"denn" vs. "dann"

  • I'm having a hard time finding out when to use "denn" and when "dann". This happens when I want to say the word as the equivalent of the English "then". For instance,

    A: I bet Germany wins the match.
    B: But it's 1-1
    A: No idea then!

    Should I say "Keine Ahnung denn" or "Keine Ahnung dann"? I know "Dann keine Ahnung" is one of the correct forms.

    Not this case, specifically. I want to know how to use those two in general.

    Both words do have a lot of meanings. The link for "denn" is already provided; here the link for "dann". In your example you fit point 2 "unter diesen Umständen, unter dieser Voraussetzung, in diesem Falle". ... First I missed your last sentence, but when I noticed that I need to downvote that question. Takkat did already a good job, but he left out about 80%. Those words cannot be compared "in general". It's sheer impossible, at least if you don't want to write a dissertation about it ;)

    I would also point out that "denn" in this case is bordering on being more a flavoring particle or afterthought. If you want to specifically emphasize "then", then use "dann" or even "da". That might be another way to think of it.

  • Takkat

    Takkat Correct answer

    9 years ago

    Easy rule of thumb

    To make the distinction between "denn" and "dann" a bit clearer we should learn the most common translations for both:

    denn: than, for, because
    dann: then, afterwards

    Of course - as always - there is an overlap in usage and sometimes a distinction is not clear. See also the various usages of "denn" as a intensifying particle in the usually not translated meaning of "then" as listed in the Pons Dictionary.

    "Hast Du das denn nicht gesehen?" - Didn't you see this [then]?

    Why is the distinction between "denn" and "dann" so difficult?

    The reason why the distinction between "denn" and "dann" is diffcult even for Germans lies in their common etymology:

    dann Adv. und denn Adv. und Konj. sind ursprünglich umlautlose und umgelautete Form eines Wortes und daher in älterer Zeit bedeutungsgleich. Ahd. thanne, thenni (8. Jh.), mhd. dan(ne), den(ne), frühnhd. dann, denn Adv. und Konj.
    [...]
    Im Dt. erfolgt im 18. Jh. die heute geltende semantische Differenzierung von dann und denn. Von den zunächst beiden Varianten gemeinsamen Verwendungen bewahrt dann den adverbiellen Gebrauch (dafür nur in nordd. und md. Umgangssprache noch denn);
    [...]
    Der Gebrauch als Konjunktion, durch den in älterer Zeit neben- und unterordnend verschiedenartige, namentlich temporale und kausale Zusammenhänge hergestellt werden, verengt sich und geht ganz auf denn über; [...] Als Adverb wird denn jetzt lediglich zur Intensivierung einer Frage oder Aussage verwendet. DWDS

    By this we can see that the distinction between "dann" and "denn" occured as late as in the 18th Century. This was approximately the same in English (than vs. then).

    The common meaning of denn or dann which is different than today may be preserved in some idiomatic expressions, and can also still be found in regional dialects.

    Ich finde die Unterscheidung `denn` und `dann` überhaupt nicht schwierig, und kenne auch niemanden persönlich, der damit Schwierigkeiten hätte. Nicht eine Sekunde habe ich in den letzten Jahrzehnten damit verbracht, darüber zu grübeln, was passend sei. Es gibt allerdings eine gewisse Nähe, die auch in `post hoc ergo propter hoc` zum Asudruck kommt - `nach dem Ereignis, nicht durch das Ereignis`.

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