Wenn vs. als

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Wenn vs. als

In the past:

  • Wenn (when, whenever) for a repeated event (always, each time…)

Immer, wenn Betty müde war, hat sie auf der Terrasse geschlafen.

Whenever Betty was tired she slept on the terrace.

  • Als (when) for a one-off event

Als Magda neu nach Berlin kam, kannte sie keinen Menschen.

When Magda first came to Berlin she did not know anyone.

In the present and future, we always use wenn (whenever, when, if), not als.

Immer, wenn es regnet, bleiben alle im Hotel.

Whenever it rains, everybody stays in the hotel.

Jedes Mal, wenn er kommen wird, werden wir feiern.

Whenever he comes, we will celebrate.

Melde dich, wenn du Zeit hast.

Call me if you have time.

Note: If wenn or als are at the start of a subsidiary clause, the verb comes at the end of the subsidiary clause:

Als Anna ein Kind war, lebte sie im Brandenbutt Hotel.

When Anna was a child, she lived in the Brandenbutt Hotel.

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