Dass ich nicht lache!: Don't make me laugh!

I have come across this sentence and I would like to know what is the name of such grammar. How can I build such sentence? Is there a rule? Please explain to me. There is another sentence like it:

Dass du schon alles nicht weißt: Like you know everything (or something I don't know I just recalled this sentence from my memory and it probably has some mistakes).


Dass ihr mir nicht die Reparatur versaut!

Please help.

  • The first is a "Konjunktiv I" clause. The one in the middle is queer. The last one could grammatically be a "Konjunktiv I" or an "Imperativ".
    – user41853
    Jul 25 at 9:01
  • The 2nd example might have been like "Was Du nicht alles (schon) weißt!" Aug 4 at 13:50

Phrases like (1) Dass ich nicht lache! and (2) Dass ihr mir (ja) nicht die Reparatur versaut! are known as independent verb-final clauses (selbständige Verbletzt-Sätze). Four types of independent verb-final clauses are commonly distinguished (Truckenbrodt 2013: 233): independent subordinator phrases with dass, wenn, and ob, and those with a w interrogative pronoun (like wer, was, etc) in the sentence prefield. A few non-dass examples:

(3a) Wenn deine Frau das erfährt!
(3b) Wenn er bloß seine Medikamente regelmäßig einnimmt!
(4) Ob Katja an die Butter gedacht hat?
(5) [Person betritt einen Juwelierladen.] Was das wohl alles kostet?!

Verb-final clauses with ob or a w interrogative pronoun are considered "interrogative", those with dass and wenn "non-interrogative" (Truckenbrodt id). The epistemic mode of the clauses varies, and it varies even for the same subjunctor (eg exclamative (3a) vs optative (3b)). Clauses with dass are exclamative as in Dass das so einfach geht!, imperative as in (2), or optative as in Dass das mal gut geht!. Your example (1) is somewhere in between, ie there is no unique discernible epistemic mode, as also observed by Oppenrieder (1987: 180f).

The phenomenon is productive; an arbitrary number of utterances of the type (1)-(5) can be construed. I would agree with the other response, however, that (1) can be considered a set phrase with the meaning "That is laughable!". Nevertheless, in terms of grammar, it is constructed just like any ordinary dass independent verb-final clause.

The various types of independent verb-final clauses follow certain rules. Based on your example, I will focus on imperative dass constructions.

  • They allow for non-second-person recipients, unlike imperative mood: Dass du (ja) die Tür zumachst! Dass sie (ja) die Tür zumacht!.
  • They allow for impersonal passive constructions like Dass die Tür (ja) zugemacht wird!.
  • They typically occur alongside a very limited set of modal particles consisting of bloß, ja, and nur (Altmann 1987: 41). Meanwhile, other modal particles that are fine in an 'ordinary' imperative setting are barred (eg einfach, ruhig).
  • This probably corresponds to another characteristic of dass imperatives: The imperatives are always quite strong (Oppenrieder 1989: 196f). They always seem to carry an implicit notion of some adverse action being taking against the addressee (or some other terrible consequence looming for them) if the command is not obeyed: Dass ihr mir ja nicht die Reparatur versaut! [Sonst könnt ihr euer blaues Wunder erleben!]

Note that other types of independent VF clauses are subject to different rules.

Ellipsis? Independent verb-final clauses can be distinguished from situational ellipses like [Person A:] Kauf dir den Porsche! [Person B:] Obwohl der so teuer ist? (which work with a variety of adverbial connectors) by the latter requiring a matrix clause (Oppenrieder 1989: 169ff; Zifonun et al 1997: 612). (5) is also different from, say, [Person A:] Was interessiert dich daran? [Person: B:] Was das alles kostet, again due to the 'matrix reference' involved (Oppenrieder 1989: 171f). Meanwhile, whether independent verb-final clauses can themselves be considered ellipsis constructions is unclear. Without a doubt, it is tempting to look at (2), mentally add a matrix clause like Ich rate euch sehr, and then explain the result as the product of ellipsis. Several authors have, however, taken issue with such an approach. They point out, for example, that the prosodic structure differs (falling pattern in Ich rate euch sehr, dass ihr mir nicht die Reparatur versaut! vs rising pattern in Dass ihr mir nicht die Reparatur versaut!). Or that certain combinations with other connectors, such as und ob clauses (Und ob das geht!), cannot be expanded into canonical sentence patterns. But we will not be able to summarise the entire debate here, let alone settle it. See Truckenbrodt (2013: 234ff) for an introduction.

(Note that the second example in the question is incorrect, so I have ignored it in this answer.)

Further reading: Altmann, Zur Problematik der Konstitution von Satzmodi als Formtypen, in: Meibauer (ed), Satzmodus zwischen Grammatik und Pragmatik, 1987; Oppenrieder, Aussagesätze im Deutschen, in: Meibauer (ed), Satzmodus zwischen Grammatik und Pragmatik, 1987; Oppenrieder, Selbständige Verb-Letzt-Sätze: Ihr Platz im Satzmodussystem und ihre intonatorische Kennzeichnung, in Altmann et al (eds), Zur Intonation von Modus und Fokus im Deutschen, 1989. Truckenbrodt, Selbständige Verb-Letzt-Sätze, in Meibauer et al (eds), Satztypen des Deutschen, 2013.

