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I asked a question about this very same sentence earlier, but this is a different question about it. I have this sentence:

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

The main clause is "so erkläre ich Ihnen". Since it is in second position, the verb "erkläre" should come first. However, "so" comes first. Why is "so" allowed to do this?

  • This is like "wenn, dann". – Carsten S Jan 13 '14 at 19:18
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    You ought to remove einen. Then you can also remove so and the sentence remains valid. As so often with words like "so", "dann", "denn", "doch" etc., the tone of the sentence changes slightly when adding (or removing) them. – Ingo Jan 13 '14 at 23:56
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Wenn …, so … and Wenn …, dann … are fixed expressions syntactically different from Wenn …,… but semantically equal (with slightly different connotations).

You can think of the wenn-subclause as attributive clauses of the adverbial so/dann. Attributive clauses don't take up a position in the sentence structure.

Without the adverbial so/dann, the wenn-subclause becomes an adverbial itself and takes up a position in the sentence structure.

Consequently, all three following sentences are valid and mean the same (with slightly different connotations):

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

Wenn Sie es wissen müssen, dann erkläre ich Ihnen, dass ich einen Besuch gehabt habe.

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

  • Or using the subject "Wer früh aufsteht, der hat mehr vom Tag." – Emanuel Jan 13 '14 at 19:25

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