Konzept des fairen Handels ist es, Handelsprozesse vornehmlich zwischen Entwicklungs und Industrieländern so zu gestalten, dass den Erzeugern ein Mindestpreis für ihre Produkte gezahlt wird, der über denen des herkömmlichen Handels liegt.

I am trying to understand the usage of denen in the above. When I look up denen usage on google, I find that it's supposed to be relative pronoun for dative plural eg. But, as far as I understand normally the relative pronoun comes right after the comma, or after a preposition which comes after the comma. What happend here?

  • 1
    I would recommand that you consult a dictionary instead of googling, because the sources you find there may not be reliable.
    – RHa
    Commented Jan 1 at 19:55
  • 1
    How would I use a dictionary to answer this question @RHa
    – Babu
    Commented Jan 1 at 20:00
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    How could one use a dictionary to find out about a word such as denen? Maybe by looking it up? A good dictionary would have told you that it is a pronoun and not only a relative pronoun.
    – RHa
    Commented Jan 1 at 20:05
  • @RHa - For example English Wiktionary has a separate entry for "denen" where it's listed as a pronoun, relative or demonstrative. It also tells you to look up the main entry "der", which has the article and both pronouns, along with all their respective inflections. German dictionaries probably won't include a separate entry because German speakers are expected to already know the main form is "der".
    – RDBury
    Commented Jan 2 at 5:14

2 Answers 2


Let's simplify. I introduce the adverb darüber for that purpose:

Ein Preis, der darüber liegt.

As you can see, that der is a relative pronoun referring to ein Preis. No further relative pronouns needed. Let's expand that darüber a bit. The adverb becomes a full adverbial:

Ein Preis, der über den üblichen Preisen liegt.

Here the dative is introduced by the preposition über. That argument die üblichen Preise ist what we expand next. Let's introduce a reference as a genitive attribute:

Ein Preis, der über den üblichen Preisen des Marktes liegt.

And finally, we can reduce den üblichen Preisen to the pronoun der in dative plural, as that may be guessed from context with that genitive attribute:

Ein Preis, der über denen des Marktes liegt.

And it's the same in your example. That denen refers to context. It's a method for creating standalone genitive attributes, so you don't have to repeat yourself too often.

Let's translate that into English:

A price that is above those of the market.

It's obvious now, isn't it?

  • And do you think that's an acceptable sentence? I don't really find anything that "denen" can refer to. The author should just have written "den Preisen".
    – Carsten S
    Commented Jan 2 at 0:22
  • I think it is very acceptable, yes. It's completely clear that it's a comparison to Mindestpreis in the original sentence.
    – Janka
    Commented Jan 2 at 0:46
  • How is adverbial differ from adverbs?
    – Babu
    Commented Jan 2 at 5:38
  • "e can reduce den üblichen Preisen to the pronoun der in dative plural" but you made it as denen
    – Babu
    Commented Jan 2 at 5:39
  • but overall I think I got what you mean
    – Babu
    Commented Jan 2 at 5:40

While "denen" can indeed also be a relative pronoun, it is not in this case. It is a demonstrative pronoun: "... which lies above those/the ones of the conventional market". The words I wrote in bold are the part that "denen" translates to; it is really the same construct as in this translation.

  • There is a lot of overlap between definite articles and relative and demonstrative pronouns in German, so you have to use context to figure out which one is meant. The fact that it's not right after a comma is a clue that it's not a relative pronoun. You can rule out an article because all those inflections have three letters, so demonstrative.
    – RDBury
    Commented Jan 2 at 4:56

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