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Here are two examples:

A) Hallo, treffen wir uns am Donnerstag (außer Sie sind im Urlaub)?

B) Hallo, treffen wir uns am Donnerstag (außer Sie im Urlaub sind)?

Which order is correct and why? I heard that sometimes the verb "sein" is put at the end of the clause or sentence; could this only be with dependent clauses which is then how the verb is correctly organized into the order of the language? Please explain.

On the other hand, feel free to comment and correct the sentences as a whole if you believe it has been written improperly in other ways.

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    This has nothing to do with the verb "sein" - the question of where to place it is the same with any other non-separable verb.
    – RHa
    Dec 27, 2022 at 13:05

2 Answers 2

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Außer is a special case of a conjunction in German that can, by itself, only connect main clauses (that is your first example).

Hallo, wir treffen uns am Donnerstag, außer Sie sind im Urlaub.

If you want to connect a main clause with a subclause, außer needs the help of another conjunction like wenn or dass.

Hallo, wir treffen uns am Donnerstag außer wenn Sie im Urlaub sind.

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As noted in RHa's comment, it has nothing to do with the properties of sein but how außer is used. If you use außer wenn then the verb goes at the end since wenn is a subordinating conjunction. If you leave out the wenn then außer seems to act like a coordinating conjunction and the verb goes in second position (after Sie in this case). You seem to be using außer to mean "unless", but this use seems poorly documented at best. Bruce Duncan's site says specifically 'German has no word for "unless."' He recommends using a special subjunctive phrase es sei denn. But, at least in this case, you could use wenn with a negation, keeping in mind that wenn is still a subordinating conjunction and pushes the verb to the end: Hallo, treffen wir uns am Donnerstag (wenn Sie nicht im Urlaub sind)? Despite what Bruce Duncan says though, I could find quite a few examples where außer (as a coordinating conjunction) is used to mean "unless". Note that "unless" is a subordinating conjunction in English since a clause using it can be placed in front of the main clause. But by this criterion außer is a subordinating conjunction in German as well, going by the example (from NCIS subtitles) Außer Sie sagen uns, wo er ist, haben Sie nichts anzubieten. So, to tell the truth, I'm a bit confused on this issue myself. Perhaps this is an example of Denglish; subtitles aren't always the best examples of correct grammar, though they are often a better indicator of the way people actually talk. Anyway, I'm not sure if this counts as an answer so perhaps you should regard it as an extended comment.

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  • @Trendfischer - The reflexive pronoun with treffen, I forgot about that. I'll add it my answer as well.
    – RDBury
    Dec 27, 2022 at 13:46
  • The quoted statement "German has no word for unless" seems bullshit to me - of course it has, and it's außer (the Conjunction).
    – tofro
    Dec 27, 2022 at 14:54

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