I'm currently learning German using Duolingo, and I came across the sentence “Es gibt Menschen, die kein Haus haben.”

Duolingo says the translation is: “There are people who do not have a house.”

I don't understand how die is translated to who.

If I wanted to say “There’s a person who likes cats,” would it be “Es gibt ein Person, die Kazen mag”?

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    Where exactly do you see a problem with the use of die for who? - What is your first language? In your first language, do you have something you would call a relative pronoun? – Christian Geiselmann Feb 21 '18 at 17:28
  • It is a very wonderful thing in German, learn it very carefully! All the languages I know, has a similar construction, but German does this on the most logical way. This is used in the alldays a lot, so you have to learn it well in both directions! But don't worry, it is easy (maybe a little bit harder as the modelverbs). Sometimes there is a quite complex relativpronom + modalverb + passive construction (z.B. "die Aufgaben, die erledigt werden konnten, wurden all erledigt"), particularly in Big Company environment, you have to learn also them. – peterh - Reinstate Monica Feb 22 '18 at 19:31
  • @ChristianGeiselmann My 2 native languages are English and Hebrew, only languages I know. Non of them have this weird way of relative pronouns, so it was new to me :) – Avi Sasson Feb 23 '18 at 20:12


Es gibt Menschen, die kein Haus haben

"die" is a relative pronoun, introducing the relative clause, just like "who" is in English.

Your second example is nearly correct, it should be

Es gibt eine Person, die Katzen mag

Note in German relative pronouns need to follow the subject they relate to in gender and number (unlike in English that distinguishes between persons and non-persons), so

Es gibt einen Mann, der Katzen mag

Es gibt eine Frau, die Katzen mag

Es gibt ein Kind, das Katzen mag

Es gibt Leute, die Katzen mögen

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  • My other sentence was "There's a person who likes cats", doesn't you second sentence (Es gibt eine Person, die keine Katzen mag) mean "There's a person who doesn't like cats"? – Avi Sasson Feb 21 '18 at 17:00
  • It's OK, as I said it's a minor thing, just wanted to make sure it was ACTUALLY a minor error rather than something huge I've missed :) – Avi Sasson Feb 21 '18 at 17:00
  • Decided your example people now actually like cats ;) – tofro Feb 21 '18 at 17:01
  • Is this relative clause also used to say "that"? as in "There's a car that can fly"? – Avi Sasson Feb 21 '18 at 17:02
  • Yep. "Es gibt ein Auto, das fliegen kann" - Second but last example – tofro Feb 21 '18 at 17:03

The word die is a relative pronoun here. It is plural (and nominative, because it is the subject of the relative clause). Your other example is almost correct, but only because Person is feminine. So it would be

Es gibt eine Person, die...


Es gibt einen Menschen, der...

Es gibt ein Individuum, das...

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(The following is just a side note to the perfectly satisfying answers of Carsten S and Tofro.)

There are some dialects of German where they use wo quite the same way English does:

Do isch a Mââ, wo Katza maa. [Da ist ein Mann, der Katzen mag]

Do isch a Frau, wo Hond it riacha kaa. [Da ist eine Frau, die Hunde nicht riechen kann]

But note: the English who can be used only for persons, the South German dialectal "wo" is a full relative pronoun able to replace anything:

Do isch a Schiff, wo blaue Seegl hot. [Da ist ein Schiff, das blaue Segel hat.]

Examples used here are from Swabian, a dialect spoken in Germany's south-west. The phenomenon is, however, not restricted to that dialect.

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  • It's the same with was or wat in Northern German dialects. – Janka Feb 21 '18 at 18:08
  • Confused: do you equate "wo" and "who"? Since you seem to indicate that "wo" is dialectal for "wer"("der") a clarification might help to avoid the false friend dilemma of reading "wo" like in "wohin/woher." – LаngLаngС Feb 21 '18 at 20:49
  • it = nicht? (In »wo Hond it riacha kaa«.) Sollte das nicht eher nit sein? Darüber hinaus muss ich LangLangC Recht geben: wo ≠ who. Sondern: wo = where; wer = who. – Hubert Schölnast Feb 22 '18 at 7:22
  • @HubertSchölnast "it", "nit", "ett", "etta", "net", "netta" - All southwest-German for "nicht" - Thinking about it, a pretty negative group of dialects... – tofro Feb 22 '18 at 7:27
  • Ich nehme an, der zitierte Dialekt ist Schwäbisch? In Österreich (wo ebenfalls "South German dialect" gesprochen wird, aber eben doch etwas anderes als Schwäbisch) würden die Sätze wie folgt lauten: »Do is a Mau, der wos Kotzn mog.« »Do is a Frau, die wos kane Hund riachn kau.« »Do is a Schiff, des wos blaue Segl hot.« Siehe auch: Herkunft von »der was« – Hubert Schölnast Feb 22 '18 at 7:28

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