I got this definition of Zusammenfassung from de.wiktionary.org and it is as follows.

Zusammenfassung: kurzer Text, der den Inhalt eines längeren Textes knapp wiedergibt.

There is a lot of grammar at play here, but I cant find any articles or example to explain it.

First, I assume that the word "wiedergibt" comes from the word "wiedergeben", but I cannot find this exact conjugation in Verbix.com, the closest I conjugation I can find is "gibt wieder." Also, the verb "wiedergeben" is a transitive verb so it must have an object, and I think a subject as well. My understanding is that "Zusammenfassung" is the subject and that "den Inhalt" is the object. Is this correct? Also, knapp is playing the role of an adverb here right? Usually adverbs go behind the verb, right? So, why the change here? And, is "wiedergeben" conjugated as "wiedergibt" opposed to "gibt wieder" because it occurs at the end of the sentence?

Second, there is the repeated article "der den" which is hard for a native English speaker to grasp. I found this article on german.stackexchange which was very helpful but it still left me with question. Is the "der" in the definition referring back to "kurzer Text"? So, in a way it say something like "A short text, that which [...]"?

Next, we have "den Inhalt." Is "der Inhalt" in the accusative form because it is being affected by the verb "wiedergeben"? Or, is in the accusative form because it is implicitly being "taken/possessed" from/by "eines längeren Textes"?

Lastly, I tried to put this all together to make a logical definition for Zusammenfasung (I am not so concerned with the actual translation) and this is what I get:

A Zusammenfassung is something that renders the content of long text into a short text.


A Zusammenfassung renders the content of long text into a short text.

Do these definitions sound correct?

3 Answers 3


Your definitions look correct to me (though to be fussy I'd say "it renders a longer text into a short one").

The verb is indeed "wiedergeben", and the object is "den Inhalt eines längeren Textes" (which hopefully also explains the accusative "den Inhalt").

"Wiedergeben" is a separable verb, but since the sentence you're looking at is a subordinate (Nebensatz), introduced by the relative pronoun "der", the verb goes to the end of the sentence, and even though it's separable it stays together (and this hopefully explains why "der den" are written next to each other but don't really belong together. BTW, longer sequences of that kind are possible.).

If the sentence were a main clause (Hauptsatz), it would be:

... gibt den Inhalt eines längeren Textes knapp wieder.

The "..." is the subject (kurzer Text/die Zusammenfassung)

As you see, "den Inhalt eines längeren Textes" is the direct object of "wiedergeben". Turned into a relative clause, "kurzer Text" is replaced by the masculine nominative relative pronoun "der", and the verb goes to the end and the prefix joins it (this is just a grammar rule, nothing to understand here):

(ein kurzer Text), der den Inhalt eines längeren Textes knapp wiedergibt.

  • So then, "Inhalt eines längeren Textes" acts a noun phrase and this noun phase is masculine. So, the article den is revering to the entire noun phrase which is masculine? Does that sound right? Mar 1, 2014 at 22:59
  • Also, what makes this sentence a subordinate sentence vs. a main clause? Are these the only two types of sentences? Mar 1, 2014 at 23:02
  • 2
    Yes, "der Inhalt eines lngeren Textes" is treated like a single noun and in the accusative it becomes thus "den Inhalt ...". In this case, the sentence is a subordinate because it's introduced by a relative pronoun. In german, there are other words, besides relative pronouns, that can introduce subordinate clauses, like "weil", "dass", "obwohl" and a few more. For the purposes of sentence construction, the distinction between main and subordinate sentence is what matters most in german. More info: canoo.net/services/OnlineGrammar/Satz/Komplex/Funktion/…
    – persson
    Mar 1, 2014 at 23:12
  • And of course, the distinction between main and subordinate sentences is a general concept and applies to any language, not just german.
    – persson
    Mar 1, 2014 at 23:15

In the context of a paper or an article it is the "abstract", where you explain in a couple of sentences the problem you are dealing with, and in two or three sentences more you give a brief overview of your results. I hope with this example you can have a better idea of the meaning of Zusammenfassung.

  • Thanks for your input. I didn't think of the translation "abstract" but that is a very fitting translation. Mar 1, 2014 at 23:07
  • @JimmyJackson, summary is a more direct translation.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 3, 2014 at 12:14
  • @CarstenSchultz, Summary is the the translation that I was thinking of. I came across this word in Felix Hausdorf's definition of "eine Menge." He says "Eine Menge ist eine Zusammenfassung von Dingen zu einem Ganzen, d. h. zu einem neuen Ding." In this case I think it is best to look at the definitions of the word "zusammen" and "Fassung" separately and then you can get a clearer idea of his word choice. Is this often the case in technical writings? Because, here, summary is not an advantageous interpretation of "Zusammenfassung," a better definition is "a holder that joins things". Mar 4, 2014 at 17:36
  • @CarstenSchultz, Nonetheless in this post I was mostly concerned with the grammar in the given definition, rather than the actual translation of the word. I am finding repeated articles especially difficult to grasp. For example, the sentence "Arbeiten will ich erst dem dem Essen" which translate to "I don't want to work until after dinner". The first "dem" here seems superfluous and I honestly cannot figure what it belongs to. In fact if you dropped the first "dem" there is enough information present in the sentence to deduce that "I want the food before work" which is essentially the message Mar 4, 2014 at 17:52
  • @JimmyJackson, in that context, collection would be the usual translation. This “definition” of a set is essentially Cantor's. The verb zusammenfassen has different uses, and summary is only the most common meaning of Zusammenfassung.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 4, 2014 at 17:56

On what you wrote under Second: The construction here is basically a relative clause.

You can pick it apart as follows:

Zusammenfassung (abstract): short text (kurzer Text), which (der) ... + verb.

The verb in this case is "wiedergeben" in third person, so

Zusammenfassung: kurzer Text, der ... wiedergibt.

wiedergeben requires an accusative object now: wen gibt der Text wieder?

Zusammenfassung: kurzer Text, der den Inhalt wiedergibt.

The contents of what, you ask?

Zusammenfassung: kurzer Text, der den Inhalt eines längeren Textes wiedergibt.

So the basic English translation word by word would be:

Abstract: short text, that the contents of a longer text describes.

das den is that the.

  • Maybe it would be helpful to add a version of the last sentence with English word order.
    – Carsten S
    Mar 3, 2014 at 16:50

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