Sie ist insbesondere für die außergewöhnliche Lage ihres Stadtkerns bekannt, der beinahe vollständig vom Fluss Inn umflossen und daher eigentlich nur über Brücken erreichbar ist.

I am trying to figure out why it's "der" in the above.

As far as I see, I don't see anything in nominative in the second sentence, so I am assuming the relative pronoun should give the nominative object.

Lage is feminine, hence if the relative pronoun were to refer to that, it'd have to be "die". But , it's not. So that's not what it's referring to.

So it could be referring to Stadtkern. But that is not really an object, is it? The "ihres Stadtkerns" part is like an attribute to Lage rather than something which stands on its own. So, could those as well be referred through the relative pronoun?

Or is my interpretation wrong? If so, what's the right one?

  • Relative clauses can refer to nominal material of any kind. It does not matter at all what role that noun plays in the main clause, it might even be an isolated fragment. Jan 10 at 8:26

3 Answers 3


Sie ist insbesondere für die außergewöhnliche Lage ihres Stadtkerns bekannt, der beinahe vollständig vom Fluss Inn umflossen und daher eigentlich nur über Brücken erreichbar ist.

The center of a city is the »Stadtkern« in German, which literally is »city core« or »town core«. The word »Stadtkern« is a compound noun, built from these two components:

  • die Stadt (feminine, the town, the city)
  • der Kern (masculine, the core, here: the center)

The gender of compound nouns is always the gender of the last component. (This is one of the rare rules that don't have any exceptions.) Since the last component is masculine, the whole compound noun is masculine:

  • der Stadtkern (masculine, center of the town/city)

The relative clause describes a property of this city center:

It is particularly known for the unusual location of its town center, which is almost completely surrounded by the River Inn and therefore only accessible via bridges.

The fact, that »Stadtkern« is part of the genitive attribute »ihres Stadtkerns« inside the accusative object »die außergewöhnliche Lage ihres Stadtkerns« (which itself is the inner object of the prepositional phrase »für die außergewöhnliche Lage ihres Stadtkerns«), doesn't matter. Also in the English translation, the term »town center« is hidden inside »its town center« which is inside »of its town center« which again is some kind of attribute of »location«, so, it's roughly the same nested construction as in German, and still you can provide properties of this innermost part of speech in this nested construction in a relative clause, in English as well as in German.

The personal pronoun »sie« at the beginning of the sentence refers to a feminine noun, that must exist in the context (most probably it was mentioned in a sentence before), and the most likely word is probably »Stadt« which probably is part of »die Stadt Wasserburg am Inn«.


The aspect, you seem to stumble over, is that any substantive may receive additional information, in the given example by a relative clause. So no object, standing on its own is required.

Actually the word order was adjusted to become more reader-friendly, in straight-forward order it would be:

... ihres Stadtkerns, der [...], bekannt.

Since the relative clause is quite lengthy here (and in my opinion it wins no price for good style as exemplified by the filler word eigentlich), you are saved from remembering the dangling main clause.

  • See if it is a noun phrase which modifies another noun, that could also be given a relative clause Jan 9 at 14:24

What is the relative clause talking about? It's about something that is surrounded by a river. Die Lage can't be surrounded by a river, right? So the relative clause must refer to Stadtkern. There is no need to analyze nominative and genitive relations, if you start from that point.

Try not to make up rules like what the relative clause is referring to must be in nominative case. Start with the simple things and go to the more complicated stuff only if necessary or to analyze and confirm your findings.

If you follow the very simple question what's closest to the relative clause, you get to Stadtkern first. Even though that's coincidence here and the relative clause could theoretically (but not in this case) refer to X des Stadtkerns, you get the idea.

  • 4
    If I understand the question correctly, the made-up rule is that a relative clause cannot refer to a noun phrase that acts as a modifier to another noun (as ihres Stadtkerns does with regard to Lage). The part about the nominative seems mostly correct reasoning for the case of the relative pronoun: the rest of the relative clause doesn't have a subject, hence it's the relative pronoun that probably functions as the subject.
    – David Vogt
    Jan 9 at 12:42
  • Yes exactly @DavidVogt Jan 9 at 14:23

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