3

In English grammar, a relative clause which describes a noun should directly follow it.

For instance, we can say:

I drove the lady who we saw yesterday to her house.

but we can’t say:

I drove the lady to her house, who we saw yesterday.

However, it seems that there is more than one way to express such meaning in German.

  1. Ich habe gestern deinen großen Freund, der jetzt an der Uni studiert, gesehen.

    [like the first right English sentence, subordinate clause directly follows the noun Tochter]

  2. Ich habe gestern deinen großen Freund gesehen, der jetzt an der Uni studiert.

    [this sentence structure is wrong in English]

I would like to know whether these two German sentences are both correct?

4

Since the connection between the relative clause and the noun that it is describing is established by agreement in gender and number, the relative clause does not necessarily have to directly follow the concerned noun.

Er legte das Geschenk, das er aus der Stadt mitgebracht hatte, auf den Tisch.

Er legte das Geschenk auf den Tisch, das er aus der Stadt mitgebracht hatte.

The clarity of this connection is disturbed if another noun with the same gender and number is placed in between.

Er legte das Geschenk auf das Bett, das er aus der Stadt mitgebracht hatte.

In this case, the relative clause should directly follow the noun that it is describing.

Er legte das Geschenk, das er aus der Stadt mitgebracht hatte, auf das Bett.

2

Relative clauses should always directly follow the concerned noun, although there's no obligation. It's good style. Except in the case you mentioned:

"Ich habe gestern deinen großen Freund, der jetzt an der Uni studiert, gesehen."

If part of the verbal construction is the only word that follows (past participle, verb in a subordinate clause, infinitive that belongs to a modal verb etc.), the sentence cannot be said or read fluently.

In those cases it's therefore very common and better style to change the order to:

"Ich habe gestern deinen großen Freund gesehen, der jetzt an der Uni studiert."

0

Both sentences are correct.

However, taking your other example "I drove the lady who we saw yesterday to her house" ("Ich fuhr die Dame, die wir gestern gesehen hatten, nach Hause"), it would sound a bit weird moving the relative clause somewhere else in the sentence.

Generally, if the relative clause is rather long it often gets separated from the noun it's describing so one can infer the meaning of the whole sentence more easily. If the relative clause is rather short it normally stays right behind the noun.

  • "Ich fuhr die Dame nach Hause, die wir gestern gesehen hatten" sounds completely alright to me. In fact, it avoids "Nachklapp", so I might prefer it. – Hagen von Eitzen Dec 4 '14 at 19:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.