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I am still learning German, and I face sometime structure problems as the language has a very strict structure to be followed.

One of structures that derived me semi-crazy is damit

For example, usually the sentence that follows damit is considered as a subordinate clause so the verb should be thrown to the end. i.e:

Ich lese den Roman, damit ich mein Deutsch verbessern kann.

Which translated as:

I read the novel so that I can make my German better.

but sometimes I encounter the sentence that follows damit is completely normal main clause just like:

Der Kugelschreiber liegt auf dem Tisch, damit schreibe ich normalerweise.

I can understand through this example that damit here translated as using it, so the translation could be:

The pen is on the table, with which (using it) I usually write.

So could then the first example be arranged as following?

Ich lese den Roman, damit kann ich mein Deutsch verbessern.

and understood somehow differently, translated as:

I read the novel, with which (using it) I can make my German better.

It really makes me somehow confused, I searched on Internet but no luck for any good explanation, could someone help?

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Your confusion likely lies in the fact that there are two words damit that have different grammatical functions.

One of the two is the conjunction damit, introducing a final subordinate clause, i.e. the subordinate clause signifies the goals of an action. As in any subordinate clause (Nebensatz), the verb is placed last therein.

Ich lese den Roman, damit ich mein Deutsch verbessere.

Ich beantworte diese Frage, damit du den Unterschied verstehst.

The other one is a demonstrative prepositional pronoun of the da- series, analogous to dahin, dafür, dagegen. It can always be replaced by mit etwas. You can see that it is not a conjunction because a true conjunction would occupy zeroth position and allow for (require!) another sentence fragment prior to the verb. For example, the sentence you presented can be rephrased as follows:

Der Kugelschreiber liegt auf dem Tisch. Damit schreibe ich normalerweise

→ Der Kugelschreiber liegt auf dem Tisch. Mit dem Kugelschreiber schreibe ich normalerweise.

(As with any two main clauses, they can be separated by full stop, semicolon or comma, depending on the writer’s preference. They do not seem overly connected to me, hence I chose to separate them with a full stop. Using a comma is allowed, however.)

Not only can you unambiguously identify this structure by replacing damit with mit einer Sache, you can also shift around the position of damit without changing the general meaning of the sentence. This shows us that it is no longer a conjunction:

Damit schreibe ich normalerweise.

Ich schreibe damit normalerweise.

Normalerweise schreibe ich damit.


Your final attempt at using damit is somewhat weird for this reason. It would expand to:

Ich lese den Roman. Mit dem Roman kann ich mein Deutsch verbessern.

And it sounds somewhat like your waving the novel at your German to improve it. Therefore, the two different forms of damit cannot be exchanged freely.

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To be able to distinguish from the two meanings of "damit" I recommend to use a question phrase with "Wozu" or "Zu welchem Zweck".

Ich lese den Roman, damit ich mein Deutsch verbessere. Question: Wozu lese ich den Roman? Answer: Damit ich mein Deutsch verbessere. So the subordinate is a Adverbial clause which is introduced with a conjunction.

Der Kugelschreiber liegt auf dem Tisch, damit schreibe ich normalerweise. Here the "subordinate", does not answer the question: "Wozu liegt der Kugeschreiber auf dem Tisch?". So the second sentence is no subordinate but a Independent clause. "damit" is a pronoun.

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