Relative Pronouns

What are Relative Pronouns?

If we want to say more about a noun but don't want to start a new sentence, we use what is called a relative clause. This goes in the middle of the sentence, right after the noun we want to talk about. We always start a relative clause with a relative pronoun.

Relative pronouns must be declined. The gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and number (singular, plural) come from the corresponding noun in the main part of the sentence. The case is determined by its position and function in the relative clause.

Example:  „Das ist der Mann, der einen Ferrari hat.“

Declining Relative Pronouns

Declining the Relative Pronouns "der," "die," and "das":

The declension is basically the same as the definite article. The only difference is in genitive and dative plural, where we add an extra "-en" at the end.

Declining the Relative Pronoun "welche":

The endings are the same as the definite article endings. In genitive you can use welche, but there is no difference between welche and der/die/das, so you don't have to learn it if you don't want to.

Using Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns go at the beginning of relative clauses. Relative clauses give extra information about the nouns they follow.

How to determine which relative pronoun to use

The gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and the number (singular, plural) come from the noun they are taking the place of. The case comes from the function of the noun in the relative clause.

Example:   „Das ist der Mann, der einen Ferrari hat.“

  1. Which noun are we replacing?

 Answer: „der Mann“

  1. What gender and number does that noun („der Mann“) have?

  Answer: Masculine and Singular

  1. Which case does the relative pronoun have IN THE RELATIVE CLAUSE?

  Answer: Nominative

  1. Pronoun = Masculine + Singular + Nominative ⇒ „der

How to determine what case the relative pronoun has in the relative clause?

Put the noun into the relative clause and see!

  • „Das ist der Mann, der einen Ferrari hat.“
  • „Das ist der Mann. Der Mann hat einen Ferrari.“

In the second sentence of the second version „der Mann“ is the subject of the sentence (which means it's nominative) ⇒ The relative pronoun should also be in the nominative case.


Gender and number stay the same, since the word being replaced remains the same.

The case of the relative pronoun, however, changes based on the function of the word in the relative clause:

Relative Pronouns with Prepositions

If there is a preposition before the to-be-replaced noun in the relative clause, the same preposition must come before the relative pronoun. It doesn’t matter whether there is a preposition before the noun in the main clause.

  • „Da kommt der Bus. Wir warten schon so lange auf den Bus.“
  • „Da kommt der Bus, auf den wir schon so lange warten.“
  • „Dort ist die Schule. Ich bin früher in diese Schule gegangen.“
  • „Dort ist die Schule, in die ich früher gegangen bin.“


  • Relative pronouns are used at the beginning of relative clauses.
  • They get the gender and the number from the replaced noun.
  • They get the case according to the situation in the relative clause.

Related Topics:

Pronouns often have to be declined based on their case, so it's important to know when to use nominativeaccusativedative and genitive.

Here are the different types of pronouns you need to know: Demonstrative PronounsPersonal PronounsPossessive PronounsRelative PronounsReflexive Pronouns, and Indefinite Pronouns.

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