If you start a sentence with deren, do you have to use the same syntax as a subordinate clause? By that I mean, do you have to push the verbs to the end of the clause?


Sie haben Ihre Hunde gestreichelt, deren Welpen gerade ankommen sind.

(They have pet their dogs, whose puppies have just arrived.)

  • 1
    It should be "attributive clauses" (Attributsätze) rather than "adjective clauses". – user28953 Jul 25 '17 at 0:23
  • Or relative clause, as explained in the answers below. – RHa Jul 25 '17 at 6:30

A term like adjective clause is not defined in German. But defined are:

  • relative clause = Relativsatz
  • subordinate clause = Nebensatz

I'm not an expert in English grammar, but I think that adjective clause and relative clause are quite the same thing.

In German Relativsätze are a subset of Nebensätze, i.e. every Relativsatz is a Nebensatz, but there exist Nebensätze which are not Relativsätze.


  • A German Relativsatz can be an attribute of a part of speech in the main clause (»attributiver Relativsatz«):

    • Sabine, die gerade kocht, gibt dem Kind Kartoffeln. (related to the subject)
    • Sabine gibt dem Kind, das ständig schreit, Kartoffeln. (related to the dative object)
    • Sabine gibt dem Kind Kartoffeln, die sie vor dem Kochen schält. (related to the accusative object)
  • But a German Relativsatz can also be a part of the main clause itself (»freier Relativsatz«):

    • Sabine gibt dem Kind, was es wünscht. (The relative clause itself is an accusative object in the main clause)
    • Wer Kartoffeln möchte, bekommt auch welche. (The relative clause itself is the subject of the main clause)
    • Jeder kann essen, wo er möchte. (The relative clause itself is a local adverbial in the main clause)*

Usually a Relativsatz starts with a relative pronoun (der, die, das; welcher, welche, welches) or with a relative adverb (wo, wie, da, als).

But sometimes also longer phrases can be used to start a Relativsatz:

Der Täter, für dessen Ergreifung eine hohe Belohnung ausgesetzt wurde, floh.


In German a Nebensatz is a part of a sentence that depends on the so-called matrix clause. A Nebensatz can be a Relativsatz (see above), but also:

  • Subjekt- und Objektsätze

    Dass du alleine bist, ist nicht gut. (Subjektsatz)
    Ich weiß, dass du alleine bist. (Objektsatz)

  • Adverbialsätze
    Some examples:

    Falls ich gewinne, musst du bezahlen. (Konditionalsatz) Es war besser, als ich es mir erträumt hatte. (Komparativsatz)
    Er kam zu spät, weil er verschlafen hatte. (Kausalsatz)

In all Nebensätze the finite verb has to be the last word in this Nebensatz. (In a Hauptsatz the finite verb stands at position 2.)


If you start a sentence with deren, do you have to use the same syntax as a subordinate clause?

No. The word order of your example:

Sie haben Ihre Hunde gestreichelt, deren Welpen gerade ankommen sind.

Can be changed (by changing the meaning, of course):

Sie haben Ihre Hunde gestreichelt, deren Welpen sind gerade ankommen.

In your example the second part of the sentence is a relative clause (describing the word "Hunde"). Therefore the word order is of course the word order of a relative clause.

In the second example we have two sentences which are separated by a comma. (Sometimes writers separate sentences by a comma instead of a period to indicate these clauses belong together.) Therefore the word order of both sentences is the word order of a main clause.

  • The answer "no" should probably be changed to "not in every case". – RHa Jul 25 '17 at 6:32
  • @RHa I understood the question in a way that the user wants to know if a sentence which is not a relative clause has that word order when it begins with "deren". – Martin Rosenau Jul 25 '17 at 12:09

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