Können Sie mir sagen, ob diese Kommata gebraucht werden?

  1. Was(,) glaubst du, ist mit ihm passiert?

  2. Wann(,) denkst du, wird er uns das Paket des Bosses liefern?

  3. Was(,) schlägst du vor, dass wir machen, wenn wir am Stand angekommen sind?

  4. Welchen Raben(,) willst du, dass ich dir erwerbe, Sohn?

1 Answer 1


3 and 4 cannot have a comma. This is a tricky case: a so-called "long movement" of a question word. The question word "was" in 3 hast two different functions simultaneously: it is needed as the object of the verb "machen" inside the "dass-clause" ("was" is not the object of „vorschlagen“ - the "dass"-clause as a whole is its object). But simultaneously, the "was" is also needed in the main clause because this is what has to be marked as a question. As a result, "was" has to be preposed to the absolute first position, and the word grammatically belongs in the main clause, and functions as a regular Vorfeld item there. Hence, no comma. It's just in its interpretation that it refers back to the subordinate clause. A kind of proof for this analysis is the existence of an alternative option, namely doubling the w-word:

  • Was schlägst du vor, [was wir machen sollen]?
  • Compare the first variant: Was schlägst du vor, [-- dass wir -- machen sollen]? (no clause-initial "was" and no object of "machen")

1 and 2 are controversial cases, as far as I know grammarians are unsure what is going on. They could be treated as analogous to 3 & 4. But it is also possible here that "glaubst du / denkst du" are in parenthesis. Then the sentence would basically have the structure "Was ist mit ihm passiert?" -- so this would be the main clause, and "glaubst du" is inserted into that structure (while in the other interpretation it would be the reverse and "Was glaubst du" would be the main clause). Maybe it depends on the intonation. At least if you pronounce this with intonational separation of "glaubst du" then it qualifies as parenthesis and needs commas.


  • a) Parenthesis: WAS [, glaubst du,] ist mit ihm passiert?
  • b) Long movement: Was GLAUBST du, [-- ist mit ihm passiert]?
  • b) = Was glaubst du, [dass -- mit ihm passiert ist]?

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