What is a proper German translation for the term "run-on sentence?" I found Band­wurm­satz, but Duden notes that this is scherzhaft, abwertend. Is there a professional word for the concept that could be used in an academic paper or in the workplace? Or is Band­wurm­satz okay?


4 Answers 4


There is no translation. I'd say use the term itself marking it as term. An explanation can be added if need be, but a "a name for a particular stylistic problem in English writing" could suffice, too. Depends on what the translation is to be used for.

The reason why there is no translation is that, as far as I know, German does not really have the concept of a run-on sentence. German punctuation is very different when it comes to commas. Besides the usual listing it does, the German comma basically separates predicates (which is also a listing of sorts). Hence, a sentence that contains two predicates (e.g. in two main clauses) is appropriately punctuated as soon as there is a comma.

Ich trinke Kaffee, sie trinkt Tee.

Ich esse gern, ich spiele gerne Schach (,) und ich fahre gern Fahrrad.

If those are run-on sentences, then German books are full of them, without it being in any way stylistic or without anyone even realizing that those are any different from others. Without the comma, those sentences are just wrongly punctuated and that's it.

All the suggestions of the others are wrong:

  • Bandwurmsatz: this is just a long and complex sentence.
  • Zusammengesetzer Satz: this is a sentence that consists of more than one clause.
  • asyndetischer parataktischer Satz: this roughly matches the English comma splice run-on sentence but does miss the ones without any comma at all.
  • ausgeprägter hypotaktischer Satzbau: this is just a complicated sentence with several levels of sub-clauses. Since the definition of run-on sentence talks about main clauses, this has nothing to do with it.
  • You might also give the definition of run-on sentence that your answer is based on.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 22, 2014 at 16:36

I assume the following definition of run-on sentence:

A sentence consisting of two or more independent clauses that are not joined by a conjunction.

The academic term for this would probably be asyndetischer parataktischer Satz. A parataxis is a series of independent sentences which are on the same level. An asyndeton is a list that is not joined by conjunctions but only by punctuation. Finally Satz indicates that all this is happening in one sentence.

Unless your workplace is crowded with linguists, you might refrain from using asyndetischer parataktischer Satz there. I would just describe the concept in a few words, e.g.:

Eine Aneinanderreihung von Hauptsätzen, die nicht durch Konjunktionen verbunden sind.

Zusammengesetzer Satz also includes other paratactic sentences (e.g., those joined by conjunctions).

Bandwurmsatz is a pejorative¹ word for sentence that is long and complicated due to many (often multiply) nested subclauses and similar elements. Particularly, a Bandwurmsatz has to include hypotactic elements like subclauses and may not be purely paratactic. Thus, a run-on sentence only qualifies for being a Bandwurmsatz, if one of its components already is a Bandwurmsatz. Also consider the following example, which is a run-on sentence, but very short:

Ich kam, ich sah, ich siegte. – Veni, vidi, vici.

¹ Though not vulgar. It’s usually fine to use this word to critise a sentence while copy editing, for example.

  • 1
    asyndetischer parataktischer Satz ... that would be a run-on sentence with comma splice only. And not every "asyndetischer parataktischer Satz" is considered a run-on sentence as far as I know.
    – Emanuel
    Jan 22, 2014 at 12:26
  • @Emanuel: Please consider the definition of run-on sentence I was giving. The OP has to decide, whether this is what he had in mind.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 22, 2014 at 12:55

There's not one word for it, but the concise translation is:

fortlaufender Satz

You need to visualize the definition of "run-on sentence". It means, that a second (or even third, or forth) sentence is following the first one, without that a conjunction or punctuation separates them. The point is, that the sentence just runs on – in German weiterlaufen or fortlaufen.

The comma splice is an exception that proves the rule and is considered as a "run-on sentence". But whether a sentence is a "run-on sentence" or not, is not part of this particular question.

That discussion, however, does not have any effect on the translation of "run-on sentence" at all and the translation is simply: fortlaufender Satz.


Dont use Bandwurmsatz. Though it means a "long sentence" it is basically a way of making fun of that. It refers to an illness or a long worm called Bandwurm (see Spiegel).

If you want to be really professional here you could also use something like

ausgeprägter hypotaktischer Satzbau

which means that a way of contructing sentences is used that produces extra-long sentences.

As far as I am concerned this would be the most scientific and professional way of saying what you want to say.

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