German Tips & Tricks

Dann vs Denn in German: When to Use Which

Dann vs denn, when to use which is often confusing.meanings are not. I hope that I’ll be able to help you in your quest to figure out the difference between the two.

Dann vs Denn


The usage of dann is limited to once instance. It is used when saying that one thing happened after another. For example:

Erst essen wir, dann gehen wir ins Kino.

First we eat, then we go to the movies.


Denn as Because

Denn can have two meanings. Firstly, it can mean because:

Ich gehe ins Kino, denn ich Filme mag.

I go to the movies because I like films.

Now you might ask, “what is the difference between weil and denn?”

Their meaning is the same. They only differ in the sense that weil changes the order of the words in the sentence that comes after it. Take a look at these two sentences:

Ich sitze im Garten.

I am sitting in the Garden.

Die Sonne scheint hell.

The sun is shining brightly.

Now, if we were to combine these sentences with denn, we would simply stick them together such as this:

Ich sitze im Garten, denn die Sonne scheint hell.

I am sitting in the garden because the sun is shining brightly.

But, if weil is used instead of denn, the second sentence’s order will be different:

Ich sitze im Garten , weil die Sonne hell scheint.

I am sitting in the garden because the sun is shining brightly.

If you look at the previous example closely, you will notice that there is an adjective in the second sentence namely, ‘brightly’ or hell. Now the question poses, what would happen if there were no adjective seeing that the adjective is the word which moved to the end of the sentence when weil was used instead of denn. Let’s say we use the same first sentence as before but the following sentence as the second one instead:

Die Sonne scheint.

The sun is shining.

Now, let us combine the two sentences with both weil and denn:

Ich sitze im Garten, denn die Sonne scheint.

Ich sitze im Garten, weil die Sonne scheint.

I am sitting in the garden because the sun is shining.

This, thus, means that weil influences the placement of the adjective in a sentence and moves it to the end of the sentence.

Denn to indicate mood or place emphasis

Germans sometimes add denn to question without really changing the meaning of the question. If we were to translate these sentences, the meaning will stay the same. Here is an example of the speaker placing emphasis on a certain word or idea:

Was macht sie da?

Was macht sie denn da?

What is she doing there?

Sometimes the word denn can, unlike with the previous sentence be translated to then in English:

Wo willst su denn hingehen?

Where to you want to go then?

I really hope that this will help you to understand German, dann vs denn, in particular, better.


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