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I often got doubts when I want to formulate a German sentence with a kind of "which is" that expands a clause, like in English. For example (not sure if this makes sense though):

My grandparents both died at the age of 80, which is already a pretty good deal for Indonesians.

I usually do a literal verbatim transformation with "welche ist":

Meine beiden Großeltern starben im Alter von 80 Jahren, welche für Indonesier schon ziemlich viel ist.

...but I'm not sure if this is the way to go in German. Is this "which is"-ing a thing in German? Or should I separate them into two sentences?

Meine beiden Großeltern starben im Alter von 80 Jahren. Es ist schon ziemlich viel für Indonesier.

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  • a pretty good deal that a tad too idiomatic. – TaW Jan 25 at 14:20
  • Das Geschlecht stimmt nicht. "Meine Eltern aßen eine Schwarzwälderkirschtorte, welche für Indonesier recht exotisch ist" - die Torte, hier würde es stimmen. Das Alter, dagegen, erfordert "... welches für Indonesier...". – user unknown Jan 26 at 16:00
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I'm quite sceptic concerning the value of too strict translations. I would write:

Meine Großeltern starben beide mit 80 Jahren, was für Indonesier ein ziemlich hohes Alter ist.

Ziemlich viel is just too generic, it is not entirely clear, that it relates to the given age (as opposed to emotional stress for the survivors). It would fit, if the reference obviously refers to the number of years, but in the example it is the age instead. For Alter there is no really idiomatic alternative to hoch, leaving aside adjectives with a religious touch as gesegnet (blessed), biblisch (biblical).

Update: Further alternatives like fortgeschritten and ehrwürdig exist, but are more formal and can be used for age only, but not for other measurement values like weight, temperature, speed, which hoch covers.

The separation in two sentences is not required, since it is not much information to convey. A semicolon would be a fine intermediate solution.

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  • I beg to differ, how about fortgeschritten, ehrwürdig, beträchtlich or stolz? – dessert Jan 25 at 8:37
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    Or beachtlich – kutschkem Jan 25 at 12:42
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    or you can use "krasses Alter" if you are talking between tweens ;-) – Falco Jan 26 at 9:37
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Instead of "welche ist", you need to translate it with "was ... ist". E. g. your sentence would translate to

Meine beiden Großeltern starben im Alter von 80 Jahren, was für Indonesier schon ziemlich viel ist.

I think you can always go with that, I can't think of any counter examples right now

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    Das is not equivalent to was because was refers to the preceding sentence, wereas das refers to the preceding noun clause. – RHa Jan 24 at 17:17
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    it would have to be welches, since Alter is neutrum; and then it would sound neither pretentious nor formal, just odd to the ear of a native speaker, because it is simply the wrong choice of pronoun. The correct construction shown here and in Guidot's answer, as so often, shows that literal translations mostly don't work, and often learners will need to memorize constructions like this until they come naturally. – dlatikay Jan 25 at 4:39
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    @jazzpi: I beg to disagree, I tend to think that welches is so unnatural that I'd say it is not the correct translation. Similar to a subordinate clause ", das ... ist" and as opposed to the 2 sentence construction ". Das ist ..." – cbeleites unhappy with SX Jan 25 at 11:56
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    The subordinated clause doesn't refer to Alter. It refers to the fact they died at 80. Therefore "welches" is not the correct reference. One could similarly say: Sie starben mit 80, was ... viel ist. – Wolfram Arnold Jan 26 at 6:48
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    in this case, I would use "alt": "was für Indonesier schon ziemlich alt ist". Not a linguist so can't really explain why, but to my native speaker brain "viel" sounds weird/wrong here – Syndic Jan 26 at 10:16
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Both was (with subordinate clause) and das (in a separate sentence) work:

Meine Großeltern starben beide im Alter von 80 Jahren, was für Indonesier schon ziemlich viel ist.
Meine Großeltern starben beide im Alter von 80 Jahren. Das ist für Indonesier schon ziemlich viel.

The 2nd is the direct analogue to English

My grandparents both died at the age of 80. That is already a pretty good deal for Indonesians.


Tentative answer why welches (nor das in a subordinate clause construction) doesn't work as well as was here, based mostly on oddity to the native ear: I tend to think that welches would be too narrow in that it refers to Alter only, whereas was (or das) refers to the whole situation. (?)


If you look at the example section for which in wiktionary, the which here is like example no. 3 for the relative which, which would also be translated as was in German. (= was im Deutschen auch mit was übersetzt [werden] würde.)

He walked by a door with a sign, which read: PRIVATE OFFICE.
-> welches/das; ignoring that signs don't read in German

A situation in which tensions are high.
-> in welcher/in der

He had to leave, which was very difficult.
-> was/das + taking the sentence apart

No art can be properly understood apart from the culture of which it is a part.
-> derer/[von welcher]; rather different construction

An alternative that works both in German and English is that you can make two sentences with that/das:

My grandparents both died at the age of 80. That is already a is already a pretty good deal for Indonesians.
 Meine beiden Großeltern starben im Alter von 80 Jahren. Das ist für Indonesier schon ziemlich viel.

I tend to think that this covers the whole "which is"-ing. The construction with ", was" is very common in German, so in that sense I'd say, yes, "which is"-ing is done in German very much like in English - only it translates to was and not like many other whiches to welche/r/s.

* To me, trying what for this type of which sounds unusual but not entirely impossible. This may be an old link between English and German - or my lovely German accent in English grammar ;-)

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Meine beiden Großeltern starben im Alter von 80 Jahren, welche für Indonesier schon ziemlich viel ist.

Mit Welches statt welche (das Alter, welches/ die Katze, welche/ der Bär, welcher) fast perfekt. Bei Alter verwendet man nicht viel, sondern hoch.

Meine beiden Großeltern starben im Alter von 80 Jahren, welches für Indonesier schon ziemlich hoch ist.

Wie andere schreiben ist das ähnlich, wenn nicht weiter verbreitet, als welches, aber nicht besser.

Auch gegen die Satzkonstruktion ist nichts einzuwenden. So sprechen und schreiben auch Muttersprachler.

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