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'.
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.
In 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:
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' are not only used as definite articles. They are also the most common relative pronouns.
Instead of 'der/die/das' we can use 'welcher/welche/welches'.
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 case||Different case|
(related noun in nominative and pronoun in accusative)
(related noun in nominative and pronoun in accusative)
Relative pronouns in German can be accompanied by prepositions.
The pronouns case depends on the preposition now!
The preposition stands before the relative pronoun in the relative clause.
For some expressions in German we use 'was' and 'wo' as relative pronouns. These pronouns are not declined.
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.
|Replacing a noun||Jenes ist das Haus, was abgerissen wird. - That is the house that is being demolished.|
|Replacing a pronoun||Vieles, 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.
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
|Replacing a spatial element||Das 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 element||Sie 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.|
If a replaced spatial element indicates some kind of direction we use 'wohin' or 'woher'.
|wohin||where(to)||Carlos lebt in Kolumbien, wohin ich unbedingt mal Reisen möchte. - Carlos lives in Colombia, where I really want to travel someday.|
|woher||from where||Das ist die Seite, woher ich die Informationen habe. - That's the page, (where) I have the information from.|
The word 'wo' can also be united with some prepositions.
|womit||by/with which||Ich habe ein Radio, womit ich Musik höre. - I have a radio with which I listen to the music.|
|wofür||for which||Er hat mir sehr geholfen, wofür ich mich bedanken möchten. - He helped me a lot, for which I am thankful.|
|worüber||about (what / which)||Das ist das Unglück, worüber die Nachrichten berichten. - Thats the tragedy the newas reports about.|
|wovon||about (what) /from (which)||Das ist das, wovon ich dir erzählt habe. - That's what I told you about.|
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