What is the correct translation for that in German, as a word used to refer to something previously mentioned, for the sentence below?

How happy am I to have something that makes goodbye so hard.

Is it:

(A) Wie glücklich bin ich, etwas zu haben, das den Abschied so schwer macht.


(B) Wie glücklich bin ich, etwas zu haben, was den Abschied so schwer macht.

I know that other words like dass also mean that, but dass must be followed by a pronoun like ich, as in ‘Ich hoffe, dass ich von Wert sein kann’, because dass is a subjunction. So, dass cannot be used to translate the sentence above per se. So may I know which is correct, (A) or (B), or if other words like der can be used to translate that in other instances where the gender noun is different?

  • The Abschied must have a definite article in your sentence. Since it does not touch the issue you were asking about, I merely edited it in.
    – Jan
    Feb 12, 2017 at 18:45

2 Answers 2


That is perceived as a single word in English while it is actually much more of a collection of different words corresponding to different grammatical features. Compare all these sentences using that:

  1. That thing is a ball.

  2. That is a ball.

  3. I understand that you know what a ball is.

  4. The ball that is lying in the corner.

  5. The ball is that large?!

Going from the top of the list to the bottom we have:

  1. a demonstrative article; to be translated into German as der/die/das or dieser/diese/dieses

  2. a demonstrative pronoun; to be translated into German as der/die/das da

  3. a conjunction; typically represented in German by dass

  4. a relative pronoun; represented in German by der/die/das, welcher/welche/welches or was

  5. a modifying adverb; probably best translated as so.

Whenever you see a combination of three words separated by slashes in the above list, the correct word should be chosed depending on the referenced word’s grammatical gender.

Your question is concerning meaning 4. Therefore, both das and was are correct. However, your addendum may need a revisit. In general, you should first attempt to identify what the word in question is (grammatically) and then use your knowledge of German grammar to identify the required word in context.


When referring to something, "that" is not translated to the same word every time. It depends on the genus of what you refer to.

Das Schiff, das... (The ship that...)

Der Baum, der... (The tree that...)

Die Katze, die... (The cat that...)

In your case with "etwas" you correctly used the neutral form.

As to the difference between "das" and "was" in this case: in spoken language, both can be used, but in written you'd use "das" only.

BTW, "dass" does not need to be followed by a pronoun. A noun works as well.

Es ist fürchterlich, dass der Hund schon wieder Flöhe hat. (It's terrible the dog has fleas again.)

If you want to use "dass" in you sentence, you can reword it as:

Wie glücklich bin ich, etwas zu haben, dass (damit) mir den Abschied schwer fällt.

(Still not sure if you'd rather want to say that saying goodbye becomes easier, not harder, though.)

  • Wo ist im Satz »es ist fürchterlich« ein Substantiv?
    – Jan
    Feb 12, 2017 at 18:34

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