I have a question about sentence structure. I found a sentence like this,

Wenn Sie es wissen muessen, so erkläre ich Ihnen, dass ich einen Besuch gehabt habe.

My question is about the first clause. If I were to write

"You must know it", I would say "Sie müssen es wissen". Why then does it become "wissen müssen" when I say "If you must know it ..." ?

  • "Besuch" is not usually used with an indefinite article in German. You'd just drop the article: "...dass ich Besuch gehabt habe."
    – elena
    Jan 13 '14 at 9:34
  • The main clause is "so erkläre ich Ihnen [object]. Just because it is the first clause that doesn't make the knowing part the main clause.
    – Emanuel
    Jan 13 '14 at 17:10
  • @elena That's just what the book said. It's from Assimil. I don't know.
    – user4723
    Jan 13 '14 at 19:32

"Wenn" is a subordinating conjunction like "weil" and "dass" and hence the verb needs to be placed at the end when this is used.

Wenn ich genug Geld hätte, dann...

  • But the second half of the sentence also begins with a subordinating conjunction (dass), so I'm confused.
    – user4723
    Jan 13 '14 at 1:21
  • 1
    You can have two subordinating conjunctions in a sentence. If you wanted to say "if I had known, that I had enough money" that would also be a similar construct "wenn ich gewusst hätte, dass ich genug Geld hatte". Hope that helps.
    – user5105
    Jan 13 '14 at 1:29
  • @KorganRivera The Sentence structure here is [Subclause 1 Level A, Main Clause, Subclause 2 Level A] Both subclauses reference the main clause so erkläre ich Ihnen. The example in user5105's comment has the structure [Subclause Level A, Subclause Level B, Main clause (missing)]. The second subclause dass ich genug Geld hatte is referencing the first subclause instead of the main clause.
    – Toscho
    Jan 13 '14 at 8:33

To begin I will point out that your original sentence isn't a full sentence (right now it roughly translates to "If you must know that I've had a visit.") But the entirety of the sentence isn't in question.


Wenn Sie es wissen müssen

because wenn is a subordinating conjunction which means that all verbs in the clause following wenn come at the end (if there's more than 1 they come in reverse order from how they'd normally appear.

Wenn er ankommt, gehen wir heim (normal: Er kommt an)

Wenn Sie das wirklich wissen wollen... (normal: Sie wollen das wirklich wissen)

Wenn du das Haus bauen lassen willst... (normal: Du willst das Haus bauen lassen)

  • You're right: I missed out part of that sentence. I have corrected it.
    – user4723
    Jan 13 '14 at 1:32

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy