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I’m confused with obwohl and trotzdem usage practice. I do know their meaning (although and despite of, respectively) but what I don’t understand is when exactly I should use obwohl, when trotzdem and when I can exchange them?

The problem is that English is not my native language either, thus the simple rule: “if you would use although in English put obwohl in German” doesn’t really help me, I don’t feel which of them should I use.

For instance:

  1. Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, obwohl sie krank ist.

versus

  1. Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, trotzdem ist sie krank.

Are both these sentences OK both from the grammatical and style points of view?
Or should I use only one of them?

Could you, please, clarify how I can understand which of these two connection words I should use?

P.S. I read the question and this explanation but still feel that I’m guessing and don’t really know for sure the correct answer.

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This is a somewhat uneasy subject to digest. I try my best to explain based on the Duden.

Taking your example the first is fine and obwohl can be replaced by trotzdem; though obwohl is more often used and considered high-level language. In this case obwohl and trotzdem are conjunctions. The usage of trotzdem in this case is considered colloquial language (umgangssprachlich).

Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, obwohl sie krank ist.
Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, trotzdem sie krank ist.

The second sentence is correct. Though many German speakers would say that it sounds weird to them.
I suggest you use obwohl when not sure and because it is not colloquial.


There is another meaning of obwohl, which is colloquial, and cannot be replaced by trotzdem.

Ich rufe Dich heute Abend an. Obwohl, wir sehen uns ja morgen ohnehin.
I call you this evening. Though, we'll see each other tomorrow anyway.

Here it is used to say that Maybe I call, maybe I don't; knowing that we see each other tomorrow anyway.


The word trotzdem can also be used as an adverb. That can be confusing for speakers. This is how you used the word trotzdem in the second example and in this case it is wrong by meaning; you are not saying what you want to say.

Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, trotzdem ist sie krank.
Clarissa doesn't want to stay in bed, nevertheless she is sick.

When trotzdem is used as an adverb it does not have the same meaning as obwohl. In this case trotzdem could be translated to even so, anyhow, nevertheless, ...

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    I wouldn’t call the use of trotzdem as a conjunction “colloquial”. Thomas Mann is infamous for it, and his writings are far from colloquial language. It is a mannerism, and one many native speakers react strongly negatively to. – chirlu Jan 3 '16 at 9:56
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    Apart from that, I don’t think this answer will be particularly useful to the OP because it essentially only explains the meaning of trotzdem by giving English equivalents, and the OP already said he doesn’t have a firm grasp of those either. – chirlu Jan 3 '16 at 10:00
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    And I think I gave a fairly good answer to his questions: grammar, style point of view, which one to use preferably and background with reference to the Duden. – Ely Jan 3 '16 at 10:13
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    @Mike B.: If trotzdem is used as a conjunction, it introduces a subordinate clause, so the verb comes last. In the normal use (as an adverb), the usual rules for the sentence containing it apply. Examples: Ich verreise trotzdem. (main clause) Wir können für nichts garantieren, falls er trotzdem verreist. (subordinate clause) – chirlu Jan 3 '16 at 12:16
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    @Dan: Stilted. I never hear it in everyday talk (but can’t rule out that it may be used in some region). – chirlu Oct 8 '19 at 10:11
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First, your grammar, in particular your word order is correct. But I think that the meaning of the second sentence is not what you thought. The first is ok.

A, obwohl B

means that both A and B are true, and it points out that in particular B did not prevent A from being true, even though it should in general, or one might think that it does, or it usually does, or something.

Your first sentence thus means: Clarissa is ill. She did not stay in bed. It also conveys that Clarissa should have stayed in bed, because she is ill, or maybe, that it is commendable that she did not let her illness prevent her from getting up.

The same is expressed by:

B. Trotzdem A.

So the above meaning could also have been expressed by:

Clarissa ist krank. Trotzdem ist sie nicht im Bett geblieben.

(Clarissa trotzte also ihrer Krankheit, indem sie nicht im Bett blieb.)

Your second sentence, on the other hand, says that Clarissa is ill and did not stay in bed, and that that is surprising, since usually getting up prevents you from getting ill. Or, more reasonably as chirlu pointed out, it emphasises that she is really ill, even though her not staying in bed might indicate that she is not.

