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Here are two sentences from my grammar textbook: 1)"Ich musste zu Fuß nach Hause gehen, weil ich die letzte Straßenbahn verpasst hatte"; 2)"Du musst langsam sprechen, weil der versteht nicht viel". The book states that in the former, "weil" is used to introduce a subordinate clause while in the latter, "weil" is used to introduce a second independent (coordinate) clause. My question is why is that? I thought that any Kausalsatz is a Nebensatz.

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    What book is that? May 19, 2023 at 16:18

3 Answers 3

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Short answer: The second one is colloquial, something inbetween main and secondary clause and not a Kausalsatz, it is unclear what weil is (Duden uses the term "Operator" for them) and lastly the second weil can be used in 3 different ways, while the Kausalsatz-weil only knows one usage: The cause.


1 uses "weil" as a subjunction and 2 uses "weil" as a.. what exactly?.

Whether it is a subjunction or conjunction, Duden is not clear about. At one point, they refer to it as a conjunction ( Randnummer 1696 ), at another, as a >subjunction< (note the characters around it, Randnummer 2017), but also sorting it (and others like obwohl) into a speech-only category called Operators. From the positioning, you can call it a conjunction. It is positioned in front of the first part of the clause.

2 is only correct in everyday language (i.e. colloquial language).
In standard German, whether spoken or written, "weil" cannot be used like this - "denn" would be the best alternative for your sentence, as an example.


But is 2 independent? And why is it not a Kausalsatz?
It gets complicated from here on.

a. You can only use 2 in post-position to another sentence. Does that mean that it is independent? It's certainly not a main clause, because those can stand alone. That's why I would say that your book is wrong.

But it uses a conjunction.. or a subjunction? So... is it a secondary clause or not? From my understanding, this is just not clear. Maybe it is one of the types of sentence which fit in neither category: Neither main, nor secondary. A number of sentences exist with this problem, so it's not unreasonable to assume that.

b. 2 gives the reason, which not necessarily has to be the cause.

Der fährt bescheuert, weil er fährt Schlangenlinien.,

In this sentence, no cause was given, just the reason for the observation in the first sentence.
As a third usage, suggestions can also be reasoned for using weil

Wieso machst du nicht den Abwasch, weil die Teller sind dreckig.

This demonstrates how verb-second clause with weil can't be called Kausalsatz, which have to include the cause.

Also, this is why almost all verb-last clauses with "weil" can be rewritten, but not the other way around.

+------------+--------------+-------------+
|            | --usually->  |             |
| Verb-last  |              | Verb-second |
|  (cause)   | <-sometimes- |  (reason)   |
+------------+--------------+-------------+

Dudenband 4, Randnummer 1696, 2017, 2021.

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  • Can you quote one of the Randnummern that make the verb in second position in the weil-clause "legal"? All examples sound wrong to me. May 19, 2023 at 18:45
  • @Raketenolli I put the randnummers at the end. No, I can't legally give you a quote from the book, as that would infringe copyright. May 19, 2023 at 19:10
  • @Raketenolli Be assured that I've only slightly altered the examples from the book to be safe. The basic meaning and structure is same or similar. The sentences should be both correct. Also keep in mind that these are in spoken language. Have you tried speaking them out loudly? Maybe this will sound better to you. May 19, 2023 at 19:27
  • It's unclear to me which part of your post comes from the Duden and what is your own writing. this is programming code btw, please use some other markup for quotes. --- The OP's example 2 is colloquial, but still wrong (from a more prescriptive than descriptive point of view, because people do speak that way). Your two examples sound weird to me, because weil introduces a Nebensatz with verb-last position, and like you said yourself, weil describes a cause or reason. Er fährt Schlangenlinien is not a cause for Der fährt bescheuert. ... May 19, 2023 at 19:47
  • In your second example, the first part is actually a question, so you'd typically say Warum machst Du nicht den Abwasch? Die Teller sind dreckig. (or, if you absolutely need a weil: Ich frag ja nur, weil die Teller dreckig sind.) May 19, 2023 at 19:48
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The second is actually not "good" (prescriptivist) grammar as it is taught in the grammar books.

It is still very commonly used among native speakers in spoken language. Then it has the same meaning as "denn".

Further reading: Weil das ist ein Nebensatz

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Your book is correct. Grammatically speaking, the first «weil» clause is a constituent of the main sentence introduced by a subordinating conjunction, whereas the second «weil» clause is another main sentence linked to the first one by a coordinating conjunction.

The movement test proves that the first «weil» clause is a constituent. The «weil» clause can be moved into the «Vorfeld», that is, into the position before the finite verb:

  1. Ich musste zu Fuss nach Hause gehen, weil ich die letzte Strassenbahn verpasst hatte.
  2. Weil ich die letzte Strassenbahn verpasst hatte, musste ich zu Fuss nach Hause gehen.

A clause that is a constituent of another sentence is a subordinated clause. Conjunctions that introduce such clauses, like «weil» in your first example, are called subordinating conjunctions.

The second «weil» clause cannot be moved to the Vorfeld:

  1. Du musst langsam sprechen, weil der versteht nicht viel.
  2. Ungrammatical: * Weil der versteht nicht viel, musst du langsam sprechen.

The replacement test shows that in the second «weil» clause, you can use typical coordinating conjunctions instead of the «weil»:

  1. Du musst langsam sprechen, (denn|aber|und) der versteht nicht viel.

This means that «weil» in your second example is a coordinating conjunction.

Coordinating conjunctions link two clauses of the same order, in this case, main sentences. They add some semantics to the kind of relationship between the two sentences, specifying whether there is causality, contrast, or mere concomitance. But even if the second sentence is in a causal relation to the first one, it would not be called Kausalsatz. Kausalsatz only refers to a subordinated clause that is a causal adverbial in the main sentence it is a constituent of.

Furthermore, conjunctions like «und», «denn», or «aber» are not constituents of the sentences they introduce. If they were constituents, they would occupy the Vorfeld exclusively:

  1. Ungrammatical: * Du musst langsam sprechen, (denn|aber|und) versteht der nicht viel.

Instead, the Vorfeld is occupied by a regular constituent (in your example, by «der»). Therefore, including the conjunction when looking at the sentence in isolation does not make much sense. The sentence would just be «der versteht nicht viel».

And of course, the use of «weil» as a coordinating conjunction is considered a colloqualism, as the others have already pointed out.

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  • You recite a lot of basic knowledge but it's unclear how the second clause can be a main clause if it can only be used in post-position of another sentence, and never alone. This does not fit the definition of an independent main clause. May 20, 2023 at 14:41
  • @EagleFliesBanana: You are mistaking the coordinating conjunction to be a part of the sentence it introduces. It is not, as I have shown. The second sentence is «Der versteht nicht viel», perfectly acceptable as an independent main clause. Just compare a simple example like «er kam und sie ging». The second sentence is «Sie ging», and the coordinating conjunction und just links the two sentences together.
    – mach
    May 20, 2023 at 15:38
  • Ok, I am going to rework my understanding. May 20, 2023 at 16:32

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