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I'm trying to help a friend with written English. I told her that I wouldn't be able to provide too much assistance in the way of grammar because I quite frankly just don't know the rules. I'm supposed to provide "real-world" practice outside of her schoolroom studies.

However, she did ask me why this sentence is grammatically correct.

"As Leo realises that he is nothing more than an instrument of a fundamentally deadly and unstoppable totalitarian regime, a crisis of conscience ensues."

You have to understand, as a German speaker, if you start a sentence with "Als,", you have to complete it with a dependent clause, which I think I did here, but I'm not comfortable enough with my understanding of it to explain it to her without feeling as I'm telling her a lot of false information.

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Given that this question concerns english as taught to a non-native speaker, shouldn't this be moved to ELL.SE? – user867 Oct 24 '13 at 3:24

The German word als translates as when in English, and makes better sense in your example. We then have a sentence that starts with a dependent/subordinate clause (When Leo realises that he is nothing more than an instrument of a fundamentally deadly and unstoppable totalitarian regime), and ends with an independent/main clause (a crisis of conscience ensues).

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+1 Ot may also be useful to add that dependent clauses are normally introduced by conjunctions or relative pronouns. This is complicated by the fact that the conjunction "that" may be omitted; but the "friend" can test this by inserting "that" in a sentence with more than one finite verb and see if its meaning is preserved, i.e. if the sentence still works. – Cerberus Feb 12 '12 at 21:54
It could also mean as; in a description of a scene in a drama, for instance. Clearly the OP is correct about knowing the rules. What I'd like to know is why a German speaker might think the sentence was ungrammatical. In German it would be much the same, except the last clause would have been "ensues a confidencecrisis", which is German, not English. – John Lawler Feb 12 '12 at 21:55

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