Als Kind habe ich Klavier gespielt.

This question is actually a follow-up to: Was ist "als" in "als Kind" für eine Wortart?. It was said that als is a conjunction. There are, however, two types of conjunctions: coordinating and subordinating, and I am not sure which type als is, since there is no verb in the als-phrase.

Should I treat the phrase Als Kind as ellipsis of Als ich Kind war, and therefore categorize the conjunction as subordinating? Or should I rather categorize it as coordinating because of the lack of the verb?

  • In this case it's a (timeline) comparison. The ellipsis is: Als Kind (,- und nicht jetzt -,). – πάντα ῥεῖ Oct 14 '20 at 8:53
  • @πάνταῥεῖ Ok, but what about hypothetical cases? "Als Kunde wäre ich verärgert, als Investor bin ich zufrieden." – Sentry Oct 14 '20 at 9:58

If the point of assigning words to parts of speech is to be able to predict how the word behaves, calling als in uses such as the one you mentioned a conjunction is not helpful.

Conjunctions are words that at least potentially link clauses to other clauses. The distinction between subordinating and coordinating conjunctions is then based on the form the clause containing the conjunction takes. Subordinating conjunctions occur in a fixed position at the beginning of subordinate clauses; coordinating conjunctions occur in a position that is further to the left still.

Sie wollte wissen, wann der Kurs beginnt und ob er eine Gebühr kostet.

In this example, ob links the subordinate clause to the main clause and und links the two subordinate clauses to each other.

However, als in your example does not connect two clauses. Rather, als Kind functions as an adjunct or modifier. The meaning is not always temporal:

Als Kind kann man sich damit trösten, dass man irgendwann erwachsen ist.
Man hat auch als Kind Rechte.

Personally, I consider preposition the closest traditional part of speech. However, unlike prepositions, words such as als and wie do not govern case; rather, they agree with the phrase they modify (if they modify a noun phrase).

Sie vererbte ihm als jungem Mann ein Vermögen.
Er erbte als junger Mann ein Vermögen.

A modern term for words such as als and wie is Adjunktor (see, for instance, Grammis).


The categorization between nebenordnenden and unterordnenden conjunctions in German is simply:

Die nebenordnenden Konjunktionen verbinden zwei Hauptsätze, zwei Nebensätze oder zwei Satzteile miteinander

Die unterordnenden Konjunktionen verbinden einen Hauptsatz mit einem Nebensatz

In your example, there is no subclause, so the answer should obviously be "nebenordnend". In your re-formed phrase, there is a subclause, so it's "unterordnend". This example also shows how useful these categories are in German.

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