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Compound Conjunctions In German- How To Use Them

Updated: Jan 23

Compound conjunctions are made up of two connectors that are used in combination to establish a correlation between two statements. Confusingly, they follow different word order rules in German. While some are used as subordinate conjunctions that send the conjugated verb to the end, others are coordinating conjunctions that follow the word order of a main clause, so keep the conjugated verb in second position.

Below you'll find a list of all compound conjunctions with their English translation and examples

Entweder…oder -either…or

Sie trinken entweder freitags oder samstags Bier zusammen in der Kneipe.

(They either drink beer in the pub on Fridays or Saturdays)

Ich lese entweder ein Buch oder ich höre einen Podcast.

(Either I read a book or I listen to a podcast)

Sie macht entweder Yoga oder Pilates

(She either does yoga or pilates)

Weder..noch - neither…nor

Ich trinke weder Wodka noch (trinke ich) Tequila

(I neither drink vodka nor tequila)

Er möchte weder nach Irland noch (möchte er) nach Sweden fliegen.

(He neither wants to fly to Ireland nor to Sweden)

Nicht nur…., sondern auch - not only but also

Er liest nicht nur gern Büchern, sondern er schreibt auch gern Bücher

(Not only does he like to read books, but he also likes to write books)

Man sollte nicht nur Grammatik, sondern auch Vokabeln lernen

(One shouldn’t just learn grammar but also vocabulary)

Sowohl… als auch - as well as/both…and

Man kann heutzutage Bücher sowohl lesen als auch hören.

(Nowadays, one can both read and listen to books)

Ich besuche gern sowohl Ausstellungen als auch Gallerien

(I like to visit exhibitions as well as galleries)

Teils..., teils- partly

Viele Leute benutzen ihr Tablet teils zum Arbeiten, teils um fernzusehen.

(Many people use their tablet partly for work, partly to watch tv)

Die Wohnungen in Berlin Kreuzberg sind teils heruntergekommen, teils ultramodern.

(The flats in Berlin Kreuzberg are partly decrepit, partly ultramodern).

Zwar….aber- it’s true/indeed….but

Das Wasser war zwar kalt, aber wir sind im Meer geschwommen

(It’s true that the the water was cold, but we swam in the sea)

Er macht zwar nicht immer seine Hausaufgaben, aber meistens.

(It’s true that he doesn’t always does his homework, but most of the time)

Einerseits…., andererseits- one the one hand…., on the other hand…

Sie findet ihn einerseits interessant, andererseits ein wenig humorlos

(On the one hand, she finds him interesting, on the other a bit humourless)

Er mag seinen Deutschkurs einerseits, andererseits findet er die deutsche Grammatik schwierig

(On the one hand, he enjoys his German course, on the other hand he finds German grammar difficult)

As the last example shows, for reasons of emphasis, you can swap the conjunctions in the first clause with the subject, but in the second clause the conjunction must be at the start. Two other examples would be

Entweder lese ich ein Buch oder ich höre einen Podcast.

Weder trinke ich Wodka noch Tequila.

Je…desto/umso I discuss in a separate blog post because it is more complex than the others.

As you probably noticed, “noch”- the second conjunction in the phrase "weder...noch" needs to be followed by the conjugated verb and then the subject. All other conjunctions in the second clause are followed by the subject and then the conjugated verb, which is the typical word order in a German main clause. Another thing worth mentioning is when a comma is used in German, which I explain in a separate blog post.

If you found this explanation helpful, check out my other posts on German grammar and tricky German words.


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