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"Denn" is a coordinating conjunction approximately meaning "as a result of." It cannot be used to begin a sentence, but can begin independent clauses that are after others. This definition is the same as that of "for" when it is used as a conjunction. "Weil" is a subordinating conjunction with approximately the same meaning as "denn". It can begin a sentence, but its clause must be followed by an independent one. Words such as "nur" can be used to modify its meaning. "Because" can be used in the same way.

Are the pairs denn-for and weil-because linked somewhere in the evolution of English, or are they a coincidence?

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    Can you clarify what you are asking for? The pairs are clearly not linked as cognates, as denn is the cognate of then, for of für/vor, weil of while. Because (from by cause) doesn't have a German cognate, as cause is from Latin (and German doesn't have a parallel word with a similar meaning). Are you expecting something along the line that once cognates were used, and in one of the two languages the word was replaced at some point later? – user2183 Jul 3 '16 at 0:13
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    »Denn das, was du sagst, ist falsch.« – obviously, denn can begin an independent clause. – Jan Jul 3 '16 at 16:09
  • @HansAdler: was ist mit "Ursache"? Oder meintest du daß man nicht sagen könne "von der Ursache her"? – 0xC0000022L Jul 4 '16 at 7:43
  • @0xC0000022L: Ich hab nachgefragt, weil ich die ursprüngliche Frage nicht verstanden hab. Deine Nachfrage verstehe ich aber noch viel weniger. Ich sehe keinen Bezug zur ursprünglichen Frage oder meiner Nachfrage. – user2183 Jul 4 '16 at 9:08
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There are only so many basic logical connections that basic concepts can have, and causality is one of the most obvious ones. And there are also only so many positions in a sentence structure that markers can fill. So I'd think that having similar sentence-initial causality markers could very well happen by accident even between languages that aren't as closely related as English and German.

  • Exactly. Those are standard words any language needs to express causality. Even math (or rather: logic) has that, in the form of "A follows from B" and "A is a pre-condition for B". I don't speak Chinese, but I bet it has words to express this as well. And there's not much of a common root between Chinese and German, as far as I know ;) – tofro Jul 4 '16 at 19:20
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Deine Prämisse trifft nicht zu.

Denn man kann das Wort »denn« durchaus auch am Beginn eines Satzes verwenden. Aber auch die Konjuktion »aber« kann einen Satz einleiten. Und sogar das Wort »und« kann am Beginn stehen, auch wenn das von vielen als schlechter Stil angesehen wird. Dass ein Satz mit »dass« beginnt, ist ebenso erlaubt.

Davon abgesehen kann man Sätze oftmals viel freier gestalten als es die Lehrbuchregeln gestalten. Falls du dich fragst warum das so ist, kann ich dir diese Antwort geben: Weil Menschen nunmal so sprechen.

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If "denn" is used, a main clause has to follow. On the other side, if the more usual "weil" is used, a sub-clause has to follow. When speaking ad-hoc, many people use "weil" but fail to build a correct sub-clause then - if you use "denn" instead, speaking correctly may be easier because of the main clause which has to follow.

(My knowledge of english language is too small to tell any connection to "for"/"because"...)

As @Hubert Schölnast pointed out, both "denn" and "weil" may occur at the beginning of sentences.

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