From Der Spiegel:

Als Pfarrer in Rostock war Gauck kein Widerstandskämpfer, aber doch ein Bürgerrechtler. Deren energischen Freiheitsbegriff trägt er in die bundesdeutsche Politik, ...

I thought that here "energischen Freiheitsbegriff" belongs to "Bürgerrechtler", a masculine noun, and so it should be "dessen energischen Freiheitsbegriff". But why is it "deren" here?

  • In this case, the use of the demonstrative „deren“ is not necessary. It would be better to use the possessive and say „Ihren energischen Freiheitsbegriff trägt er in die bundesdeutsche Politik …“
    – user9551
    Oct 4, 2014 at 18:37

2 Answers 2


The meaning of the first sentence is that Gauck was a "Bürgerrechtler", thus he belonged to the group of all "Bürgerrechtler". That's why the author uses the plural form "deren" in the second sentence, because it is the notion of freedom of the whole group that he is referring to.

  • 1
    I understand what you're saying. But since the plural "Bürgerrechtler" was never mentioned in the text, doesn't that make it grammatically incorrect? Like in English it sounds strange (at least to me) to say "He is a civil right campaigner. He carries their energetic concept of freedom into the national politics."
    – boaten
    Oct 4, 2014 at 18:14
  • 1
    @boaten That's a good question. I guess it works out because "Bürgerrechtler" is both the mascular singular and the plural form. It would sound wrong (at least to me) if the first sentence was about some woman, thus a "Bürgerrechtlerin".
    – Matthias
    Oct 4, 2014 at 18:18

The use of "deren" in the above quote taken from Der Spiegel is careless journalistic style. The last noun is "ein Bürgerrechtler (singular). Then he continues with "deren" and refers to the plural form "die Bürgerrechtler. That's botch. By the way, "deren" is a relative pronoun, not a demonstrative prounoun as in: Autoren, deren Bücher viel gelesen werden.

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