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10 Useful German Transition Words

If you’re going to be speaking German in your daily life, you need to learn German transition words so that you can piece together an excuse with a long sentence.

After all, sometimes the smallest words can make the difference between a beginner or an intermediate/advanced speaker.

So learn these 10 transition words and soon you’ll find it easy to excuse yourself in Deutschland!


1.  Vorher Before

Note: Vorher and vor both mean “before,” but they are used differently in German. Vorher is used as an adverb to indicate that something happened before a specific point in time. Vor is a preposition that triggers the dative case. Here’s an example:

Ich habe ein Buch gelesen und vorher habe ich eine Serie geschaut.
(I read a book, and before that I watched a TV series.)

Vor dem Treffen, habe ich Kaffee getrunken.
(Before the meeting, I drank coffee.)

Let’s practice! All right. You’ve been late for everything else since you moved to Germany, but this time, you’re going to make it on time. You’ve arranged to meet your German friend at the Flohmarkt (flea market) at noon, and you’re going to be there 15 minutes early. You checked the train schedule last night, and it said that the S-bahn you needed was coming at 10:32.

But now, your app says it’s coming at 10:45! Oh boy, you know how this goes—the first mishap in a series of events that leads to your lateness. You’re going to have to tell your friend that while the train was on time before, things have changed.

So you say:

Der Zug war verspätet, aber vorher war er pünktlich.
(The train was late, but before it was on time.)

2.  Danach After

Note: Nachher and nach are similar to vorher and vor. Nach is used as a preposition that triggers the dative, and danach is an adverb. Here’s an example:

Nach dem Unfall ist er nicht mit dem Auto gekommen.
(After the accident he didn’t come by car.)

Ich habe meine Hausaufgaben gemacht und danach habe ich geschlafen.
(I did my homework, and after that I slept.)

Let’s practice! You hurry out to the station, and see that the train is now coming at 11. What’s going on? All right, you’re going to have to relate this second component of the story to your friend, and tell her that after you got to the station, the situation changed.

So you say:

Ich bin zum Bahnhof gegangen und danach habe ich gesehen, dass der Zug um 11 kommt.
(I went to the station, and after I saw that the train comes at 11.)

3.  Weil Because

Note: In any sentence with the word weil, you’ll have a main clause and a subordinate clause—the one that begins with weil. In subordinate clauses in German, you always put the conjugated verb at the end. Therefore, with a weil clause, always make sure to put the verb at the end. Here’s an example:

Ich bin müde, weil ich nicht gut geschlafen habe.
(I am tired, because I didn’t sleep well.)

Let’s practice! So what’s going on here? Why do the train times keep changing? Then you realize what’s going on. Yes, public transportation in Europe is great, except for a certain time: when the workers go on strike. You’ve finally realized the reason for the train’s weird antics, which means you’re going to have a big “because” to tell your friend.

So you say:

Der Zug war verspätet, weil es einen Streik gibt.
(The train was late because there’s a strike.)

4.  (Immer) noch Still

Note: There’s a subtle difference between immer noch and noch, although they both can be translated with “still.” In general, immer noch stresses time or continuity and has a stronger attitude than plain old noch, which is perfect for our next example!

Let’s practice! You wait and wait at the station. Eleven o’clock goes by. Now the train’s coming at 11:10. What’s going on? It’s still not there?

So you say:

Ich habe gewartet und gewartet und der Zug war immer noch nicht da.
(I waited and waited, and the train was still not there.)

5.  Deshalb Therefore

Note: Remember how in #3, you put the verb at the end of the weil clause, because it was a subordinate clause? A clause that begins with deshalb requires a different construction. In these clauses, the conjugated verb always appears in second position, the same way it does in a main clause. Here’s an example:

Ich bin müde, deshalb möchte ich schlafen.
(I am tired, therefore I would like to sleep.)

Let’s practice! At 11:15, you decide it’s time to cut your losses. You’ll hurry home, grab your bike and go meet your friend that way. The train has failed you.

So you say:

Der Zug ist nicht gekommen, deshalb habe ich mich entschieden, mein Fahrrad zu benutzen.
(The train didn’t come, therefore I decided to use my bicycle.)

6.  Ganz im Gegenteil On the contrary

Let’s practice! You grab your bike and start riding. You thought it would save you and allow you to meet your friend on time. But the air in your tires is pretty low, making it hard to pedal fast, especially on cobblestones. And you seem to be hitting every red light between here and the Flohmarkt.

You start to unspool this new part of the story in your head: You’d thought the bike would get you there on time, but on the contrary…

So you say:

Ganz im Gegenteil, mein Fahrrad hat meine Reise verlängert.
(On the contrary, my bike made my journey longer.)

Since transition words like this one are often said in everyday speech, you can listen to them in context on FluentU. 

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7.  Aber But

Note: Along with und (and), aber is one of the few conjunctions in German that does not require you to change the word order in the following clause. The word order remains the same as in the main clause. The verb does not move to second position or to the end. Here’s an example:

Ich möchte gehen, aber ich habe zu viel zu tun.
(I would like to go, but I have too much to do.)

Let’s practice! You can’t keep biking on tires this flat. You swing over to your favorite bike store, only to find it shuttered tight. Yes, you forgot: It’s Sunday, the day when Flohmärkte are open and every single other store is closed.

So you say:

Ich habe einen Fahrradladen besucht, aber er war geschlossen!
(I went to a bike store, but it was closed!)

8.  Schließlich Finally

Let’s practice! It’s time for drastic measures. The train didn’t work. Your bike didn’t work. There’s only one option left: Take a cab or an Uber. Finally, you’ve reached this expensive (and therefore distasteful) solution.

So you say:

Schließlich habe ich mich entschlossen, ein Taxi zu finden.
(Finally I decided to find a cab.)

9.  Bald Soon

Let’s practice! You’re in the cab, stuck in traffic because everyone else is driving due to the strike, and it’s 11:40. You decide it’s time to drop the charade that you’re going to be there on time, and text your friend. When are you going to be there, though? No idea! The traffic’s pretty bad. Maybe if you say you’ll be there soon, that’s ambiguous enough.

So you say: 

Entschuldigung, ich bin zu spät dran, aber ich komme bald!
(Sorry, I’m late, but I’m coming soon!)

10.  Trotzdem Nevertheless

Note: Trotzdem works the same as deshalb; the verb goes to the second position in a clause beginning with trotzdem. Here’s an example:

Es ist kalt, trotzdem gehe ich spazieren.
(It’s cold, nevertheless I’m going for a walk.)

Let’s practice! Your cab arrives at the Flohmarkt at 12:10. Despite your best efforts and your determination not to be late, you’ve done it again. You scan the crowd for your friend, practicing how you’re going to tell her that even though you left early, nevertheless, you just can’t seem to show up on time.

So you say:

Ich bin früh abgereist, trotzdem konnte ich nicht pünktlich ankommen. Es ist wie verhext! 
(I left early, nevertheless I couldn’t come on time. Maybe there’s a curse!)

But then you check your phone, and see a response from your friend. She’s not here yet! The S-bahn strike messed up her plans too. For once, you’re not the last one to arrive somewhere!


And there you go! You’ve managed to practice 10 important German transition words that will serve you well in plenty of  scenarios.

And One More Thing...

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