“Well, I wanted to come on time, but I really couldn’t, because the train was late, and before that, I…”
We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had to make a long excuse for a late arrival or perceived slight.
And yes, it’s hard to unfurl a frantic excuse with a short sentence.
That’s why, 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 littlest words can make the difference between a beginner or an intermediate/advanced speaker.
So learn these ten transition words and soon you’ll find it easy to excuse yourself in Deutschland!
Why Excuses Are the Perfect Method to Practice German Transition Words
Excuses often involve long, panicked explanations—the best story in which to use a transition word.
As stated above, it’s nearly impossible to make a short excuse. Usually if you’re late for something or you’ve messed up, you’re panicked, and a long-winded excuse is just what you need to exorcise your adrenaline and try to convince the other person that you have a valid reason for showing up late.
In a new country, you’re likely to get lost and confused often, meaning you’ll need excuses.
New subway system? New city? New rules of the road? New grocery stores? Plus a new language? Look, moving to a new country involves a lot of mess-ups and confusions. And that’s okay! It just means you’ll have to know how to make an excuse in German, so use this exercise as an opportunity to figure out how.
Germans tend to be focused on rules and punctuality, so if you violate these, you just might need an excuse.
Some stereotypes have a ring of truth to them. Germans really do value punctuality and following the rules; it’s one of the reasons Germany is such a functional country. But if you come from a land where rules and punctuality are not as valued, well, you’ll find yourself making a lot of excuses.
10 German Transition Words to Make Excuses in Deutsche
Learn these German transition words and practice them when you’re making excuses, and you’ll be adept at excusing yourself and speaking in long sentences in no time.
English translation: 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 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.)
English translation: after
Note: Nachher and nach are similar to vorher and vor. Nach is used as a preposition that triggers 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.)
English translation: 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
English translation: 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.)
English translation: 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
English translation: 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 peddle 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.)
English translation: 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!)
English translation: 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.)
English translation: 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!)
English translation: 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 on top of that, you managed to practice ten important German transition words that will serve you well in making excuses and plenty of other scenarios. And you also learned that when you’re trying to get somewhere in a new country, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan.
And One More Thing…
To keep effectively practicing the above transition words (and more!), you’ll need authentic German context.
That’s where FluentU can help.
Other sites use scripted content. FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the German language and culture over time. You’ll learn German as it’s actually spoken by real people.
FluentU brings native videos within reach using interactive transcripts.
Just tap on any subtitled word to see an in-context definition, usage examples and a helpful illustration.
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with FluentU’s Learn Mode. Simply swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning, and it recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning the same video.
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