I read the explanatory article that was linked to a previous question about the topic "difference between ob and wenn".
So I am now pretty sure that it is correct when I say:

Ich möchte wissen, ob du kommst. (Here I can clearly add "or not", so passt)

Here I am asking a person whether they will come or not. Alles klar.

But now I wonder about what would then this mean:

Ich möchte wissen, wenn du kommst.

What would people think if I say that? Would they be just confused or would they get to think I say a certain something, that I actually didn´t mean?

What I am trying to ask is if this sentence would mean something specifically or if, when I mistakenly say it, I just show I can´t really speak German, because that´s totally wrong and does not make clear sense.

  • 2
    I'd probably interpret it as the English "Let me know, when/once you arrive" meaning something like "give me a call the instant you arrive". You'd probably have to use "ankommen" in German to make it perfectly clear though.
    – Gerhard
    Feb 1, 2015 at 20:22
  • Wenn das ein Franke sagt, dann meint er mit "wenn" "wann".
    – rogermue
    Feb 2, 2015 at 3:30
  • 1
    Ich möchte wissen, wenn du kommst. - Sag mir Bescheid, falls du kommen vorhast.
    – Denis
    Aug 14, 2015 at 12:33

3 Answers 3


Ich möchte wissen, wann du kommst.

-> is a request for the expected time of arrival.

Ich möchte wissen, wenn du kommst.

-> is a request for prior notice, but not for an exact time: "Tell me that you plan to stop by, don't just show up. I might have some preparation to do in advance or don't like surprises."
An example: A parent telling his child that's usually away at college to call/text when he is going to come home for the weekend - because there should be enough food in the fridge and the washer free for the student's laundry...

As to the double entendre: Yes there is the kommen = cum translation, but I'd not think it too critical. You could use vorbeikommen, to be really, really sure, but don't think too much about it - context is the key.

  • 2
    @Nickolaus If you're not a native speaker, you probably do not know about a possible second meaning. And as it's not wrong, you're fine to say so.
    – Em1
    Feb 1, 2015 at 18:34
  • 3
    Esaily misunderstood if you want to IMHO.
    – Stephie
    Feb 1, 2015 at 18:42
  • 1
    "Ich möchte wissen, wenn du kommst" is a request, that is correct, therefore it must be "Ich möchte ES wissen, wenn du kommst". See my explanation below. Feb 2, 2015 at 0:12
  • 2
    Probably a colloquial /regional / dialect thing: the "es" is optional to my ear, at least in this order. Once turned around I'd expect "Wenn du kommst, möchte ich das wissen."
    – Stephie
    Feb 2, 2015 at 5:34
  • 2
    @MartinSchwehla "Ich möchte es wissen, wenn du kommst" sounds odd to me. That said, "Ich würde es schon gerne wissen, wenn du kommst" sounds good to me.
    – Em1
    Feb 2, 2015 at 8:15

"Ich möchte wissen, wenn du kommst" is not proper German.

I want to know something. This could be a lot of things, but grammatically, it always has to be an object or, placed into a clause, a circumstance which has the value of an object, like:

Ich möchte wissen,

wo du bist (location)
wann du kommst (time)
ob du kommst (yes/no)
warum du kommst (explanation)
wie du kommst (by train, car...)

But the given example with "wenn" is not a question but an instruction, meaning "sag es mir" (I want you to tell me), and the clause "wenn du kommst" actually comprises two kinds of statements:

  1. A condition: you must have arrived to trigger the action
  2. The information that you have arrived

This is used more often to tell somebody in advance that they should pass the information as soon as they were about to come or go somewhere. But this doesn't change a thing grammatically.

You can't combine a main sentence which calls for an object with a conditional clause without adding a particle called "Platzhalter" (placeholder), which by default would be "es":

Ich möchte es wissen, wenn du kommst.

or: Wenn du kommst, möchte ich es/das wissen.

"Wenn" is a kind of "false friend" for English native speakers as the English "when" which sounds and looks very much alike can take on the meaning of "wann" and "wenn" in different contexts.

  • Could you please not write "impossible" if it's clearly possible and understandable in spoken? You're making your point that it's not proper but "impossible" should be saved for stuff that REALLY is impossible
    – Emanuel
    Feb 2, 2015 at 11:05
  • Impossible if you follow the rules, that is. If you don't, make sure you're making yourself understood by your own means. If you do follow the rules, you need not care for that specifically. That's what rules are made for, not for bullying people. Feb 2, 2015 at 11:07
  • My point is that in the very first sentence you just say it's impossible and then you bring a line break. That'll make learners think it's awfully wrong and then they head out and hear it all over the place. Why not just say "is not proper German"?
    – Emanuel
    Feb 2, 2015 at 11:11
  • @Emanuel — I have no problem changing this as it doesn't change the intention of my statement. Feb 2, 2015 at 13:35

Wenn is not correct, using "wann" would be correct, and then you are asking: When will you arrive". Wenn is more of an if-statement. If you wanna say "If you come around ...", then you would say: "Wenn du vorbei kommst".
Also I advice you to use "vorbeikommen" or "komme vorbei". It means come around; otherwise, you might be misunderstood.
In urban language "Ich komme" means "I gonna cum" and I don't think you want to say anything like that.
So what I want to say if you are using your sentence: Ich möchte wissen, ob du kommst, this is something a girl would ask a guy when he is jacking off. ;D

  • 4
    I don't quite agree with your last sentence. "Kommen" has clearly that connotation you're referring to, but only some young guys who reach puberty (or those who never left this phase of life) do always understand that part. In a normal conversation, it's pretty clear that "kommen" would be used in the sense of "vorbeikommen".
    – Em1
    Feb 1, 2015 at 18:32
  • It could be always missunderstood, only in working language no one will imply this, but if you are in a private talk this could be misunderstood pretty fast
    – Nickolaus
    Feb 1, 2015 at 18:36
  • @Nickolaus — ...only by people with nothing but sex in mind ;-) Feb 2, 2015 at 7:39
  • @MartinSchwehla: For what it's worth, the sentence does work a lot better grammatically with that interpretation of the verb. In that case, "wenn" (rather than "wann" or "ob") and "kommen" (rather than "ankommen" or "vorbeikommen") fit very well. (I agree with the other comments in that the misunderstanding is not likely, though, and the first thing that comes to mind without context indicating otherwise is a physical movement of the addressee.) Jun 13, 2022 at 8:29

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