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Relative Clauses in German

The formation of "Relativsätze" explained in English, Relative pronouns "deren" and "dessen".
Relative clauses are for adding information about a noun.


Du bist der Mann, den ich liebe
You are the man that I love

You should have the following in mind about relative clauses in German:
- the conjugated verb is placed at the end of the relative clause.
- sometimes a comma is placed in front of the relative pronoun.

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns are shown in this table:

MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativederdiedasdie
Accusativedendiedasdie
Dativedemderdemdenen
Genitivedessenderendessenderen

This table is not very hard to learn because it is very similar to the one with the definite articles. The only thing that is different is the genitive and the dative plural.

Surely you are asking yourself, why so many? And, how do I know which one to choose? We’ll explain that next.

Relative Pronoun Gender

The relative pronoun gender is defined by the gender of the noun that it complements.

An example:

Die Frau, die das Auto hat, ist reich
The woman that has the car is rich

As you see in the previous example, "Frau" is a feminine noun so the relative pronoun that follows it has to be feminine as well (die).

Types of Relative Clauses

Relative clauses can be nominative, accusative, dative or genitive. Let’s look at them all in detail because this is very important:

Nominative

The relative pronoun acts as a subject and the conjugated verb is placed at the end of the relative clause. Remember: the verb has to be conjugated in association with the relative pronoun (make sure if it is singular or plural).

Das Kind, das dort spielt, wohnt in der Schweiz
The child that is playing there lives in Switzerland

Die Kinder, die dort spielen, wohnen in der Schweiz
The children that are playing there live in Switzerland

Accusative

When the relative pronoun is accusative, the pronoun is placed in the first position and therefore the subject is moved to the second position and, as always, the conjugated verb goes to the end of the relative clause:

Der Roman, den ich lesen will, ist "El Quijote"
The novel that I want to read is "El Quijote"


Das Buch, das ich lesen will, ist "El Quijote"
The book that I want to read is "El Quijote"

Dative

The dative and accusative work the same with the exception of the relative pronoun. This time, however, we’ve provided you with an example that is a bit more difficult. Notice that the relative pronoun might be accompanied by a preposition as well:

Der Kunde, mit dem ich gerade gesprochen habe, ist Deutscher
The client that I just spoke to is German (most likely a male customer but not definitively)

Die Kundin, mit der ich gerade gesprochen habe, ist Deutsche
The (female) client that I just spoke to is German

Genitive

The relative pronouns "deren" and "dessen" are translated as "whose", its or their:

Die Nachbarin, deren Kind in meiner Klasse war, ist krank
The neighbor whose child was in my class is sick

Der Nachbar, dessen Kind in meiner Klasse war, ist krank
The neighbor whose child was in my class is sick



2 Comments

#2 [Donald J. Goode]2016-09-25 21:45
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