“Damit” and “Um… Zu” (Final Clauses)

What are Final Clauses?

Final clauses are used to describe a purpose, intention, or goal: what will hopefully happen at the end (end = final).

We construct final clauses with the infinitive construction "um... zu..." or a normal subordinate clause starting with "damit."

The question words are: "Wozu?" "Wofür?" "Zu welchem Zweck?" "Mit welcher Absicht?" "Mit welchem Ziel?"

Using "damit"

When using "damit," you are creating a subordinate clause.

You can put either the main clause or the subordinate clause first. And if it's clear from the context, you can even leave out the main clause.

  • Wofür arbeitest du so viel?“

    „Ich arbeite so viel, damit ich mir den Urlaub leisten kann.“
    Damit ich mir den Urlaub leisten kannarbeite ich so viel.“
    Damit ich mir den Urlaub leisten kann.“


Using "um... zu..."

A final clause with "um… zu…" is an infinitive phrase with no subject of its own. That means we can only use it when subject from the main clause also goes with the verb in the infinitive form.

"Um" goes at the beginning of the clause, and "zu" + infinitive goes at the end. When writing, we put a comma before "um."​

Example:

  • Wofür arbeitest du so viel?“

„Ich arbeite so viel, um (ich) die Rechnungen bezahlen zu können.“

Difference between "damit" and "um... zu..."

Wozu braucht man ein Auto?

  • Man kann in den Urlaub fahren.

Man braucht ein Auto, um in den Urlaub fahren zu können.“

Man braucht ein Auto, damit man in den Urlaub fahren kann.“

  • Man muss nicht zur Arbeit laufen.

Man braucht ein Auto, um nicht zur Arbeit laufen zu müssen.“

Man braucht ein Auto, damit man nicht zur Arbeit laufen muss.“


Wozu baut China einen großen Staudamm?

  • Die Menschen können den Strom nutzen.

China baut einen großen Staudamm, damit die Menschen Strom nutzen können.“

Um…zu… isn't possible because the subjects are different (in the main clause it's "China" and in the subordinate clause it's "die Menschen").


Click here for more info about infinitive phrases.


Final Clauses and Modal Verbs

You can't create final clauses with the modal verbs "sollen," "möchten," or "wollen", because they already express a reason, goal, or purpose.

You can either replace the with "können" or leave them out.

Wofür brauche ich viel Geld? 

  • Ich will viel reisen.

„Ich brauche viel Geld, um viel reisen zu können.“

„Ich brauche viel Geld, um viel zu reisen.“

Summary

  • Final clauses are used to describe a goal, purpose, or intention.
  • They can be constructed with "um…zu…" or "damit."
  • The question words are: "Wozu?" "Wofür?" "Zu welchem Zweck?" "Mit welcher Absicht?" "Mit welchem Ziel?"
  • The modal verbs "sollen," "möchten," and "wollen" can‘t be used in final clauses because they already express a goal, purpose, or intention.

Related Topics:

An overview of subordinate clauses.

Subordinate conjunctions and how to use them: "dass," "weil/da," "obwohl," "wenn/falls," "so dass," "indem," and "als/wenn."

Infinitive clauses (infinitive + "zu") and infinitive constructions ("um" / "anstatt" / "ohne… zu") are also subordinate clauses.

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