Questions?

Check our FAQs for the quickest support.

FAQ

Did not find your answer?
Contact us

German relative pronouns

Our teachers

Looking for a language tutor? Contact one of our teachers!

Find a teacher

What is a relative pronoun in German?

A German relative pronoun introduces a relative clause. This clause describes a nouns, pronoun or even a whole sentence more precisely. Therefore the relative pronouns replaces the related element in the relative clause. Gender and number of the pronoun are dependent to the element it is replacing.

The most common relative pronouns are 'der/die/das' and 'welcher/welche/welches'.

In English the mentioned pronouns can be translated with 'who', 'that' or 'which'. 

Have a question?

Take online language lessons with a professional teacher

  1. Native & verified teachers
  2. Free trial lesson
  3. Learning materials included

Examples

  • Maria ist ein Mädchen, das Fußball mag. - Maria is a girl who likes football. 
  • Borussia Dortmund ist ein Verein, welcher ihr gefällt. - Borussia Dortmund is a club that she likes.
  • Marco Reus ist der Spieler, den sie am liebsten hat. - Marco Reus is the player which she likes most

Function of relative pronouns in German

Relative pronouns are used to form relative clauses which consists of a main and a subordinate clause. The relative pronoun initiates the subordinate clause. 

The subordinate clause gives a closer description of the a noun standing in the main sentence.

enlightenedIn German the subordinate clause has a different structure than the main sentence: the verb stands in the end of the subordinate clause, the pronoun instead occupies the first place and a position very close to the related element.

The subordinate clause can also stand in a middle position:

  • Die Katze, die sie schon ewig hatte, ist gestorben. - The cat, which she had since a long time, died.
  • Zähne, welche kariös sind, müssen behandelt werden. - Teeth, that are carious, have to be treated.

Declension of relative pronouns in German

The following tables show the declension of the most common relative pronouns in German. Most forms equal the forms of definite articles.

'Der', 'die', 'das' 

'der/die/das' are not only used as definite articles. They are also the most common relative pronouns.

 MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativederdiedasdie
Accusativedendiedasdie
Dativedemderdemdenen
Genitivedessenderendessenderen

 

Examples:

  • Hier ist der Patient, der gestern kam. - Here is the patient who came yesterday.
  • Magst du den Wagen, den ich fahre? - Do you like the car that I drive?
  • Das ist der Straßenhund, dem ich Futter gebe. - That is the street dog to which I give food.
  • Robin ist der Junge, dessen Kaninchen gestorben ist. - Robin is the boy, whose bunny died.

 

'Welcher', 'welche', 'welches' 

Instead of 'der/die/das' we can use 'welcher/welche/welches'.

 MasculineFeminineNeuterPlural
Nominativewelcherwelchewelcheswelche
Accusativewelchenwelchewelcheswelche
Dativewelchemwelcherwelchemwelchen
Genitivedessenderendessenderen

 

Examples:

  • Ich habe dir von dem Mann erzählt, welcher nebenan lebte- I told you about the men who lives next door.
  • Er mag den Tisch, welchen sie gekauft hast- He like the table (that) she bought.
  • Du hast einen Sohn, welchem du oft Geschenke machst. - You have a son to whom you often give presents.

 

The case of relative pronouns in German

Unlike number and gender, the case of the pronoun and the related element can be different: 

The case of the relative pronoun depends on the verb (or the preposition) given in the relative clause.

(Check out German cases to get more information!)

Same caseDifferent case
  • Den Stift, den du mir geschenkt hast, benutze ich oft. - i use often the pen you gave me.

(both accusative)

  • Die Katze, die  sie schon ewig hatte, ist gestorben. The cat, which she had since a long time, died.

(related noun in nominative and pronoun in accusative)

  • Der Hund, der im Park spielte, hatte spaß. - The tog, that was playing in the parc, had fun.

(both nominative)

  • Der Hund, den ich gesehen habe, hatte Spaß - The dog, that I saw, had fun.

(related noun in nominative and pronoun in accusative)

 

Relative pronouns with prepositions

Relative pronouns in German can be accompanied by prepositions.

enlightenedThe pronouns case depends on the preposition now!

The preposition stands before the relative pronoun in the relative clause.

  • Johannes ist der Freund, mit dem ich in den Urlaub fahre. - Johannes is the friend (that) I am going to travel with.
  • Das ist das Haus, in dem ich wohne. - That is the House (that) I live in.
  • Felix fährt das gleiche Auto, für das ich spare. - Felix drives the same car (that) I am saving money for.
  • Bus Nummer 23 ist der Bus, auf den ich warte. - Bus number 23 is the bus (that) I'm waiting for.

'Was' and 'wo' as relative pronouns

For some expressions in German we use 'was' and 'wo' as relative pronouns. These pronouns are not declined.

Function of 'was'

The relative pronoun 'was' can be used instead of 'das' to replace a noun. It can also replace another pronoun or even the whole main sentence.

