German Relative Pronoun Types


A Relative Pronoun is a pronoun that introduces two types of clauses, namely, a relative clause/ adjective clause and a noun clause. The commonly used Relative Pronouns are which, that, who, whose, and whom.

“That,” “which,” and “who” are the Relative Pronouns that function as the subjects of the relative clauses

When the antecedent is a person, the relative pronoun used as subject is “who”. The relative pronoun “which” is used when the antecedent is a thing. The relative pronoun, “that”, is used for both person and thing.

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A relative clause is a clause that allows us to add more information or detail about a noun or pronoun. We can insert a relative clause into a main clause and behind which ever noun we wish to add more information about. 

The man, whom I work for, is very nice. 

In the above example, “The man is very nice” is the main clause. I wish to add the detail that I work for him, so I add the relative clause “whom I work for” directly behind the noun. 

In German, we can add relative clauses the exact same way, but we have to keep word order in mind. Relative clauses are considered subordinate clauses, which means that in German, the conjugated verb is “kicked” to the end of the clause. 

1. Relative pronouns

Most commonly, we use the definite article as a relative pronoun. The declension of a relative pronoun is slightly different from that of the definite articles. 

relative jpg 1

Der Schüler, den ich jede Wocheunterrichte, macht große Fortschritte. 
The student, whom I teach every week, is making great progress. 

In the above example, the main clause is “Der Schüler macht große Fortschritte” (The student is making great progress”. I would like to add more detail to the student, but I have to pay attention to the gender and case of the student in the relative clause. The sentence “Ich unterrichte den Schüler” (I teach the student) shows that the student has to be in the accusative case, so I need to use “den” as the relative pronoun, and the verb “unterrichte” is moved to the end of the relative clause. 

2.Werand  “wasas relative pronouns

It is possible to use “wer” (who), “was” (what) and “wo” (where) in place of a relative pronoun. “was” only for non-living things, and can only be used in a sentence with demonstrative pronouns and indefinite pronouns. 

“wer” is only used non-specific people, and is typically used as an alternatives of sentences with indefinite pronouns such as “jeder” (everyone), “jemand” (someone), etc., and demonstrative pronouns. 

relat tyes jpg

Examples withwas:
Alleswas ich gegessen habe, hat gut geschmeckt. (non-living, indef. pronoun “alles”)
Everything, that/which I ate, has tasted good. 

Nichtswas du mir erzählt hast, glaube ich dir. (non-living, indef. pronoun “nichts”)
Nothing, that/which you have told me, I believe. 

Bestell dir das, was du willst. (non-living, demonstr. pronoun “das”)
Order that, which you want. 

Examples withwer:
Derjenige, der ein Stück Kuchen will, soll sich melden. (pers., dem. pron. “derjenige”)
He, who wants a piece of cake, should make themselves known. 

This sentence can also be rephrased using “wer” as a relative pronoun: 

Wer ein Sück Kuchen will, soll sich melden. 
Who(ever) wants a piece of cake should make themselves known. 

3.Woas a relative pronoun

“Wo” can be used to refer to a place or space, a period of time, or an entire process. “Wo” as a relative pronoun could be translated with “in which”. It can also be substituted with “in dem/der/dem/denen” (dative). 

In der Stadt, wo mein Großvater gelebt hat, gibt es viele Museen. 
                   , in der mein Großvater….
In the city, in which my grandfather has lived, are many museums.  

In der Zeit, wo ich studierte, jobbte ich in einem kleinen Café. 
                , in der ich….
During the time, in which I studied, I worked/jobbed at a little café. 

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

I can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. I can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions.
Spoken Production:
I can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, my dreams, hopes and ambitions. I can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. I can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe my reactions.
Spoken Interaction:
I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events).
I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.
I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programs on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.