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als, wann und wenn (time)

learning target

Aim of this section is to learn the correct use of als, wenn and wann.



Wann besuchst du uns?
Als er ein Kind war, ...
Wenn wir ein Problem haben, ...

When are you going to visit us?
When he was a child ...
When we have a problem ...


There are 3 words in German to express the English word when.


  • Wann is used in question and indirect "questions".

examples (direct questions):

examples (indirect "questions"):

As you can see indirect "questions" are in fact statements!
Actually, they are the answer to a question where you have to use "wann".


  • Als is used to speak about a single event in the past.
  • Als is used to speak about a period of time in the past which can regarded as one event.

Clear indicators for "als" are time expressions like:

  • gestern (yesterday)
  • letzte Woche (last week)
  • letztes Jahr (last year)

Consider that you can use "als" only in the past tense!



  • Wenn is used to speak about present events.
  • Wenn is used to speak about future events.
  • Wenn is used to speak about a repeated event in the past.

The best way to find out if you have to use "wenn" or "als" in the past tense is:
Try to replace when by whenever. If it's possible you have to use "wenn".

Clear indicators for "wenn" are:

  • immer (always)
  • jedes Mal (every time)


Besides the meaning of "when" wenn has a second meaning (=if).
For further infomation go to ob und wenn.



als, wann, wenn 1


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als, wenn, wann (theory, 3 pages)