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The word Satz can mean, among other things:

  • Clause: "A verb along with its subject and their modifiers."
  • Sentence: "A grammatically complete series of words consisting of a subject and predicate, even if one or the other is implied, and typically beginning with a capital letter and ending with a full stop."

This can lead to problems when discussing languages. Today, I failed the assignment "Schreiben Sie einen Satz", by writing a sentence instead of a clause. What other words could be used instead of Satz for these meanings in order to avoid this problem?

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I realise that this is not a single word request, but I didn't want to create the double-word-request tag. – Tim Jun 7 '11 at 20:13
@Tim I think that you have to give more information on your assignment. I have great doubts that it was just "Schreiben Sie einen Satz". – Phira Jun 7 '11 at 20:29
@thei: The question is independent of the anecdote. I want words that the teacher could have used instead of Satz to clearly distinguish the two possible interpretations of the assignment. – Tim Jun 7 '11 at 20:33
@thei: The actual assignment was "Schreiben Sie bitte einen langen Satz", which was supposed to have a pedagogic point regarding adverbs. – Tim Jun 7 '11 at 20:34
@Tim Basically, if your teacher wanted you to write a sentence with an adverb he may or may not have communicated this, but the problem here is not with the word "Satz". If anything, it was with the word "lang". – Phira Jun 7 '11 at 20:55
up vote 8 down vote accepted

A random google result:

Dieser Satz besteht aus einem Hauptsatz und einem kausalen Nebensatz, der zwei Partizipialsätze enthält.

At the moment, I cannot think of a linguistic situation where the single word "Satz" means clause and not sentence. So I am awaiting more details on your assignment to clear up this problem.

In a linguistic context, "Satz" means "sentence" and "clause" means

ling. Satzteil {m}

ling. Teilsatz {m}

ling. Gliedsatz {m}

ling. Nebensatz {m}

ling. satzwertige Konstruktion {f}

as cited from

There is no ambiguity, so I don't really know what else to say.

There may have been some other incompleteness in the teacher's assignment, but demanding a long sentence does not imply a demand of a sentence with a sub-clause.

Edited to add:

A sentence without a sub-clause is a "einfacher Satz", but I think that the point of your anecdote is that your teacher gave his own ad-hoc definition of "langer Satz" before (maybe in your absence). And it is this definition of "long" which is the problem here.

share|improve this answer translates "Satz" to "clause". Also, it makes sense that a Nebensatz is a Satz. – Tim Jun 7 '11 at 20:36
@Tim I suggest that you click on clause and read: ling. Satzteil {m} ling. Teilsatz {m} ling. Gliedsatz {m} ling. Nebensatz {m} ling. satzwertige Konstruktion {f}, all the "ling" entries point to other words. – Phira Jun 7 '11 at 20:37
The first translation is still "Satz {m}", even if it doesn't get a "ling". Perhaps it's understood in a linguistic context, but in the example above, I still hold that "Satz" is ambiguous. – Tim Jun 7 '11 at 20:39
No, if you say "Schreiben Sie einen langen Satz", it does not mean "Write a long clause". – Phira Jun 7 '11 at 20:48
Definitely not ambiguous. "Satz" always refers to a sentence. – user12889 Jun 8 '11 at 0:42

I would say that your teacher needs to further analyze her word choices. Satz is used in German to refer to a phrase. Contrary to current word use, in English, the word phrase can be utilized in reference to either a complete thought or an incomplete thought, which is either spoken or written. With time, we have come to use the word phrase, and other words like clause, more often when talking about incomplete thoughts; on the other hand, we have begun to use the word sentence to refer to full thoughts.

This, however, is part of English and its changes – German has evolved differently. We can think of the German word Satz as phrase. In order to clarify that we are talking about a complete thought, we can add a more specific descriptor, such as Haupt- to form Hauptsatz (main phrase); in the case of an incomplete thought, we can use the descriptor Neben- to form Nebensatz. If your teacher simply wrote Satz, she was not being specific as to what she wanted, and she cannot expect you to come up with subordinate clauses if she simply said write phrases. In my book, and I speak as a fellow teacher, she’d be the one getting a poor evaluation as a German instructor.

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