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Question
Please help me to understand when to use "wenn""wann""als"and any other words for when...

I think that I understand that "wenn" means if/when while "als"is more of a when ( long time ago) and "wann"is the form of when used to ask a question...

So, how would one say this sentence in German: When I was a child, I could not go to bed whenever I wanted to. I had to go to bed when my parents said I should.  Please help me "correct" the following.... "Als ich ein Kind war, könnte ich nicht ins Bett wann ich wollte. I musste ins Bett wenn meine Eltern sagte ich sollte."

Thank you!

Answer
Hello Sally,

thank you for your question.

First, I'd like to tell you that you translated the three meanings in your example sentence correctly. There are some smaller mistakes in it, but not in the usage of wann, wenn and als.

If we take out the smaller mistakes the German sentence would sound like this:
"Als ich ein Knd war, konnte ich nicht ins Bett wann ich wollte. Ich musste ins Bett, wenn meine Eltern es mir sagten."

"Als ich ein Kind war" is correct, as it refers to a specific time in the past.
"Ich konnte nicht ins Bett wann ich wollte" is correct because it refers to a specific time on the clock, and you can rephrase it as a question:" Wann wollte ich ins Bett? Um ... Uhr."

"Wenn meine Eltern es mir sagten" is correct because you could rephrase it as a "dann-wenn" condition: Ich musste dann ins Bett, wenn meine Eltern es mir sagten.

I also found some websites that have some more information in English about it:
This is focusing on wenn / wann: http://german.about.com/library/blconfus_wann.htm
This is focusing on als, and it's also fun to read: http://yourdailygerman.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/meaning-of-als/
Here's another one focusing on wenn / wann, it's the same blog as above: http://yourdailygerman.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/difference-wann-wenn/

I hope this helps.

Kind regards
Janina

German Language

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Janina

Expertise

As a native German speaker working professionally with languages, I can answer questions concerning German grammar, spelling and punctuation. I can also help with understanding and short German-English translations. As I also speak French, I might also be helpful concerning German-French translations. Translation only refers to short texts here.

Experience

I am a German native speaker working as a translator for English and French. I am concerned with language issues as grammar and spelling on a daily basis. I am very interested in these kind of topics, as any good translator should be. I also have a very good insight in the differences between English and German (and also French), so I might be able to give helpful explanations why specific things are the way they are in a specific language.

Organizations
I am a member of the German Translator Association BDÜ.

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My translations are published in form of manuals, company and product presentations, and websites, but you won't find my name there, as translators of technical texts are only rarely featured.

Education/Credentials
I studied translation at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne (FH Köln), and have been working as a freelance translator for five years now.

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I haven't received any awards, but receiving awards is really quite rare for translators.

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Mostly translation agencies in many different countries.

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