I was thinking of my last question, where I asked if the type of clause after a connective decides the word order and by default the word order after using specific words. After thinking,I realised that there are two words that mean because: one that doesn't change word order and one that sends verbs to the end. Is there any reason be it semantically or etymologically that can explain this?

  • Die Frage beruht auf einer falschen annahme. Denn ließt man alte Texte, so findet sich auch der andere Satzbau. "Denn wenn" dürfte dagegen neu sein.
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 2:49

2 Answers 2


I do not think that etymology may help here. "Denn" is followed by a main clause, "weil" is followed by a subordinate clause. I (being German) would say that "denn" is somewhat stronger. However, you won't hear"denn" very often in spoken German, usually it will be "weil".

  • It should be noted that current usage is changing fast so that weil is used with the word order of denn, no matter how strongly language purists object. In twenty years the question will be moot. Commented May 1, 2018 at 5:03
  • Well, - "Ich kann nicht kommen, weil ich habe keine Zeit." - sth like this is generally still regarded as wrong. However it can be heard quite often: typical German spoken by migrants, especially from Turkey. Commented May 1, 2018 at 10:17

A clause with denn is less dependent of the main clause, which may even be missing or in a separate sentence. The fact that the word order is the same as in a main clause is in accordance with this.

Because of this denn can be used if a clause is not only there to substantiate the main clause but if it's an important statement in its own right.

As a side note, there is a similar pair of words in English: Because and for. Because corresponds to weil, and for (as a conjunction) is similar to denn.

Compare common translations of Matthew 7:13:

[...] Denn die Pforte ist weit und der Weg ist breit, der zur Verdammnis führt, und viele sind's, die auf ihm hineingehen.


[...] For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

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