 Examples
Replacing a nounJenes ist das Haus, was abgerissen wird. - That is the house that is being demolished.
Replacing a pronounVieles, was du sagst ist falsch. - A lot of what you are saying is wrong. 
Replacing a sentence

Maria schreibt gute Noten, was ihrer Mutter sehr gefällt. - Maria gets good grades. Her Mother likes that.

Function of 'wo'

The relative pronoun 'wo' refers to a spacial or temporal element mentioned in the main sentence.

Instead of 'wo' we can use the forms of 'der/die/das' or 'welcher/welche/welches' + preposition

 ExamplesAlternative 
Replacing a spatial elementDas ist der Ort, wo wir uns das erste mal getroffen haben. - That's the place, where we met for the first time.Das ist der Ort, an welchem wir uns das erste mal getroffen haben. - That's the place, where we met for the first time.
Replacing a temporal elementSie kommen nächste Woche, wo ich wenig Zeit habe. -They're coming next week, when I don'thave much time.Sie kommen nächste Woche, in der ich wenig Zeit habe. -They're coming next week, when I don'thave much time.

 

'Wohin, woher"

If a replaced spatial element indicates some kind of direction we use 'wohin' or 'woher'.

Relative PronounTranslationExample
wohinwhere(to)Carlos lebt in Kolumbien, wohin ich unbedingt mal Reisen möchte. - Carlos lives in Colombia, where I really want to travel someday.
woherfrom whereDas ist die Seite, woher ich die Informationen habe. - That's the page, (where) I have the information from.

'Wo-' + preposition

The word 'wo' can also be united with some prepositions.

Relative PronounTranslationExample
womit by/with which Ich habe ein Radio, womit ich Musik höre. - I have a radio with which I listen to the music.
wofürfor whichEr hat mir sehr geholfen, wofür ich mich bedanken möchten. - He helped me a lot, for which I am thankful. 
worüberabout (what / which)Das ist das Unglück, worüber die Nachrichten berichten. - Thats the tragedy the newas reports about.
wovonabout (what) /from (which)Das ist das, wovon ich dir erzählt habe. - That's what I told you about.

 


Exercises

  1. Exercise of German relative pronouns
  2. Exercise: Find the fitting relative pronoun!

Exercise of German relative pronouns


Exercise: Find the fitting relative pronoun!


