Relative clauses: nominative

Relative clauses

Relative clauses are subordinate clauses. Generally they cannot stand alone and are dependent upon a superordinate main clause or subordinate clause. Relative clauses give more precise information about a noun or pronoun in the superordinate clause. Relative clauses generally come immediately after the word to which they relate (the antecedent). The conjugated verb is usually at the end of the relative clause. The relative clause is linked to the superordinate clause by a relative pronoun. This relative pronoun refers to the antecedent word in the superordinate clause.

Relative pronouns

The forms of the relative pronoun der, die and das usually correspond to the definite article. In the forms der, die and das, the relative pronouns introduce relative clauses in the nominative. The antecedent in the main clause defines the grammatical gender and number (singular or plural) of the pronoun. The case is defined by the role of the relative pronoun in the subordinate clause. If the relative pronoun in the subordinate clause has the function of a subject, it is in the nominative.

Nominative masculine singular (der Mann):

Main clause + main clause:       
Der Koch ist der Mann. Er (= der Mann) kocht im Restaurant für Gäste.

Main clause + relative clause:
Der Koch ist der Mann, der im Restaurant für Gäste kocht.

Nominative feminine singular (die Kneipe):

Ich gehe gern in die Kneipe. Sie ist neben meinem Haus.
Ich gehe gern in die Kneipe, die neben meinem Haus ist.

In these examples, the antecedent has a definite article (der, die). But even if the antecedent has an indefinite article or no article at all, the relative pronoun in the nominative takes the form of the definite article.

Nominative neuter singular (das Gericht):

Pizza ist ein Gericht. Es ist nicht besonders gesund.
Pizza ist ein Gericht, das nicht besonders gesund ist.

Nominative plural (die Menschen):

Feinschmecker sind Menschen. Sie wissen viel über gutes Essen.
Feinschmecker sind Menschen, die viel über gutes Essen wissen.


Grammatical terms in German:

der Relativsatz: a relative clause is a subordinate clause that gives more detailed information about a noun or pronoun in the superordinate clause.

das Relativpronomen: a relative pronoun links a relative clause to the superordinate clause.