In the Vorwort to this book, the philosopher says the following:

Dieses Buch wird vielleicht nur der verstehen, der die Gedanken, die darin ausgedrückt sind-oder doch ähnliche Gedanken-schon selbst einmal gedacht hat.

(Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus logico-philosophicus, p.7)

If I break down this sentence, I get the following clauses:

  1. Dieses Buch wird vielleicht nur der verstehen
  2. der die Gedanken ... schon selbst einmal gedacht hat
  3. die darin ausgedrückt sind-oder doch ähnliche Gedanken-

Is the der in the first clause a demonstrative pronoun similar to this one in English, and the der in the second clause the relative pronoun relating back to the one in the first clause, as I think they are?

Is the word order in the first clause, Dieses Buch wird vielleicht nur der verstehen, considered very formal?

After all, I think that this clause could have been written like this:

Vielleicht wird nur der dieses Buch verstehen

  • You could replace the first "der" by "derjenige", so "this one" is correct.
    – IQV
    Jul 19, 2017 at 9:40
  • @IQV As far as I know, derjenige, diejenige, dasjenige, plural diejenigen are even more formal than der, die, das, plural die. Correct? Jul 19, 2017 at 9:43
  • 1
    The demonstrative pronoun derjenige (and friends) is a combination of the demonstrative pronouns der and jener. It's not a matter of formality but perspective. Der focuses on pointing on someone/something, while jener focuses on the fact the one or thing in question is in the distance. So derjenige is a distinct person in the distance – the reader. He's both addressed and known to be far away from the author.
    – Janka
    Jul 19, 2017 at 10:09
  • @Janka Could Wittgenstein have used derjenige instead of der in this sentence? Jul 19, 2017 at 10:12
  • Yes, but it's not his style, I think.
    – Janka
    Jul 19, 2017 at 10:13

1 Answer 1


As your first question has been answered sufficiently in the comments, here an answer to your second question:

No, the sentence with its beginning

Dieses Buch wird vielleicht nur der verstehen, der...

will not be considered "very formal". It is a completely "normal" (average, unmarked, unremarkable, unconspicuous) sentence.

Whereas your alternative

Vielleicht wird nur der dieses Buch verstehen

sounds more casual and oral, and not really appropriate for the context.

Word order is a means for giving emphasis to things. First position in a sentence is emphasized. Wittgenstein chose to emphasize dieses Buch, not vielleicht.

  • I see. And my re-writing it is also grammatically correct? Jul 19, 2017 at 11:18
  • 1
    Vielleicht wird nur der dieses Buch verstehen, der... is grammatically perfectly correct. It is just a little bit too casual for the context. However, had Wittgenstein written this instead of what he actually wrote, still nobody would have accused him of sloppyness. Jul 19, 2017 at 11:20
  • Comments do no count as answers. There is nothing wrong with repeating what someone else wrote in a comment.
    – Carsten S
    Jul 19, 2017 at 15:24

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