I try to decompose this sentence in elements and I am not sure how to do it:

Was ist denn das für eine Geschichte?

This may translate as "What kind of story is this?" (not sure).

Could you help me to recognize the parts of sentence, please?

  • 2
    Was für eine Geschichte ist das denn? - will probably be easier to analyze.
    – mic
    Mar 16, 2021 at 12:18
  • 1
    What parts of the sentence could you identify yourself? If you couldn't identify any, you probably lack some grammar basics.
    – RHa
    Mar 16, 2021 at 12:22
  • look up "für" (in questions paired with "was") or "was für" in your dictionary. Looking up "was" alone will lead you on the wrong track.
    – tofro
    Mar 16, 2021 at 12:28
  • @mic very interesting. I haven't thought of. Thanks!
    – alinsoar
    Mar 16, 2021 at 12:37
  • @RHa my confusion was about splitting "was ... fur". I was used with "fur" following "was"...
    – alinsoar
    Mar 16, 2021 at 12:38

1 Answer 1


General hint: Your assumption is correct.

Hint #1: The sentence is a question

Hint #2: There is only one verb in the sentence.

Hint #3: There is only one substantive in the sentence.

Hint #4: All substantives and pronouns that could possibly be subjects or objects are in nominative (so, can't be objects) singular.

Hint #5: There is a interrogative pronoun construct "Was für?" that means something different than the single "was?"

  1. "ist" is (obviously) the predicate
  2. "Was" is (obviously) the interogative pronoun (that drives the question). It comes in a pair with "für", which means it doesn't translate to "what", but rather to "what kind/sort of" or "which"
  3. The subject can either be "das" or "eine Geschichte". You might be aware that in "W"-questions the subject (if present) will always follow the verb, so it must be "das"
  4. "x ist y" sentences (or "was ist x?" questions) don't have an object, but rather a predicative in nominative - so, "Geschichte" is the predicative noun here.
  • Ahhh!!! That was the trick! "Was fur" is split in "was ____ fur ____". I knew "was fur" but was not used to the split form... That was my confusion. Vielen Dank!!!
    – alinsoar
    Mar 16, 2021 at 12:33
  • @alinsoar: Yes, *was für" (don't forget the umlaut) is kind of an idiom. Not the fun kind where something is crawling on your liver, but the annoying kind where the sentence doesn't make sense and you can't figure out why.
    – RDBury
    Mar 16, 2021 at 12:39
  • 1
    @RDBury "fur" -- difficulties with the English keyboard... I hope one day to understand all what Marlene Dietrich sings... how beautiful is the German...
    – alinsoar
    Mar 16, 2021 at 12:45

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