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Quite irrelevant question, but also quite annoying not to know.

If I want to suppress a relative clause by writing parenthesis around it, can I delete the comma? That is, like in the following example:

[…] Mädchen (das schon seit langem da wartete).

I guess you will tell me "well, look how we deal with them in other languages" – and you'd have a point. But comma (in German) doesn't equal comma (in other language), because of the strict punctuation in relative sentences in German.

I mean, firstly, I thought there were only two possibilities:

a) […] Mädchen (, das schon seit langem da wartete).

b) […] Mädchen, (das schon seit langem da wartete).

I was 99% sure that b) would be the right option, because a) looks really ugly. But content in parenthesis can sometimes be thought of as things, after whose removal the sentence still has to make sense:

a) […] Mädchen. [does make sense after removal of the relative clause]

b) […] Mädchen,. [dropping the clause leads to nonsense punctuation ,.]

Hence considering a) isn't that crazy. But neither of these options convinces me, which originates the question.

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1 Answer 1

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You can delete the comma, and actually you must delete it.

Parenthesis replace the commas; see Rule 98 in the Duden.

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There is, however, no relative clause in the examples, which is funny. But I guess the editors of Duden would be smart enough to add, explicitly, that exception, in case it would exist. So, I guess this is the answer. – c.p. Apr 10 '14 at 5:43
@c.p. there actually is: "In seiner Vergangenheit (nur wenige kannten ihn noch von früher) gab es manchen dunklen Punkt. Auch möglich: In seiner Vergangenheit, nur wenige kannten ihn noch von früher, gab es ..." – Alex Apr 10 '14 at 10:12
@Alex Sure that this is a relative clause? It does not refer to the subject of the main clause (which would be Vergangenheit). A better example for a relative clause would be In seiner Vergangenheit (an die sich nur wenige erinnern konnten) gab es – Thorsten Dittmar Apr 10 '14 at 11:42
I am not quite sure, indeed. but this is applicable to all cases – Alex Apr 10 '14 at 12:16
You can mostly apply the first part of my answer about dashes and commas here: Commas and parentheses roughly have the same function here and thus you do not need both. Funnily, the official spelling rules are not much clearer than the Duden and also have no corresponding example. – Wrzlprmft Apr 10 '14 at 21:24

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