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When is it correct to use "welcher" as a relative pronoun, and when should we use "der" instead?

For instance, should I write:

Schreiben Sie ein Programm, welches die Lösung findet.


Schreiben Sie ein Programm, das die Lösung findet.

The second seems better, but it's not clear to me, since "Programm" is indefinite. Does this make a difference in the choice?

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Grammatisch korrekt sind beide Versionen. "Welches" ist die förmlicher klingende Variante, "das" die gebräuchlichere (dabei aber keineswegs umgangssprachlich). Ich persönlich würde mich im Beispiel für "das" entscheiden. Der unbestimmte Artikel spielt für die Entscheidung keine Rolle. "Welches" wird oft verwendet, um zu verhindern, dass ein Relativpronomen und ein gleich klingender Artikel aufeinandertreffen, also beispielsweise: "Die Broschüre, welche die Bedeutung ... erläutert ..." statt "Die Broschüre, die die Bedeutung ..." Dies ist hier aber nicht relevant.

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Thank you. The context is formal here, so I will use the welcher form. – aeismail Mar 6 '13 at 9:28
It's perfectly alright to use "das" in a formal context. Some people would consider the use of "welcher" too formal (and overly pedantic or even mannered), except to avoid the case of Relativpronomen plus Artikel described above. – user2606 Mar 6 '13 at 20:25
Also I think it is important to note that the use of 'der, die, das' is always correct and can be used in any context - formal or not. – codingFriend1 Mar 8 '13 at 7:54
@aeismail I agree with user2606 that "welcher" is seen as mannered, I would avoid it until you are very sure of its stylistic implications. – user1914 Mar 8 '13 at 13:17

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