Verbs in subordinate clauses

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Dependent on a main clause
A subordinate clause has to be linked to a main clause as it cannot stand on its own:

Er fährt nach Frankfurt, weil er einen alten Freund besuchen möchte.
He is travelling to Frankfurt because he wants to visit an old friend.

In the above example the subordinate clause (. . ., weil er einen alten Freund besuchen möchte) shows its dependent character as it would not make sense without the preceding main clause (Er fährt nach Frankfurt, …).

Different types of subordinate clauses

A subordinate clause is usually introduced by a subordinate conjunction such as dass ‘that’, weil ‘because’ etc. Two other types of subordinate clauses are:

indirect questions which are introduced by ob ‘whether’ or question words such as wer ‘who’, warum ‘why’ etc. • relative clauses which are introduced by relative pronouns such as der ‘who’, deren ‘whose’ etc.

Finite verb – final position

In all types of subordinate clauses, the finite verb moves to the end of the clause. Note that the main and the subordinate clause are always separated by a comma:

Main clause                  Subordinate clause                  Finite verb
Ich denke,                     dass er aus Berlin                     kommt.
Das ist der Mann,         der einen Volvo                         fährt.
Ich weiß nicht,               warum sie schlechte Laune     hat.

More than one verb in a subordinate clause
In subordinate clauses with two verbs, the second verb appears before the finite verb:
Sie hofft, dass sie das Abschlussexamen bestehen wird.
She hopes that she will pass the final exam.

When using three verbs in a subordinate clause, the finite verb normally is at the end of the clause:
Ich weiß nicht, ob die E-Mail schon abgeschickt worden ist.
I don’t know whether the e-mail has been sent yet.