are several different types of subordinate clauses, each with their own specific functions within a sentence. By understanding the various types and functions of subordinate clauses, learners can strengthen their German language skills and communicate more effectively in a variety of contexts.
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