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  • The parenthesized sentence seems somewhat out of place to me. It is an explanation, so shouldn’t it be in English? – chirlu Jan 1 '16 at 22:34
  • @chirlu, the parenthesised sentenced was meant as an invitation to look up the related verb trotzen. – Carsten S Jan 1 '16 at 22:36
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    @CarstenS what would you say about the "conjunctional" usage of "trotzdem"? german.stackexchange.com/a/27435/9739 – Dan Oct 8 '19 at 9:40
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In case of trotzdem, the conjugated verb stays at 2nd position as it's mostly used adverbially, but in case of obwohl, the conjugated verb goes in the end.

For example:

Obwohl ich krank bin, bin ich in die Schule gekommen. / Ich bin in die Schule gekommen, obwohl ich krank bin.

Ich bin in die Schule gekommen, trotzdem bin ich krank.

(Note that in case of trotzdem, the position of conjugated verb is at 2nd position. Additionally, it cannot be written the other way around.)

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    Uh! Please, notice that in der Schule kommen means something totally different than in die Schule kommen. – Björn Friedrich Oct 8 '19 at 8:54
  • Was Bjönrn sagt. In der Schule kann man ankommen (en. arrive at), aber nicht kommen. – Dan Oct 8 '19 at 9:40
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    @Dan: Man kann auch in der Schule kommen, aber es bedeutet dann in der Schule einen Orgasmus haben (Bedeutung 17). – chirlu Oct 8 '19 at 10:15
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    Note that the logic in the obwohl example sentences here is inverted. Krank, obwohl Schule implies that going to school should somehow have protected from the (later) illness. – chirlu Oct 8 '19 at 10:24
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    @Dan: Nein, geht sehr gut. Sie ist krank. Trotzdem ist sie in die Schule gekommen. – chirlu Oct 8 '19 at 10:49
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Per Duden trotzdem is an adverb. In the German language, some adverbs are also used as connectors, for example, trotzdem, jedoch, deshalb, deswegen, etc. However, when these adverbs are used as connectors, the verb position must still be placed at position 2 instead of at the end (this differs from conjunctions such as obwohl, weil, damit, ...).

This use of adverbs as connectors does not exist in English language. In English, only conjunctions can connect sentences with a comma and never only an adverb.

The correct sentences are:

Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, trotzdem ist sie krank.

--> verb cannot be at the end.

Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, obwohl sie krank ist.

--> verb must be at the end.

Trotzdem and obwohl do not have the same meanings: trotzdem: nevertheless. obwohl: although.

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  • @user unknown: the reason to write 'Konnektoren' instead of 'connectors' is because in English we do not have 'connectors' in the grammatical sense. It is somewhat misleading to translate it. Thank you for your editing but the downvoting is not helpful. – user105071 Jul 20 '20 at 8:01
  • The statement "[...] when these adverbs are used as connectors, the verb position must still be placed at position 2 instead of at the end [...]" is wrong for two reasons. (1) Depending on its function, trotzdem can be either adverb or connector, but not both at the same time. Thus, the first part of the quote does not make sense. (2) I could present various examples from Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Theodor Fontane, Stefan Zweig and certainly others that disprove the second part of the quote. – Björn Friedrich Jul 20 '20 at 11:09
  • Duden (a German dictionary considered to be official by most teachers and editors) lists trotzdem only as an adverb. Any disagreement on that should be communicated to Duden. As said, trotzdem (same as a few other adverbs) can be used as an adverb or a 'connector'. When it is used as a 'connector', after a comma it is usually placed at position 1 in a 'Satz' (Hauptsatz or Nebensatz, depending on the naming custom), the verb is always at position 2 instead of at the end (which is the case for weil, wenn, ...) – user105071 Jul 20 '20 at 13:27
  • There is nothing to communicate to DUDEN. Entry trotzdem in DUDEN 2, 10th ed., p. 896: „trotzdem <Konj.> (ugs.): obwohl: t. es regnete, gingen sie spazieren.“ ... – Björn Friedrich Jul 20 '20 at 13:47
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    ... Entry trotzdem in DUDEN 9, 8th ed., pp. 921–922: „trotzdem: Im heutigen Sprachgebrauch wird trotzdem als [satzeinleitendes] Adverb wie auch als untergeordnete Konjunktion verwendet [...] Die Verwendung von trotzdem als untergeordnete Konjunktion ist bereits im 19. Jh. aufgekommen [...] Und trotzdem diese Situation mir selber lästig war, trotzdem ich mich auf alle mögliche Weise anstrengte, ernst zu sein, kam das Lachen stoßweise immer wieder (Rielke).“ – Björn Friedrich Jul 20 '20 at 13:47

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