German sentences with simultaneous action

If you have ever asked yourself how to express two simultaneous actions in German, you might want to read this article. Let’s get to know four options for building such sentences. 

Simultaneous action

Before diving into the depth of this topic, it is crucial first to understand the meaning of simultaneous actions. A simultaneous action means that two things happen at the same time. For instance: You are reading while you are eating.
In German, there are four common options to express something like this, as discussed in the following.

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Recommended study materials on the topic:

  1. Worksheet: Als, wenn & wann 
  2. Worksheet: Speaking with “beim” and “während”
  3. A-Grammar: Practice German grammar (incl. answers)
  4. B-Grammar: Practice German grammar (incl. answers)
  5. German self-study book for A1-B1  (incl. answers)

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1. Option - sentences with "wenn"

Once you have finished A1 in German, you will soon get to know the word “wenn”. 

One can translate “wenn” with the English “when” and “if.”
By using “wenn,” you can express a condition and that something happens simultaneously. Also, “wenn” is a conjunction that connects two sentences. It also always sends the verb to the end of the sentence.

Examples: 

  • Wenn ich dusche, singe ich. (When I shower, I sing.) 
  • Ich lese immer die Zeitung, wenn ich esse.  (I always read the newspaper when I eat.)

2. Option - sentences with "als"

When studying German, you’ll quickly meet the word “als”. It has three different meanings “as” (Ich arbeite als Lehrerin.), “than” in comparison (Das gelbe Auto ist teurer als das rote Auto), and “when” which we will discuss now.

If you would like to express simultaneous actions in German, you need to use “als” in the sense of “when”. By doing so the word “als” becomes a conjunction. This means its job is to connect two sentences. “Als” always sends the verb to the end of the sentence.

“Als” describes what happened in a particular moment in the past and therefore you can only use it with German past tense sentences (Präteritum, Perfekt, and Plusquamperfekt) but NOT in the present or any of the two German future tenses.

Examples: 

  • Als ich gestern geduscht habe, habe ich gesungen. (When I took a shower yesterday, I sang.) 
  • Ich habe heute Morgen die Zeitung gelesen, als ich gegessen habe. (I was reading the newspaper while I was eating this morning.)

3. Option - sentences with "bei"

To form the “while sleeping” part in English, you simply add the ending “-ing” to the verb “to sleep” and it becomes a noun. To form a construction like this in German, you need to do the following:

  1. To form a “-ing” noun from a German verb, you simply have to add the article “das” (as all these verbs are neuter) and write your verb with a capital letter.
  • schreiben – das Schreiben (to write – the writing)
  • singen – das Singen (to sing – the singing)
  • lesen – das Lesen (to read – the reading)

2. In the second step, you can add the “bei”. Now, as we said in the beginning, “bei” always demands a Dative object, and this means that you need to change “das” to “dem”. Usually, Germans shorten “bei” + “dem” into “beim” (that is no slang!)

  • das Schreiben = bei + das = bei dem (beim) Schreiben
  • das Singen = bei + das = bei dem (beim) Singen
  • das Lesen = bei + das = bei dem (beim) Lesen

 

Examples: 

  • Beim Duschen habe ich gesungen. (I sang while taking a shower.) 
  • Beim Lesen habe ich gegessen. (I ate while reading.)

4. Option - sentences with "während"

Once, you have studied the German “Genitive” case, you will quickly get to know the preposition “während” that always demands a Genitive object if you do not decide to add a whole sentence. “Während” can be translated with “while” in English and is quite easy to handle.

Examples: 

  • Während des Duschens habe ich gesungen. (I sang while taking a shower.) 
  • Ich habe die Zeitung gelesen, während ich gegessen habe. (I read the newspaper while I ate.)

Mastering German sentences

I hope, that after reading this article, you fully understand how to express simultaneous events in German. If you want to know more about “wenn” and “als”, don’t miss to read the article: When to use “als”, “wenn” and “wann” in German.

 


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