Usage differences of “obwohl” and “trotzdem”

  • I’m confused with obwohl and trotzdem usage practice. I do know their meaning (although and despite of, respectively) but what I don’t understand is when exactly I should use obwohl, when trotzdem and when I can exchange them?

    The problem is that English is not my native language either, thus the simple rule: “if you would use although in English put obwohl in German” doesn’t really help me, I don’t feel which of them should I use.

    For instance:

    1. Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, obwohl sie krank ist.


    1. Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, trotzdem ist sie krank.

    Are both these sentences OK both from the grammatical and style points of view?
    Or should I use only one of them?

    Could you, please, clarify how I can understand which of these two connection words I should use?

    P.S. I read the question and this explanation but still feel that I’m guessing and don’t really know for sure the correct answer.

  • Ely

    Ely Correct answer

    5 years ago

    This is a somewhat uneasy subject to digest. I try my best to explain based on the Duden.

    Taking your example the first is fine and obwohl can be replaced by trotzdem; though obwohl is more often used and considered high-level language. In this case obwohl and trotzdem are conjunctions. The usage of trotzdem in this case is considered colloquial language (umgangssprachlich).

    Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, obwohl sie krank ist.
    Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, trotzdem sie krank ist.

    The second sentence is correct. Though many German speakers would say that it sounds weird to them.
    I suggest you use obwohl when not sure and because it is not colloquial.

    There is another meaning of obwohl, which is colloquial, and cannot be replaced by trotzdem.

    Ich rufe Dich heute Abend an. Obwohl, wir sehen uns ja morgen ohnehin.
    I call you this evening. Though, we'll see each other tomorrow anyway.

    Here it is used to say that Maybe I call, maybe I don't; knowing that we see each other tomorrow anyway.

    The word trotzdem can also be used as an adverb. That can be confusing for speakers. This is how you used the word trotzdem in the second example and in this case it is wrong by meaning; you are not saying what you want to say.

    Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, trotzdem ist sie krank.
    Clarissa doesn't want to stay in bed, nevertheless she is sick.

    When trotzdem is used as an adverb it does not have the same meaning as obwohl. In this case trotzdem could be translated to even so, anyhow, nevertheless, ...

    I wouldn’t call the use of _trotzdem_ as a conjunction “colloquial”. Thomas Mann is infamous for it, and his writings are far from colloquial language. It is a mannerism, and one many native speakers react strongly negatively to.

    Apart from that, I don’t think this answer will be particularly useful to the OP because it essentially only explains the meaning of _trotzdem_ by giving English equivalents, and the OP already said he doesn’t have a firm grasp of those either.

    In the Duden it is mentioned that its usage as a conjunction is colloquial.

    And I think I gave a fairly good answer to his questions: grammar, style point of view, which one to use preferably and background with reference to the Duden.

    In your second example *„Clarissa bleibt nicht im Bett, trotzdem sie krank **ist**”* the verb is at the end of the sentence. Is it correct? I read that ***trotzdem*** requires the verb at the second place. Could you, please, clarify the case.

    According to the Duden it is a correct usage. It is colloquial language. That is because *trotzdem* is used in place of *obwohl*, as a conjunction. An example can be found at this link - section **Bedeutungsübersicht**: *er kam, trotzdem (standardsprachlich: obwohl) er krank war*

    @Mike B.: If _trotzdem_ is used as a conjunction, it introduces a subordinate clause, so the verb comes last. In the normal use (as an adverb), the usual rules for the sentence containing it apply. Examples: *Ich verreise trotzdem.* (main clause) *Wir können für nichts garantieren, falls er trotzdem verreist.* (subordinate clause)

    I’d recommend forgetting about the possible use of _trotzdem_ as a conjunction at this point.

    @chirlu, is it colloquial? Or stilted?

    @Dan: Stilted. I never hear it in everyday talk (but can’t rule out that it may be used in some region).

    @chirlu, bedankt. Ich habe gerade übrigens das "nun" auch als Konjunktion entdeckt. Was "obwohl" angeht, ist es echt überraschend wie viele gehobene Synonyme es gibt. Obschon, obgleich, trotzdem...

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM