Relative clauses

Summary: relative clauses

Relative clauses are subordinate clauses. As a rule, they cannot stand alone and are dependent on a superordinate main clause or subordinate clause. Relative clauses give more information about the noun or pronoun in the superordinate clause. A relative clause generally comes directly after the word it refers to, separated by a comma. The conjugated verb normally comes at the end of the relative clause. The relative clause is linked to the superordinate clause with a relative pronoun. This relative pronoun refers to the main word in the superordinate clause.

The main word determines the Genus (grammatical gender) and Numerus (singular/plural) of the relative pronoun linking the relative clause to the superordinate clause.

The Kasus (case) of the relative pronoun depends on the grammatical function of the relative pronoun in the relative clause.


The main word is masculine singular (der Investor).

Nominative: the relative pronoun is the subject.

Ich kenne einen Investor. Er (= der Investor) hat Interesse an einem Lieferservice.
Ich kenne einen Investor, der Interesse an einem Lieferservice hat.

Accusative: the relative pronoun is the accusative object or follows a preposition that takes the accusative.

Ich kenne einen Investor. Ich kann ihn (= den Investor) mal anrufen und fragen.
Ich kenne einen Investor, den ich mal anrufen und fragen kann.

Dative: the relative pronoun is the dative object or follows a preposition that takes the dative.

Ich kenne einen Investor. Ich habe früher schon mit ihm (= dem Investor) zusammengearbeitet.
Ich kenne einen Investor, mit dem ich früher schon zusammengearbeitet habe.

A review of the relative pronouns der, die and das:

Nominative Singular der/die/das
  Plural die
Accusative Singular den/die/das
  Plural die
Dative Singular dem/der/dem
  Plural denen(!)


Grammatical terms in German:

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

das Relativpronomen: A relative pronoun connects a relative clause with a superordinate clause.

das Genus: The Genus is the grammatical gender of a noun. We can tell the Genus from the definite article of a noun.

der Numerus: The Numerus of a word is singular or plural.

der Kasus: The Kasus is the case of a pronoun or noun and its modifiers e.g., nominative, accusative or dative.