Two-Part Conjunctions

Overview

Two-part conjunctions, also known as compound conjunctions, are used to describe the relationship between two things or two situations. The first part of a two-part conjunction can be placed in various places in a sentence, but the second part is always in the same place (oder and aber stay in position 0).

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1. What is a conjunction?

A conjunction is a word that is used to connect words, sentences or clauses together. In English and in German, there are coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions. It is important to keep in mind that subordinating conjunctions in German change the word order in the subordinate clause. 

2. What is a two-part conjunction

Two-part conjunctions are conjunctions that are typically used together, such as “either… or”, or “both… and”. Many two-part conjunctions in German have similar English equivalents, but it is important to always pay close attention to how they may affect word order in German.

3. Common German Two-Part Conjunctions

    a. entweder… oder   (either… or)
“entweder…oder” is used almost identically as “either…or”. “entweder” can be at the beginning of the sentence, or right before one of the options given. “oder” is usually at the beginning of the second clause, or before the second choice given. 

It is important to note that “Entweder” at the beginning of the sentence can, but doesn’t always change the word order. Typically, when putting something other than the subject in position one, the verb subject slips behind the subject. That rule is sometimes obeyed when using “entweder”, but not always. 


Examples:
Entweder wir gehen ins Kino, oder wir bleiben zu Hause. / Entweder gehen wir…
Either we go to the movies, or we stay at home. 

Du kannst mir entweder zwei 50-Euro Scheine, oder einen 100-Euro schein geben. 
You can either give me two 50-Euro bills, or one 100-Euro bill. 

   b. weder… noch (neither… nor)
Similarly to “entweder… oder”, “weder” can be used at the beginning of the sentence or the first option, and “noch” before the second option. However, if “weder” is at the beginning of the sentence, the subject has to be placed behind the verb (unlike “entweder”). 

Examples:
Wir gehen weder ins Kino noch ins Theater. 
We are neither going to the movies nor the theater. 

Weder hat der Laden Getränke, noch Lebensmittel. 
Neither does the store have drinks, nor (does it have) food. 


   c. “sowohl… als auch” (as well as/ both… and)
“Sowohl… als auch” can either be translated with the “as well as”, or “both… and”. In English, “as well as” is usually placed before the second ‘item’ (We serve drinks as well as food). “both… and” is used the same way as “sowohl… als auch”

Examples:
Wir gehen sowohl ins Kino als auch ins Theater. 
We are going both to the movies and the theater.


  d. “nicht nur… sondern auch” (not only… but (also)
“nicht nur… sondern auch” translates directly to “not only… but also” and is used the same way in English as it is in German, with a couple of exceptions: When putting “Nicht nur” at the beginning of the sentence, the subject slips behind the verb. 
“sondern auch” is split up when another verb and subject are used in the second clause.

Examples:
Der Laden hat nicht nur Getränke, sondern auch Lebensmittel.. 
The store not only has drinks, but also food. 

Nicht nur fahren wir mit dem Bus , sondern wir fahren auch mit dem Zug. 
Not only do we ride the bus, but also the train.  

   e. “einerseits… andererseits” (one the one hand… one the other hand)
When using “einerseits… andererseits”, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. We can put “einerseits” at the beginning of the sentence, moving the subject behind the verb, or we can put it before the first ‘item”. “andererseits” will do the same thing if placed in position one of the second clause, and that is where it is most commonly used. (it is less common to place it before the second ‘item”. 

Examples:
Einerseits will ich nach Spanien, andererseits will ich nach Italien. 
One the one hand I want to go to Spain, on the other hand I want to go to Italy. 


f. “mal… mal” (sometimes… sometimes)
“mal… mal” affects the word order the same was as “einerseits… andererseits”. The first mal is most commonly placed at the beginning of the sentence (changing verb and subject), but can be placed before the first ‘item’. The second “mal” is typically placed at the beginning of the second clause, also changing verb and subject. 

Examples:
Mal scheint die Sonne, mal regnet es. 
Sometimes the sun shines, sometimes it rains. 


   g. “teils… teils” (partly… partly). 
Like the two previous examples, the first part of this two-part conjunctions can either be placed at the beginning of the sentence, switching verb and subject, or before the first item. The second “teils” is typically placed at the beginning of the second clause, also switching verb and subject, should those be used. 

Examples: 
Die Statue besteht teils aus Marmor, teils aus Zement. 
The statue is made (lit. consists) partly of marble, partly of cement. 

Teils geht es in dem Film um den Mann, teils geht es um seinen Sohn. 
The movie is partly about the man, and partly about his son. 

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:
Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
Specific Capabilities at this Level
Writing:
I can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. I can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions.
Spoken Production:
I can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, my dreams, hopes and ambitions. I can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. I can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe my reactions.
Spoken Interaction:
I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events).
Reading:
I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.
Listening:
I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programs on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.