  • Verbletzt nochmal. Wenn das nicht mal wirklich eine Qualitätsantwort ist!
    – HalvarF
    Jul 25 at 15:13
  • Wieso redet ihr jetzt wie Yoda ? :-)
    – user41853
    Jul 25 at 15:56
  • This answer would be much improved if it would liberate and share a link to the Oppenheimer paper, or quote the relevant bits, which the Altmeier paper, incidently in the same vokume, also referied to: "... auch hier lieft eine hichgradig idiomatisierte Textfunktion vor, die m. E. von der typischen Satzmodus-funktion zu trennen ist" (pg. 53, cf. fn. 10, pg. 28)
    – vectory
    Jul 29 at 4:01
  • Von Interesse wäre übrigens auch die Vorgeschichte solcher Formen, weshalb etwa anscheinbare Partikel als da wären ja und andere Adverbien, auch merkwürdiger Weise ein selbstreflexives mir, untypisch und in sofern optional, oft neben ja dass ir mir ja. Zu vermuten steht, es handele te sich um ein Pronomen, viz En. you, Fris. je, auch Sw. er (vgl. obsolete Höflichkeitsform zu Deutsch 3PSg Er leicht abfällig anstatt Sie oder Ihr). Dem nach wären die Verbmodi ja janz anders, und die Erklärungsnot der "Deutschen" Gesellschaft f. "Sprach" "Wissenschaft" in einem Atem zuge erklären
    – vectory
    Jul 29 at 4:20

These "sentences" are incomplete sentences (and they therefor don't really qualify to be called "sentences"). The technical term for this phenomenon is: ellipsis.

An ellipsis is a group of words that can be turned into a full sentence by adding some words. You can find ellipses in all languages, and you find more of them in spoken language than in written texts.

  • Ellipsis:

    Dass ihr mir nicht die Reparatur versaut!

  • Full sentence:

    Ich rate euch sehr, dass ihr mir nicht die Reparatur versaut!

You also might add other words to create a full sentence. The point is, that the message, that the speaker is sending will be received by the listener even if these words are missing. The purpose of language is to transport ideas from a sender to a receiver. It's not always necessary to put these ideas into full sentences. Very often ellipses will do this job too, and sometimes they do the job even better.

Some ellipses have been used so often and have such a clear meaning, that they converted to fixed phrases. These are groups of words, that are used in exactly this combination, and they have such a unambiguous meaning, that it just doesn't make sense to add additional words to blow them up to full sentences. Because if you do so, you destroy the very specific meaning of such a fixed phrase.

Here are some of these fixed phrases, that technically are ellipses:

Dass ich nicht lache!
Ein Bier, bitte.
Zahlen, bitte!
Jemand ohne Fahrschein?
Alles Walzer!
und jetzt?

  • Interjections aren't technically ellipses, and an ellipses is not a mere half-way grammatical word-group. It is literally a phrase ehere parts were elided, but you can't build a phrase from phrases that wrre elided without first building a phrase. First you need words.
    – vectory
    Jul 28 at 22:51
  • [cont.] That's of course not entirely true for abstracted symbols in a more general sense, that do tend to reduce a complex experience down to a repeatable, recognizable utterance first of all, thar
    – vectory
    Jul 28 at 23:22

Dass ich nicht lache!

Was du nicht alles weißt!

are fixed phrases. Just take it as expressions. Don't try to build a fixed phrase based on grammar rules.

However, since you added the example:

Dass ihr mir nicht die Reparatur versaut!

This one just follows a pattern that you can use to build similiar expressions. See @johnl's answer.

  • Perhaps is it some ellipse (some Hauptsatz might be omitted)?
    – c.p.
    Jul 22 at 20:25
  • »Don't ask for grammar« is a very bad advice on a website whose explicit purpose is to answer such questions. Jul 23 at 7:21
  • 1
    But they are built on grammar rules. May this be a case of "I can't see it on first sight, so it doesn't exist" ? Just asking, not insinuating ...
    – user41853
    Jul 25 at 10:07
  • 1
    @Olafant I didn' insult nobody, I was asking for a possibility. Some rules are in the answers. "..., dass ich nicht lache" follows the grammer of forming a Nebensatz, with 'lache' being the Konjunktiv 1 of lachen. There's no magic involved here. It is not a fixed phrase that stands alone, works without the negation, with weinen, rennen, and everything one can imagine dermaßen, dass ich mich wundere how one can say "there is no rule".
    – user41853
    Jul 25 at 11:52
  • 1
    @a_donda they are not synchronically constructed. They may be deconstructed, and they may have formed somewhen, but "dass ich nicht lache" in particular is releated as heard without any clear anticedent. It differs from the other ones, that can be reordered as main clause without further ado, Versaut mir nicht die Reparatur, and it is less than clesr whether this derives strictly from a subordinate clause or maybe closer-ly related to tbe origin of the sporadic dass-conjunction. They all stand alone inasmuch as rhey don't translate trivially although English has a near equivalent conjunction
    – vectory
    Jul 28 at 23:02

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