I've noticed more and more that sometimes instead of using a relative clause, that writers will just turn the phrase into an adjective

Was wissen Sie über die von uns angebotenen Produkte?

instead of

Was wissen Sie über die Produkte, die wir anbieten?

or in Kafka's Das Urteil

Er hatte gerade einen Brief an einen sich im Ausland befindenden Jugendfreund beendet

instead of

Er hatte gerade einen Brief an einen Jugendfreund, der sich im Ausland befindet, beendet

When do you use each one? Are they both equally grammatically valid? And what's the point (the relative clause oftentimes seems easier)?

  • 1
    I have written an in depth article on the grammatical form ... participle constructions yourdailygerman.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/… If you have a very short bit of info then a this attribute is preferable even in spoken... as for the rest I agree with the answer below:
    – Emanuel
    Nov 24, 2013 at 22:52
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    One more thing... in the Kafka quote the participle construction actually spares some tense trouble... the present tense in the relative clause is wrong because the friend is not (necessarily) abroad at the point of narration. However, using a plain preterit (befand) would leave the reader asking "When? When was he abroad?". The context should make it clear but it doesn't "feel" clear. One should add a "zu der Zeit" to make it completely smooth. Also, the double final verb sounds clunky "... befand, beendet."
    – Emanuel
    Nov 24, 2013 at 23:31
  • wow, I really like that article and your whole blog; thank you for the link!!! Also, that explanation of the Kafka quote makes a lot of sense. Vielen Dank!
    – thekeyofgb
    Nov 25, 2013 at 3:48

1 Answer 1


That's right.

The main difference between these equally grammatically valid constructions is style.

May be unconscious, but you do the same in English. I mean, the previous sentence could also be written as

The main difference between these constructions, which are equally grammatically valid, is style.

Somehow subordinate clauses sound not so pompous. In newspapers, literature and scientific language they are often substituted by an Attribut. I wouldn't speak using an Attribut if I'm with my friends drinking beer. But I would, if I'm giving a talk or talking seriously. Anyway in oral communication, I wouldn't create a very long chain of Attributs, since I'd become incomprehensible.

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