Temporal Clauses

What are Temporal Clauses?

Temporal clauses are subordinate clauses that give information about time: when something started, how long it will last, etc.

They always begin with a temporal conjunction - there are quite a few, and each has a different meaning. 

Temporal Conjunctions


"seit" / "seitdem"

Meaning: "seit" expresses when something started (only use when it's still going on)

  • „Ich lerne Deutsch, seitdem ich in Deutschland wohne.“
    → Both actions / conditions began at the same time and are not finished yet (we use the simple present for both).
  • Seitdem ich einen Unfall hatte, sitze ich im Rollstuhl.“
    → The action in the subordinate clause happened in the past and (we use the simple past). The action in the main clause is still going on (we use the simple present).


"bis"

Meaning: "bis" expresses when something will end

  • „Ich bleibe hier, bis ich mit meiner Arbeit fertig bin.“
  • Bis du mit der Arbeit fertig bist, sehe ich ein bisschen fern.“
  • „Ich warte hier auf dich, bis du wieder zurück kommst.“


"während"

Meaning: "während" expresses that things are going on at the same time

  • „Ich gehe einkaufen, während du die Wohnung aufräumst.“
  • Während du Computer spielst, lerne ich.“


"solange"

Meaning: "solange" expresses that an action will continue as long as another action continues to occur

  • „Ich werde putzen, solange ihr eure Hausaufgaben macht.“
  • Solange du bei mir bist, habe ich keine Angst.“


"nachdem"

Meaning: "nachdem" expresses that one thing happened after another (the events of the subordinate clause happen first, then the main clause)

Examples:


"bevor" / "ehe"

Meaning: "bevor" / "ehe" expresses that one thing happens before another (the events of the main clause happen first, then those of the subordinate clause)

  • „Ich putze Zähne, bevor/ehe ich schlafen gehe.“
  • Bevor/ehe du dich setzt, machst du deine Hausaufgaben.“

"Bevor" is used much more often than "ehe."

"Bevor" and "ehe" are opposites of "nachdem."


"Sobald/sowie"

Meaning: "sobald" and "sowie" express that something (the main clause) happens right after something else (the subordinate clause)

In order to make sense, we put the subordinate clause one temporal stage (one tense) before that of the main clause.

Examples:

Difference between "sobald" / "sowie" and "nachdem":
When you use "sobald" / "sowie," the second action happens directly after the first action is completed. With "nachdem," it just happens at some point after the first action is completed.

Summary

The temporal conjunctions and their meanings:


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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