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These are the two sentences I'm pondering over:

Hast du eine App, die Google Maps heißt?

and

Hast du eine App, die heißt Google Maps?

Technically the verb should go at the end as it is succeeding the word die. However, because the second part of the sentence (the dependent clause) is short, it seems to me that both of these are correct.

As a matter of fact, the first version sounds a bit too "rigorous" (as if you're trying to force yourself to put the verb at the end although it doesn't need to be), whereas the second one sounds a bit more natural for me. Which one should one use or be expected to use in formal/informal contexts?

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In your variation, only the first is correct, interpretable and likely to be heard that way, no matter how formal or informal the situation.

Moving the finite verb to the end of a subordinate clause is not a matter of style or preference, it is deeply ingrained into the sub-conscious language centre of a German speaker’s brain. It is something that will throw them off if it doesn’t happen. Thus, the version with heißt at the end must be a relative clause, the version with heißt at the beginning must be a combination of two main clauses separated by a comma rather than a full stop.

Can we interpret your second sentence as two main clauses? Yes, we could. But unfortunately, they don’t make sense being that close together. To connect two main clauses by a comma rather than a full stop requires them to be similar enough. However, the first sentence is clearly a question (verb first). The second is not (verb second). But the second sentence carries the question mark. There are so many contradictions that it just won’t work.


We can change your sentence mildly, though, to allow for both versions:

Du hast eine App, die Google Maps heißt.

Du hast eine App, die heißt Google Maps.

Again, the first version with a relative clause is always okay and typically preferred. But the second version is no longer wrong, it is just ‘chunky’. It’s two loosely connected sentences, connected more strongly than with a full stop.

The second version would still, however, mostly be confined to informal and spoken German, and is more likely to occur if you are actually dealing with a chain of sentences:

Wie finde ich denn den Weg zu deiner Wohnung?

Du hast eine App, die heißt Google Maps, die machst du auf, da gibst du die Adresse ein, dann klickst du auf Weg berechnen und dann musst du es nur noch schaffen, nicht falsch abzubiegen.

  • Once again, you give an amazing, detailed answer that covers virtually all points that come to mind. Thanks Jan! – Skeleton Bow Oct 11 '16 at 21:54

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