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In English,

He failed the exam many times, which puts a negative influence on his mental health.

translated into German:

Er hat bei dem Test vielmals durchgefallen, welch(er/es/e) einen negativen Einfluss auf seine psychische Gesundheit legt.

The relative clause "which puts..." refers to the whole main clause "He failed...".

Question 1

In the German translation, which ending (er/es/e) is appropriate here? The whole main clause doesn't have a specific gender!

Question 2

The English version can be made more compact:

He failed the exam many times, putting a negative influence on his mental health.

How can we make the similar compact version in German translation? Maybe legend somehow?

Similar discussion can be found here (Was kann man statt „basierend auf“ sagen?). But I would like to know grammar-experts' opinion on this.

*** Updated on 2023.04.01 ***

For @HalvarF

In English grammar, one can make a relative clause to refer to another entire neaby (main) clause. Detail here: Relative clauses referring to a whole sentence:

Some relative clauses refer to a whole clause, a whole sentence, or a longer stretch of language. We always use which to introduce these clauses.

Example:

I think the other thing that was really good about it as well was that everybody worked really hard and helped tidy up at the end, which I hadn’t expected at all.

1 Answer 1

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Question 1:

The gender of a pronoun refering to a whole fact or statement or sentence is always neutral (sächlich) in German:

Er ist bei dem Test vielfach durchgefallen, welches (or better: was) einen negativen Einfluss auf seine psychische Gesundheit hat. He failed the exam many times, which puts a negative influence on his mental health.

Es geht dir wieder besser. Das freut mich sehr.
You're better. I'm very pleased about that.

Question 2:

He failed the exam many times, putting a negative influence on his mental health.

I have doubts about this short version having 100% the same meaning in English as the longer one with which -- imho, strictly speaking, this shorter sentence says that "he" (and not the issue of failing the tests) is the one who is putting a negative influence on his health.

As an example, you probably wouldn't shorten

The soloists were given flowers, which was a nice touch.

to

The soloists were given flowers, being a nice touch.

because of the clear change of the grammatical subject between the two parts.

In German, if you have two clauses where the grammatical subject stays the same, you can use the Partizip Präsens, but it is not as natural as the English progressive form, it's a higher register:

Er fiel bei dem Test mehrfach durch, seiner psychischen Gesundheit Schaden zufügend.

Again, this means that it is the person ("er") who damages his own mental health. You could use the adverb "dadurch" ("thereby") to clarify the semantic connection.

I don't think there is a shortened version in German that directly refers to the whole statement of the sentence before.

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  • Relative clause can refer to another entire main clause (rather than just an specific object). Please see my update. Apr 1, 2023 at 9:04
  • With "which", yes, definitely. That was your first example and question 1, and you can do that in German, too, see your and my translation with "was" or "welches". My doubts are only about the shorter form with the progressive without "which". Like in "They were given flowers, being a nice gesture." I'm not sure whether that's correct in English, I would at least say "They were given flowers, that being a nice gesture." but even that sounds strange to me (not sure).
    – HalvarF
    Apr 1, 2023 at 9:29

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