Coordinating conjunctions


The most important coordinating conjunctions are:
aber but
denn because
oder or
sondern but (following a negative statement)
und and

Meaning and most common usage

• aber is equivalent to the English ‘but’ and contrasts information from the first clause with the second clause:
Wir wollten in München leben, aber das war uns zu teuer.
We wanted to live in Munich but it was too expensive for us.

• denn introduces the second clause, which gives a reason for the action or event of the first clause and usually corresponds to the English ‘because’:
Dieses Buch kann man nicht mehr kaufen, denn es ist vergriffen.
You cannot buy this book any more because it is out of print.

• oder expresses an alternative or contrast, like the conjunction ‘or’ in English:
Gehen wir ins Kino oder bleiben wir zu Hause?
Are we going to the cinema or are we staying at home?

• sondern expresses the notion of ‘but . . . (instead)’ and is used after a negative statement in the first clause:
Stuttgart liegt nicht in Bayern, sondern in Baden-Württemberg.
Stuttgart is not in Bavaria, but in Baden-Württemberg.

• und is the most frequently used conjunction in German und normally links words or two main clauses:
Er ernährte sich nur von Wasser und Brot.
He lived only on bread and water.
Sie studiert Medizin und ihre Schwester geht noch in die Schule.
She studies medicine and her sister is still at school.

Omitting the subject

When the same subject is used in clauses connected by und, aber and sondern it is often left out in the second clause:

Ich komme aus Frankfurt und (ich) bin ledig.
Wir wohnen nicht mehr in Bonn, sondern (wir) leben jetzt in Bremen.

Connecting subordinate clauses

Although und, aber, oder and sondern usually link main clauses, they can also be used to connect two subordinate clauses:
Ich hoffe, dass man nicht lange warten muss und dass es nicht zu viel kostet.
I hope that you don’t have to wait long and that it doesn’t cost too much.