Relative Clauses

What are Relative Clauses?

Relative clauses give extra information without making you start a new sentence. 

They are subordinate clauses (verb at the end!) and have a relative pronouns at the beginning. They are separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

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

Relative Clauses with "der," "die," "das," "welche"

If we want to give additional information about a person or a thing, we use the relative pronouns "der," "die," "das," or "welche."

They have to be declined. But how?!?!?

Example:

  • „Das ist der Mann, der (welcher) einen Ferrari hat.“

Which noun from the main clause does the relative clause describe?

Answer: "der Mann"

What gender and number does that noun ("der Mann") have?

Answer: masculine, singular

What case does the relative pronoun have IN THE SUBORDINATE CLAUSE?

Answer: nominative

Pronoun = masculine + singular + nominative ⇒ "der"

You can learn more about how to use relative pronouns in different situations in this lesson: Relative Pronouns.

Relative Clauses with "wo"

If the relative clause describes a place, we often use the relative pronoun "wo" at the beginning of the relative clause.

  • „Gegen wir in das neue Restaurant? Dort gibt es Sushi!“
  • „Gehen wir in das neue Restaurant, in dem es Sushi gibt?
  • „Gehen wir in das neue Restaurant, wo es Sushi gibt?“

The "wo" replaces the relative pronoun + preposition.

Tipp

Tip:

In informal language, "wo" is almost always used.

Relative Clauses with "was"

Relative clauses can also describe demonstrative pronouns and indefinite pronouns.

When it is a neuter superlative, something non-specified ("etwas," "alles," "nichts," …), or an entire clause, we use "was."

Examples:

Neuter Superlative:

  • „Das ist das Beste, was ich jemals gemacht habe.“

Indefinite Pronoun:

  • „Der Mann sagt nichts, was von Bedeutung ist.“ (nominative)
  • „Ich sehe etwas, was du nicht siehst.“ (accusative)

Full Sentence:

  • Er spielt in der Wohnung Schlagzeug, was die Nachbarn stört.“

In this case it isn't possible to include a preposition. However, most of the time the relative clause that relates to an entire sentence is constructed with wo(r)+ preposition.

  • „Er hat mir geholfen, wofür ich ihm sehr dankbar bin.“

In informal speech we would always just say:

  • „Er hat mir geholfen. Dafür bin ich ihm sehr dankbar.“

Summary

  • Relative clauses give more information without having to start a new sentence.
  • Relative clauses usually describe a noun and come directly after it.
  • They can also describe an entire sentence, though this doesn't occur too often in spoken German.
  • In addition to relative pronouns, there are also the versions "wo," "was," and "wo(r)" + preposition

Related Topics:

Relative clauses require relative pronouns.

An overview and explanation of subordinate clauses in general.

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