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In the following sentence, is the word order after "denn" correct? I thought that after the word "denn", the verb is supposed to be in the second position?

Als Hassobjekt war er beständiger als Eurasien oder Ostasien, denn wenn Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg führte, hielt es mit der anderen gemeinhin Frieden.

From the new German translation of the novel 1984 (author: George Orwel, translator of this version: Jan Strümpel)

So in the above sentence, do we understand to mean that "wenn Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg führte" is position 1 and then the verb "hielt" is in the second position?

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  • Can you give a reference to the rule you consider violated? It appears, that this may be an interference with main clause/sub clause and sentence order.
    – guidot
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 7:13
  • @CarstenS: Please do not used comments to answer questions. Please write proper answers. If you think your answer is not worth to be posted as a proper answer, then please don't post it at all. Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 8:27
  • @CarstenS: Why do you think you deserve polite behavior in response to unwanted behavior? Don't behave unwanted! By the way, your comment is rude. My response to your now for good reasons deleted answer-comment was not meant to be rude. I am sorry if you took it that way. What I wrote is just a short summary of german.stackexchange.com/help/privileges/comment. Don't blame me for you ignoring the rules! Commented Oct 22, 2022 at 6:46

4 Answers 4

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Yes, you are correct. The word "denn" is a Hauptsatzkonjunktion, everything after it is an independent clause that could stand alone:

Wenn Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg führte, hielt es mit der anderen gemeinhin Frieden.

Within this sentence, the part "Wenn Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg führte" is an Integrierter Nebensatz in Vorfeldstellung. Quoting from Wikipedia, such clauses

können ebenso wie Adverbiale anderer Form als Satzglied des Hauptsatzes [...] vorkommen.

So the adverbial clause as a whole is in the first position of the main clause, and the finite verb "hielt" is then in the correct second position.

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The word »denn« connects two full sentences. The full sentence before this word describes a state or an event, and the full sentence after it describes the reason for this state or event.

Markus kann heute nicht die Schule besuchen, denn er ist krank.
Markus cannot attend school today because he is sick.

  • First full sentence

    Markus kann heute nicht die Schule besuchen.
    Markus cannot attend school today.

  • Second full sentence

    Er ist krank.
    He is sick.

Both parts can stand alone as full sentences.

Your sentence:

Als Hassobjekt war er beständiger als Eurasien oder Ostasien, denn wenn Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg führte, hielt es mit der anderen gemeinhin Frieden.

As an object of hatred, it was more enduring than Eurasia or Eastasia, because when Oceania was at war with one of these powers, it commonly kept peace with the other.

  • First full sentence

    Als Hassobjekt war er beständiger als Eurasien oder Ostasien.
    As an object of hatred, it was more enduring than Eurasia or Eastasia.

  • Second full sentence

    Wenn Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg führte, hielt es mit der anderen gemeinhin Frieden.
    When Oceania was at war with one of these powers, it commonly kept peace with the other.

This second full sentence has a more complex inner structure than the full sentence from the first example, but that doesn't matter. Here the second full sentence begins with a conditional clause that is an supplement of the predicate of the main clause. The whole conditional clause behaves like the word »manchmal« = "sometimes". (It doesn't mean the same, it just behaves like it.)

Wenn Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg führte, hielt es mit der anderen gemeinhin Frieden.
When Oceania was at war with one of these powers, it commonly kept peace with the other.

Manchmal hielt es mit der anderen gemeinhin Frieden.
Sometimes it commonly kept peace with the other.

And because this conditional clause is a subordinate clause, the verb must be at the very end. There are three types of clauses, each has strict rules for the position of the verb:

  • subordinate clause with subordinate word order (verb at the very end):

    Wenn Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg führte, ...

  • main clause with word order for main clauses (verb at position 2):

    Ozeanien führte mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg.

  • Open question with word order for open questions (Verb at position 1):

    Führte Ozeanien mit einer dieser Mächte Krieg?

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denn is used to connect two main clauses and does not count as part of either clause itself. Therefore, the wenn-clause takes position 1 and "hielt" is in the 2nd position as it should be.

However, even as a native speaker I had to re-read this sentence. If I were to translate the English original (which I unfortunately do not know), I would personally opt for a variant that avoids having a wenn-clause directly after denn.

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The occurrence of wenn after denn is correct here.

"[1], denn wenn ..." translates to "[1], because when ...".

The word when starts an independent statement:

[1], because when Oceania was in war with one of these powers, it maintained peace with the other.

because connects the first statement [1] with the second statement, which begins with when and represents the substantiation of the first one.

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