How to properly use ‘wenn’, ‘als’, and ‘wann’ in German

The three words wenn, als, and wann” can all be translated as “when” or in view cases “if” into the English language. Many of my students are not sure in which situations to use which word. For this reasons I want to clarify the significance and the differences of those words in the German language. Some students have difficulty to apply this, because they need to think in each situation which word they need to use. Remember, it is all about practice. Let’s clarify the use of the words:





Bedingung / Zukunft

Condition, or used for describing something in the future.


Wenn ich Geld habe, reise ich nach Deutschland

( I’ll travel to Germany, when I have money)


Satzkonnektor (Nebensatz) / Vergleich

1. Only used for the past and opens a sub-clause.


Als ich in Australien war, habe ich viel Steak gegessen

(I have eaten steak, when I was in Australia)

2. There is a second use of this word, in comparisons, in this case it is not translated with ‘when’, but with ‘than’.


Brasilien ist größer als Deutschland

(Brazil is bigger than Germany)



W-Fragewort der Zeit

Is only used in questions about time and dates, it is like a wh-question word. My recommendation is to remember this word with a question mark at the end ‘wann?’


Wann fliegst Du nach Deutschland?

(When are you flying to Germany?)

Wann beginnt der Unterricht?

To summarize this in one sentence: ‘wenn’ is used as a condition, ‘als’ is used for the past, and ‘wann’ only in questions about time and dates.

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Online Exercises

Check your knowledge with this Online Quiz:



Download the PDF version of this lecture: PDF "wenn-als-wann"