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Difference between dann and denn

Today I want to explain the difference between dann and denn. Both words sound similar, but they should not be confused!

dann and denn German

Distinguishing dann from denn (German)

So, what is the difference between dann and denn? Well, that’s easy: one word has an „a“ in the middle and the other an „e“ 😂

But all joking aside. I know that these two words cause a lot of confusion. The following examples will help you understand the difference.

When do we use the word dann in German 

The use of dann is explained quickly and therefore I would like to start with it.

We use dann to describe a temporal sequence. Something happens after something else has happened.

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      Sample with dann in German
Erst nehme ich den Kaugummi aus dem Mund, dann küsse ich meine Freundin. 😘
First I take the gum out of my mouth, then I kiss my girlfriend.

Erst treffe ich mich mit Freunden, dann gehen wir in die Disco.
First I meet friends, then we go to the disco.

When do we use the word: denn in German?

The use of denn is a bit more difficult but the following examples will help you understand the usage.

Denn in the meaning of „because“

The word „denn“ can be used to give a reason for something. In this case, the word „denn“ means „because.“

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      Samples with denn in German
Ich setzte die Brille auf, denn sonst sehe ich nichts.
I put on my glasses, because otherwise I don’t see anything.

Ich gehe heute nicht arbeiten, denn ich bin krank.
I’m not going to work today because I’m sick.

Note: 

In these cases you can also use the word „weil“ instead of „denn“. However, then the word order changes!

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      Sentences with dann vs weil
Ich setzte die Brille auf, denn sonst sehe ich nichts.
Ich setzte die Brille auf, weil ich sonst nichts sehe.

Ich gehe heute nicht arbeiten, denn ich bin krank.
Ich gehe heute nicht arbeiten, weil ich krank bin.

When do we use the word: denn in German as modal particle, filler word or flavoring particle

In this case it is not that easy to translate because it just emphasizes a certain aspect of a message or shows the speaker’s mood. 

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      The filler word denn in German
Was machst du hier?
Was machst du denn hier?
What are you doing here?

Did you notice the difference in emphasis?

Adding the word „denn“ to the sentence above doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence, but it becomes clear that the speaker is somewhat surprised to see the other here.

Dialog with denn in German

Note that the word „denn“ (when used as a filler word) is often not included in the English translation.

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      Sentences with denn
Hey, ich muss dir etwas erzählen.
Was denn?

Hey, I need to tell you something.
What is it?

Ich habe heute 50 EUR gefunden.
Oh, wo denn?

I found 50 EUR today.
Oh, where?

Auf der Autobahn.
On the highway.

Auf der Autobahn?
Warum bist du denn auf der Autobahn spazieren gegangen?
Bist du denn verrückt? 

On the highway?
Why did you go for a walk on the highway?
Are you out of your mind?

Note:
In some of these cases we could use the word „then“ in English.
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      Dialog with denn in German
Was machen wir denn jetzt mit dem Geld?
What are we doing now with the money then?

Wo wollen wir denn hingehen?
Where do we want to go then?

Wir? Das ist mein Geld! 
We? That’s my money!

Note:
Did you notice that the word „denn“ was used here only in questions? That’s no coincidence. We use the word „denn“ (when used as a filler word) only in questions!
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Lesson 1, 2, 3

Home:
Similarities between German and English

Lektion 1:
German Articles: der, die, das

Lektion 2:
Indefinite Articles: ein, eine

Lektion 3:
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