My understanding of the typical construction of a sentence/clause in German is that the 2nd position is occupied by a verb so

"Ich glaube das nicht."


"Das glaube ich nicht."

are both valid. However, certain words occupy the 0th position. The two examples which come to mind are "denn" and "aber."

"..., denn ich glaube das nicht."

Unless there's some rule that I am totally missing, does anyone know of a relatively comprehensive list to become familiar with?

  • @ApoY2k: good point... I'll edit the question...
    – ghshtalt
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 13:49
  • 7
    @ApoY2k: Denn does not begin a "Nebensatz", otherwise it would be ..., denn ich das nicht glaube, which is not correct. It connects "Hauptsätze" and can also be the first word. See Zwiebelfisch for details :) Commented May 26, 2011 at 14:30
  • @OregonGhost: thank you for that link! I think that they name for the words I was looking for are 'koordinierenden Konjunktionen,' correct? (That is, opposed to 'subordinierenden Konjunktionen').
    – ghshtalt
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 15:22
  • @ghshtalt: Yes, I think so. Commented May 26, 2011 at 15:26
  • I have my problems with the term zero position. I don't think that you could translate it with nullter Position
    – bernd_k
    Commented May 26, 2011 at 16:37

5 Answers 5


Maybe what you are looking for are "Bindewörter / Konjunktionen"?


Those words can be used to express causality

Ich ging nach Hause, aber kam nie an.

But they can also be used as a first word in a sentece

Obwohl es mir schlecht geht, ging ich in die Schule.


The words you are looking for are the nebenordnende Konjunktionen. That is, conjunctions that connect two main clauses. (The term nebenordnend isn’t an exact correlation to ‘connect two main clauses’ since two subordinate clauses of the same level can also be connected by some nebenordnende Konjunktionen.)

I don’t give you an exhaustive list, because some of these can act in a coordinative and a subordinative manner depending on the sentences involved. What you can take home as a rule is:

If you use a conjunction to connect two main clauses it will occupy the zeroth position in the second clause.

  • Your rule is somewhat circular, because the only difference between subordinate and coordinate clauses is whether the conjunction is subordinating or coordinating. When building sentences, you start with the meaning of the conjunction (i.e., the relation between thoughts you want to express). Whether you end up using subordinate or coordinate clauses is a consequence of that.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 8:21
  • @Wrzlprmft I don’t know where you see the circular reasoning. I am assuming correctly that we are talking about the blockquoted bit?
    – Jan
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 22:46
  • Yes. The problem is that the conjunction usually dictates whether you will connect two main clauses (and thus whether it will occupy zeroth position).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 5:42
  • @Wrzlprmft That’s assuming ‘if a conjunction occupies zeroth position it will connect two main clauses’ (which is probably also true). But I don’t consider that assumption part of my answer. I’m assuming somebody has worked out the conjunction they need and that both parts will be a main clause; they only want to know whether to say ‘und gehe ich …’ or ‘und ich gehe …’ I’m providing assistance for that case.
    – Jan
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 22:13

My understanding of the typical construction of a sentence/clause in German is that the 2nd position is occupied by a verb

Reading your examples: are you familiar with the word order in subordinate clauses?

Conjunctions like "obwohl" usually induce a subordinate clause, where the verb is not supposed to be 2nd.


Denn, aber, oder and und have zero position.

EDIT: Doch and Sondern as well.

  • Welcome to German Language Stack Exchange. Feel free to take a tour of the site. Visit the help center to learn more about how it works. Please note that we prefer comprehensive answers, not just one-liners. This one reads much more like a comment than an actual answer.
    – Jan
    Commented Dec 13, 2015 at 14:10

The position of the verb is mandatory, and there are no exceptions. So, the 0th position may only be occupied by words, which are not part of the sentence:

  • coordinating conjunctions (which connect to the previous sentence): aber, allein¹, außer, beziehungsweise, denn, doch, hingegen¹, jedoch¹, oder, sondern, and und. (¹: uncommon, because these are also adverbs, which do fill the 1st position).

  • interjections (usually separated by comma) like: Ach, So, Nein, Doch,

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