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Confused by the use of was in the relative clause of the following sentence:

Zerfrisst die Rüstung des Ziels, was dessen Rüstungswert deutlich beeinträchtigt.

Erodes the armor of the target, significantly reducing its armor-value

or in an awkward, but more literal translation:

Erodes the armor of the target, whose armor-value becomes reduced.

I am assuming that the dessen here is a genitive-case article that corresponds to the modified noun Ziels. My question is: is the was here necessary? if so, why and how does it affect the meaning?

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The literal translation is:

Erodes the armor of the target, which significantly reduces its armor value.

Was corresponds to which.

The literal translation of

Erodes the armor of the target, whose armor value is significantly reduced.

is

Zerfrisst die Rüstung des Ziels, dessen Rüstungswert deutlich beeinträchtigt wird.

The relative pronoun was in the German sentence refers to the eroding, not to the target as in your last translation. There is practically no difference in meaning but the original German sentence is a bit clearer about the reduction of the armor value being the effect of the eroding.

In the sentence above you can make it a bit clearer by adding dadurch (by it):

Zerfrisst die Rüstung des Ziels, dessen Rüstungswert dadurch deutlich beeinträchtigt wird.

Another option would be to use wodurch as a relative pronoun:

Zerfrisst die Rüstung des Ziels, wodurch dessen Rüstungswert deutlich beeinträchtigt wird.

which literally means:

Erodes the armor of the target, by which its armor value is significantly reduced.

  • Actually the German sentence is not the original, but an amateur translation of an English sentence from the Enhanced User Interface mod for the game Pillars of Eternity 2. – user34121 Aug 26 '18 at 18:16
  • If was corresponds to which, what then does the dessen correspond to? – Paolo Menuez Aug 27 '18 at 0:15
  • @SamuelSnow I have not downloaded any mods, so I am not sure what the source of the localization is. German is merely one of the pre-set language options in the settings. The above sentence is taken as it appears in the game. Are you perhaps suggesting that there are grammatical errors in the localization? – Paolo Menuez Aug 27 '18 at 4:26
  • @PaoloMenuez No, it is grammatically correct, but "..., was" is colloquial and not standard written German. A professional writer might have chosen a less confusing way to phrase the sentence (because it takes a bit of thinking to understand it even for a native speaker). I'm not a UI professional and unfamiliar with this type of computer game, but I would have chosen something like: "Zerfrisst die Rüstung des Ziels und beeinträchtigt dessen Rüstungswert." or: "Zerfrist die Rüstung des Gegners und setzt dessen Rüstungswert um 50 Punkte herab." – user34121 Aug 27 '18 at 11:48
  • Was as a relative pronoun is perfectly OK if it refers to the preceding clause which is the case here. It would be colloquial if it referred to Ziel. – RHa Aug 27 '18 at 12:03

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