This post is on the daß-clause in the following passage from Zwist unter Zauberern by Kurt Kusenberg.

In the story, two wizards, Parock and Schneidebein, are carrying on a feud. Parock receives a visit from three men looking remarkably alike posing as a customer, but actually they are Hem-Hem-Hem, spirits sent by Schneidebein. See picture at the bottom for more context.

Er [Parock] hielt sie [Hem-Hem-Hem] jedoch für Drillinge, und außerdem war er dermaßen bezecht, daß er sich, was seine Wahrnehmung betraf, auf keine bestimmte Zahl festlegen mochte.


  1. I hope this question could be quickly got out of the way. Am I right to think keine. . . mochte here means be unwilling or hesitant, per this definition as found in Wiktionary?

    4 (auxiliary, in negation, with infinitive) to be hesitant to (do something)
      Ich mag sie nicht fragen. ― I am hesitant to ask her.

  2. Here comes my real perplexity. According to WordReference festlegen is either a transitive verb meaning determine or a reflex verb meaning commit oneself. If so, the following bits seem to compete for the same accusative spot:

    was seine Wahrnehmung betraf

    Therefore I might suppose the clause can be expanded to the following?

    daß er sich auf keine bestimmte Zahl festlegen mochte und daß er, was seine Wahrnehmung betraf, auf keine bestimmte Zahl festlegen mochte.

    That is to say, he did not want to commit himself to a definite number and did not want to determine what struck his senses to be a definite number. Is this an ad hoc solution?

    Or maybe sich here is in the dative case, yielding the accusative spot to the was-clause? But the dictionary does not mention any such use of festlegen

    In short, how should I understand the clause syntactically? Above all, please confirm that both sich and was seine Wahrnehmung betraf are in the accusative, if that is the case, and how the two are related syntactically speaking.


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  • I just didn't know was ... betrifft (traf) was a special idiom (creating an adverbial like what's more) and only saw it as a substantive.
    – Catomic
    Jul 28, 2019 at 10:19

2 Answers 2


I don't think sich and was seine Wahrnehmung betraf are competing for the the same accusative spot, as you put it. I think that was seine Wahrnehmung betraf is a parenthetical clause that relates to er.

In other words,

Was seine Wahrnehmung betraf, mochte er sich auf keine bestimmte Zahl festlegen.

Here's how I would translate the passage.

He thought however they were triplets. But he was so drunk anyway that, when it came to his perception of things, he couldn't be sure how many of them there were.


As most times, I'm more confused about your question than about the phrase you stumbled upon, and its translation to English. Maybe I'm too brisk?

The magic ‹pun intended› about this is the phrase was … betraf. This phrase restricts the item it follows. So Parock doesn't fully not commit himself, but only to the means of his cognitive abilities. Maybe he has magic knowledge?

Er [Parock] hielt sie [Hem-Hem-Hem] jedoch für Drillinge, und außerdem war er dermaßen bezecht, daß er sich, was seine Wahrnehmung betraf, auf keine bestimmte Zahl festlegen mochte.

He [Parock] deemed them [Hem-Hem-Hem] a triplet though, and above all he was well-oiled to such an extent he did, by the means of his cognition, not want to commit himself on a number.

→ He was drunk and saw one to ten Hems.

  • I understood the overall meaning in much the same way, and thank you for confirming that I was right to do so. I am now hoping that you or anyone else would address the specific matter of syntax.
    – Catomic
    Jul 22, 2019 at 6:00
  • 1
    Er hielt den Schneidebein, was dessen Kunst betraf, für einen Aufschneider. See how the was … betraf phrase again restricts the statement about Schneidebein?
    – Janka
    Jul 22, 2019 at 14:34
  • I see that a 'was eine Sache betrifft' clause is an adverbial that attaches to the main clause much as if by a conjunction. Thank you again. I have 'chosen' the answer from a member who (from his much smaller reputation score) seems to be just starting out.
    – Catomic
    Jul 22, 2019 at 14:47
  • It's not completely clear to me what you are aiming at. Do you want to become fluent in German much beyond C2, or is this some research project how German speakers are able to explain the Grammar they are using every day? If the latter, I'm on the edge of my abilities.
    – Janka
    Jul 22, 2019 at 14:52
  • Certainly not the latter. I have no opportunity to speak German. I can only go at German through the (perhaps outmoded) avenues of grammar and vocabulary. At least I try to leave no grammatical question unanswered in my mind.
    – Catomic
    Jul 22, 2019 at 15:00

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