What our students say

Unlike in other platforms, all our teachers are manually verified by our professional team. Trust in the experiences of our students.
4.96/5
Hands down one of the best teachers I've had the pleasure of working with. Very knowledgeable in all aspects of Bulgarian (grammar rules, expressions, ...) but also in both English and French, which helps whenever you have a more in-depth question on the how or why something is the way it is in Bulgarian. Furthermore he has his own material and always comes prepared, but he is equally open to changing the subject of a lesson to suit your needs. He is patient, positive and not too scholarly, which is what you need as an adult learning day- to- day Bulgarian.I have been working with him for 18 months now and still look forward to our lessons every week.
An's Bulgarian has tremendously improved since she gave it go a year and a half ago. Of course, It goes without saying that I am pleased to work with such an enthusiastic learner who is living proof that, through hard work and perseverance, everyone can succeed in their language goals. An, you are now an independant user of the language who is able to successfully lead real-live conversations. Pat yourself on the back.
5/5
Elena is an excellent teacher and a very nice person. I have been training in Spanish with Elena for quite some time now after her being recommended to me by a friend, and have consistently been very pleased with our lessons. While I do not consider myself to be very good at learning foreign languages, Elena is very patient and adapts the lessons to my ability, making me feel at ease. In fact, I find her to be extremely skilled at assessing exactly where I am at any given time with respect to my individual learning situation, and structuring the lessons accordingly. I think I probably would have given up trying to learn Spanish had I not began my study with Elena; and that would have been a shame considering where I am now with the language. Because of Elena's skilled help, I am extremely pleased to not only be conversant in basic Spanish, but also have confidence that I will one day reach full proficiency with the language. No other learning method I tried before meeting Elena compares to the one-on-one, personalized instruction I receive from her, which comprises reading; writing; developmental exercises; and most importantly, conversation. To be able to look at Spanish now and have it appear largely familiar is extremely satisfying. I even plan to study Italian with Elena after reaching my desired level in Spanish. These are not things I ever imagined would occur at the beginning stages of my studies. I am a native English speaker and find Elena's English to be excellent. She had no difficulty instructing me from the very beginning levels where it was necessary that a lot of English be spoken in our lessons, to where we are now with much less English being spoken. The friend who recommended Elena to me learned Dutch from her, and is equally pleased with their experience. I would not hesitate to learn from Elena any of the languages she teaches. I give Elena my highest recommendations and thank her for all the help she has provided me.
Thank you for your feedback, Brandon! I am very happy to know that you are so satisfied with the lessons. I've always believed that you could make it and I am glad that we never gave it up. The right attitude and a high level of perseverance have been the keys to your success. It has been a pleasure to be your guide in your learning process. I know that you can do much more, so let's continue towards a next level!
5/5
Again a lesson full of fun anf full of learning opportunities. I really like Angels patience and ability to adapt to my learning process.
This student is one of the best ones I ever had in my long teaching career. She is always so diligent and willing to learn more and more. I am so happy to work with her and see the immense progress she has made since we first started working together. Thank you Silke!
5/5
I would highly recommend Tove. Her lessons are fantastic and I learn exactly what I'm interested in. Tove is very friendly, our chemistry goes well together and I really enjoy being tought by her.
Dear Anita, Thank you very much for your nice review! I enjoy our lessons very much too and I am so happy that our communication and chemistry fit well together. That's the best precondition for a good learning experience. See you soon!
5/5
We are an Italian family residing in France for 3 months, we have two 10 year old children who have just started attending CM1. We asked Natalia to give the children two lessons a week to speed up their learning. We are super happy with the choice. Nous sommes une famille italienne résidant en France depuis janvier, nous avons deux enfants de 10 ans qui viennent de commencer la CM1. Nous avons demandé à Natalia de leur donner deux leçons par semaine pour accélérer leur apprentissage. Nous sommes super contents de Natalia. We are an Italian family living in France since 3 months, we have two 10 year old children who have just started attending CM1. We asked Natalia to give the kids two lessons a week to speed up their learning. We are super happy with this choice.
Translated by Google Translate
Fabrizio's children are learning French very fast, I have the impression that these lessons online have been helpful for them and I am sure they will master the language easily. They are very interested in learning.
5/5
Daniela is a very pleasant and brisk teacher who has the talent to make you feel at ease immediately. Her lessons are a nice mix of conversation and theory. Again and again it is a nice hour to look forward to !! Thank you Daniela !!
Translated by Google Translate
Dear Hilde, thank you very much for your words. I'm glad you are satisfied with our time together. I will continue to do my best to make you practice your beautiful Italian in a cheerful and peaceful way :-)
Translated by Google Translate
5/5
It is always a pleasure to have English lessons with Corinne. The lessons are always a lot of fun and extremely interesting concerning on current affairs and unfortunately the time always ends too early. Very recommended.
Thank you, Danilo. It is always a pleasure having lessons with you and I have enjoyed our many conversations together. And what a joy that over time they have become easier for both of us to understand! :D
5/5
Carmen is really prepared and very very nice. She takes you by the hand and introduces you to portuguese language in a really pleasant way. I learned 3-4 sentences already on the first lesson!
Fabia is a very nice student and learns very quickly. It is a pleasure to teach her as she really likes to learn a difficult language like Portuguese and improved a lot.
5/5
It was very nice to take a lesson from Theano (Anny). She is adaptable to the student's level and is prepared to help the student as necessary. She is a friendly and caring teacher!
Σ' ευχαριστώ πολύ Μέγκαν! I'm glad you had a good experience and that you enjoyed it. Your excitment about learning greek motivates me even more :)
5/5
Marissa is a very professional teacher who can put the student at ease. It is precise, effective and oriented towards achieving the objectives: highly recommended.
Translated by Google Translate
Thanks so much Paola!!! I LOVE working with you guys and have enjoyed every moment. Even after this brief period, we can already start to see some changes. :-)
5/5
I have had many lessons with Luisa and I always look forward to them. We begin by chatting about the past week's events and them move to Espresso which I find very useful as a good review of material I have done in the past. There is often additional words used I had not met before. Luisa is always a pleasure to talk with and is a kind and pleasant teacher. She corrects me gently and offers useful words or meanings when appropriate.
Dear Martin thank you so much ! It's my pleasure taking class with you. And thanks a lot for your suggestion about Us movies ( Just Mercy) or Us books
5/5
I had my first lesson a couple of days ago and everything went super good! Karin was attentive, transmiting her positivism and helping me with every doubt I had. She really focus on teaching how to pronounce and talk a language, so this is really interesting for me, to practise it & be able to use it in my day by day. I really recommend her to everyone willing to learn a new language :)
Hi Alba! Thank you so much for your wonderful review! I enjoyed our class too & I wish you the best of luck with all your future projects :-)
5/5
A prepared and kind teacher, ready to teach with patience and good humor. He provided me with very useful materials to study and review even after the lesson. I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn a language with a smile. Thanks Silvia :)
Translated by Google Translate
Thank you so much for the Chiara review! It was a real pleasure to have this lesson with you. I wish you a nice trip with the German language!
Translated by Google Translate
5/5
The lesson with Celia was perfect! She was puntcual, kind and her teaching method is effective and funny. She started the class with some "games" to get to know eachother and then we discussed about an article she provided. The time of the class passed really fast and I learned new vocabulary. Absolutely raccomended.
Thank you so much, Remark! I´m happy to know you enjoyed our lesson and I´m looking forward to having more in the near future! Cheers!
5/5
Ekaterina writes new words and sentences learnt during the lesson. She has got a very nice attitude and great accent! A pleasure to work with... yes, even in German!!!!!
Dear Silvia, thank you very much for your feedback! It's a real pleasure to have classes with you, and I hope you find them useful!
5/5