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What's the difference between the conjunctions als and denn? How do you know when to use one over the other? Can denn be used in a sentence like

Besser zu süß als zu bitter.

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That's the comparision particle als you have there, not the conjunction. These particles are never leading a subclause, that's how you spot them:

Besser zu süß als zu bitter.

Besser zu süß denn zu bitter.

Better too sweet than too bitter.

The meaning is exactly the same here but denn sounds a bit odd and old-fashioned. In some phrases however denn is more common.

Es ist mehr denn je nötig.

It's necessary more than ever.

Sometimes denn and als are combined.

Ich nahm sie weniger als Kollegin wahr denn als Freundin.

Ich nahm sie weniger als Kollegin wahr als als Freundin. (bad!)

Ich recognized her less as a colleague than as a friend.

The latter sentence uses the als three times, and one time twice in a row. That's too much even for German speakers (who love repetitions).


The conjuctions als und denn are leading a subclause:

Sie stieg aus, als die Bahn anhielt.

She stepped off when the trolley stopped.

Sie stiegt aus, denn die Bahn hielt an.

She stepped off because the trolley stopped.

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    If I remember my school grammar correctly, denn actually leads a full clause, which is why you don't get SOV order in the denn-sentence. (That is, denn die Bahn hielt an, not denn die Bahn anhielt.) – sgf Jul 27 '17 at 22:48
  • I disagree with your assessment that “als als” is bad. – Carsten S Jul 28 '17 at 8:52

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