I like to learn German from the instructions given in class and one such instruction was presented below:

Wenn du Informationen darüber hinzufügen möchtest, wer die Handlung ausführt, kannst du von (+ Dativ) verwenden.

Now, I understand this sentence means roughly:

When you want to add information about who did the action, you can use von + dative.

But the part

Wenn du Informationen darüber hinzufügen möchtest, wer die Handlung ausführt

bothers me as I can't sense why there is the need for a comma between "möchtest" and "wer".

Is there a reason for this? What kind of clause is being presented in this situation?


Let's look at a simpler example:

Ich möchte Informationen darüber, wer die Handlung ausführt.

wer die Handlung ausführt is a subordinate clause (Nebensatz, or more precisely, a Relativsatz). A Nebensatz always requires a comma in German. But even Germans often make the mistake of omitting the comma, although the rule is quite simple.

Actually, the rule is only this simple for finite subordinate clauses. An infinitive clause is more complicated, because the comma rules have been relaxed with the orthography reform of 1996. But the in the case of um zu + object + infinitive, the comma is also mandatory:

Ich benötige Informationen, um die Handlung auszuführen.

  • Fabulous. So this applies to all subordinate clauses?
    – vik1245
    Feb 16 '19 at 19:34
  • All subordinate clauses need commas in German. However, there are short zu-infinitive expressions which have been considered to be subordinate clauses in the past but not any more.
    – Janka
    Feb 17 '19 at 14:57

See it like this: the sentence has three parts

  • you want to add
  • who did the action
  • you can use

So there are 3 parts with subject and verb each. In German you separate those parts of a sentence with comma if there is no other separator like the word und in between them.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.