Is the word following a comma, used, as in English, as a mark to join two independent clauses, indicating a pause being shorter than a period but longer than a semicolon, capitalized?

Example: Es wäre gut, diese Grammatikregel zu befolgen: Denn damit würden viele Sätze besser.

Further, may ? and ! be used to join two independent clauses, or to introduce an exclamation/remark?

Example: Siehe! mit allen davon würden wir sicherlich bessere Sätze schreiben!

Example: Wer hatte es geschrieben? An wen wurde es adressiert?

Vielen Dank für Ihre Hilfe!

  • 1
    In the first sentence, do you actually mean "comma", or rather "colon"? Commented Jul 9 at 22:15

1 Answer 1


There is a simple rule of thumb: a sentence is ended by:

. ! and ?

Sometimes this "ended sentence" is inclomplete, like in the exclamation in your example, but however, after such an interpunction a new sentence begins and therefore the next word (beginning the sentence) is capitalized, regardless of which word it is.

Your example needs to be corrected:

Siehe! Mit allen davon wuerden wir sicherlich bessere Saetze schreiben!

Another rule: ":" does NOT end a sentence but joins two parts which are equal (quite like this, where one side reads "another rule" and the other side explicates what this rule actually is). It follows that the continuation after a colon is not capitalized because of that. (Nouns, etc. are capitalized nevertheless, but that is because they are are always capitalized.)

Es wäre gut, diese Grammatikregel zu befolgen: damit würden viele Sätze besser.

Notice that I also removed the "denn". Either you use a relative sentence, then you don't use a colon, or you use a colon - but then what follows after it is not a relative sentence and doesn't need a conjunction. Correct usage of the colon is like the equal sign in mathematics: the left and the right side are meant to be equal.

(There is indeed an exception to this when the colon separates the introduction and the speech part of direct speech:

Er sagte zu mir: "Da hast du recht!"

The direct speech part and the introductory part are viewed as two differnt sentences and hence both capitalized.)

Lastly, rules for commas: this is a complex field and not handled as laid back in German as it is in English. Yes, in most cases the comma is pronounced with a little pause, but that is not the only point. Sometimes the comma is altering the meaning completely:

Wir essen jetzt, Oma!
Wir essen jetzt Oma!

The first means "We will eat now, grandma!", the second one means "We will now eat grandma!" At least in German correct interpunction sometimes saves lives.

Here is a prominent example, a lawsuit resulted:

Karl Kraus, a poet, had written a poem. It was 1933 and Hitler had been just elected german chancellor:

Man frage nicht, was all' die Zeit ich machte.
Ich bleibe stumm;
und sage nicht, warum.
Und Stille gab es, da die Erde krachte.
Kein Wort, das traf;
man spricht nur aus dem Schlaf.
Und träumt von einer Sonne, welche lachte.

A newspaper quoted the poem and forgot the comma:

Kein Wort das traf.

Kraus sued them for defamation, because what he wrote meant that "(to) not (say/write) a word" was the fitting reaction whereas what they made of it meant that he couldn't find a fitting word - quite the difference! One of the few people actually understanding the difference was Bert Brecht, who wrote in Kraus' defence:

Als der Beredte sich entschuldigte
Daß seine Stimme versage
Trat das Schweigen vor den Richtertisch
Nahm das Tuch vom Antlitz und
Gab sich zu erkennen als Zeuge.

A less heavy and world-shaking one is this:

Er will sie nicht. He doesn't want her.
Er will, sie nicht. He wants (to), she doesn't.

The basic rule is to separate by commas:

  • main and relative sentences

Das ist, was ich gemeint habe.

  • main sentences, if they are not separated by certain conjunctions ("und", "oder",)

Das haben wir gleich, es geht schnell.
Das haben wir gleich und es geht schnell.

  • enumerations and lists

Zum Kochen braucht man Zutaten, Zeit und Nerven.

  • Small correction: If a colon is followed by complete sentence, this sentence is capitalized: "Er hat mir gesagt: Gehe nach Hause und trinke ein Bier!". The colon is kind of a chameleon: If an enumeration follows, we write lower case. Commented Jul 10 at 11:03
  • @user1934428: sorry, but I don't know this rule. Do you have a source for that? In your example the capitalization is necessary because it is direct speech. This is indeed a special case I forgot to mention - and will add.
    – bakunin
    Commented Jul 10 at 11:07
  • For instance here or here, or here. The last one lists interesting exceptions from the rule. Commented Jul 10 at 11:17

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.