Forum Rocket German German Grammar Placement of the conjunction "aber" in a conjoining sentence

Placement of the conjunction "aber" in a conjoining sentence



I am aware that the word “aber” is a coordinate conjunction that does not influence the word order of a sentence, (that is, it does not send the verb to the end of a sentence). However, the word “aber” itself does not always appear in the same position within a sentence: sometimes it appears as the first word of a conjoining sentence and sometimes it appears after the subject and verb. 

Please consider the following sentences:

1 - Heute kann ich nicht, aber morgan ganz bestimmt.

2 - Ich w¨urde gerne kommen, aber es geht leider nicht. 

3- Wir haben nur eine kleine Wohnung, sind aber damit zufrieden.

4- Es war sehr schön. Jetzt muss ich aber gehen.

I don't see a clear grammatical rule regarding the placement of “aber”. Are the two positions mentioned above interchangeable?

For example, could I alternatively express #2 above as, “Ich würde gerne kommen. Es geht aber leider nicht.” or #4 above as, “Es war sehr schön, aber jetzt muss ich gehen.” ?

I would appreciate a clarification of the above. Thanking you in advance.



That's an intersting question, I think what is going on here is that aber in sentences 3 an 4 is not functioning as a conjunction but as a modal particle. 

My grammar book says that aber as a modal particle can be used to express surprise or a contradiction. Also to emphaise an opinion as in this phrase from the course:

Aber nein, Sarah, in Bayern trinkt man Bier fast jeden Tag.

But no, Sarah, in Bavaria they drink beer almost every day.


So in sentences 3 and 4 it looks like a contradiction.


Perhaps I should add that aber as a conjuntion comes at the start of a clause so it will either be the first word of a sentence or have a comma before it indicating the start of a new clause, so the is no comma before aber in sentences 3 and 4.

I wonder if the tutor thinks I got this right.



Hallo PaulS108 und sfpugh!


Thank you for your thoughtful explanation sfpugh! As you would have noticed, you can be quite flexible with the word “aber”. I also agree with you that when “aber” is not used a conjunction, it can be used as a modal particle to add emphasis to part of the sentence or injecting a certain emotion into what’s being said.


Let's have a look at “Ich w¨urde gerne kommen, aber es geht leider nicht.” - “I would like to come, but unfortunately I can't.  The following sentences would also be possible:

“Ich w¨urde gerne kommen, es geht aber leider nicht.”  

“Ich w¨urde gerne kommen, es geht leider aber nicht.”  

Placing “aber” further back in this sentence makes it have a stronger focus on ‘not being able to come’ compared to the first example where “aber” comes directly after the comma. 


The position of “aber” changes the way we put emphasis on other words/meanings in the sentence but the subject and verb usually stay together. There is an exception and this is used when we want to put emphasis on the subject, for example:

“Tina würde gerne zur Party kommen, Tom aber möchte nicht.” - “Tina would like to come to the party, but Tom, (he) doesn't want to.”

Here we put special emphasis on Tom and highlight the difference between him and Tina.


Viele Grüße,




Hi Julia

Thank you for the explanation, in English you can get some extra flexibility in position if you translate aber as “however” and I did wonder about that.

So just to be clear, aber can move around in a sentence for emphasis and still be considered a conjuncion?

I thought I had a nice rule that if aber  didn't come at the start of a clause it could be a modal particle, because in the course it says that you have to put a comma before aber.

In sentences 3 & 4 there is no comma before aber.




Hi Simon -

It is my understanding from Julia's explanation that “aber”, when used as a coordinating conjuction, does not need to be at the beginning of the second clause, but can be placed in various positions in the second clause without changing its meaning or function. Furthermore, regardless of the position of “aber” in the second clause, the comma between the 2 clauses will always be placed at the end of the first clause. 

You rightfully pointed out that “aber” can also be used as a modal particle. In this case, the function of “aber” would be to express (1) disagreement with a previous assertion; (2) surprise; or (3) emphasis, as in the examples below:

“Viele glauben, dass er aber ein erfolgreicher Führer war.” (expression of disagreement)
[Perhaps best translated as, “To the contrary, many believe that he was a successful leader.”] 

“Du hast aber die höchste Note auf der Prüfung!” (expression of surprise)
[Perhaps best translated as, “Wow! You got the highest grade on the test!”] 

“Der Blick aus unserem Fenster war aber herrlich!” (expression of emphasis)
[Perhaps best translated as, “The view from our window was really magnificent!”]

All that being said, after reading Julia's explanation, I believe that “aber” in each of the sentences in my original mail above functions as a coordinating conjunction only, and simply varies its position in the second clause. 




I think it's great to have these kinds of conversations as they really help me to clarify things in my mind.

I find it hard to see the difference between aber as a coordinating conjuncion that has been moved from its normal starting position for emphasis and aber as a modal particle that expresses contradiction. It's probably not worth worrying about it. 

Here are some examples of aber in the body of phrases from the course:

Mensch, die ist aber braun. - surprise/emphasis -modal
Das hat aber gut geschmeckt! - emphasis - modal
Oh nein, das ist aber kein vegetarischer Burger - contradiction with emphasis - modal or coordinating?

What do you think?







Hi again Simon - 

You and I have had a number of discussions in this forum throughout the course, and I, too, have found them to be constructive and mentally challenging.  Of course, in the end, we are fortunate to have Julia to provide us with her knowledge and experience in order to "set the record straight”!

In answer to your question, I would categorize “aber” in your first two examples above as a modal particle, exactly as you indicated. However, regarding your last example, I believe that the meaning of “aber” could be categorized either as a modal particle or a coordinating conjunction, depending on the intention of the speaker, something which cannot be understood simply from the written text. 

Consider two situations in which the speaker stated, “Oh nein, das ist aber kein vegetarischer Burger.”:

If the meaning of “aber” is to emphasize that the burger should have been vegetarian, but it is not, then I believe that “aber” should be categorized as a modal particle, with the English translation being, “Oh no! That is not a vegetarian burger!”

Alternatively, if the speaker means to convey the second phrase of the compound sentence, “I ordered a vegetarian burger, but this is not a vegetarian burger", or in other words, “…but this is not what I ordered”, then I believe that “aber” should be categorized as a coordinating conjunction.

You yourself said that this point is probably not worth worrying about, and I have a tendency to agree with you as the grammatical classification is rather academic, albeit apparently interesting to both of us. Furthermore, if the speaker intended to use “aber” as a modal particle, but it was understood by the listener as a coordinating conjunction, or vice-versa, it would in any case not cause any misunderstanding in communication between the two people.

All the best,




Hi again!


I really enjoy reading your discussions. This makes the forum so much more vibrant which is great!


To summerise what has been said:

When “aber” is used as a coordinate conjunction it connects two main clauses:

“Ich lebe in Deutschland.” - “I live in Germany."

“Ich bin ursprünglich aus Spanien." - "I am originally from Spain."

“Ich lebe in Deutschland, aber (ich) bin ursprünglich aus Spanien." - “I live in Germany, but I am originally from Spain.”

“Ich lebe in Deutschland, (ich) bin aber ursprünglich aus Spanien." - "I live in Germany, but I am originally from Spain.”

“Ich lebe in Deutschland, (ich) bin ursprünglich aber aus Spanien." - "I live in Germany, but I am originally from Spain.”


When “aber” is used as a modal particle it has no grammatical function as such (e.g. can be left out) but adds colour to the spoken language. This is why is it often a challange to translate them.

"Dein Deutsch ist aber gut!" - “Your German is really good!”






I had lerned a lot about the use of ABER. 

Tanks a lot

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