German Lessons

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Wessen, dessen, deren, and denen

One topic that tends to intimidate students learning German is the use of these four words: Wessendessenderen, and denen. They are indeed tricky, but they make it possible to construct elegant sentences and are therefore very good to get acquainted with!

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Wessendessen, and deren can all be translated as "whose." However, unlike "whose" they are each only correct in certain situations. Wessen is related to wer, wen, and wem, i.e. it is asking "who?," but it is possessive. It is used when the "who" of the sentence is not known and could therefore be any gender:

 

Sach ma [Sag mal], wessen Freundin bist du eigentlich?

Tell me, whose friend are you actually?

Caption 45, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche - Part 1

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Es dachte auch nicht darüber nach, wessen Haferbrei das war.

She also didn't think about whose oat porridge it was.

Caption 19, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Goldlöckchen und die drei Bären

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Dessen is used when the person or noun in question has already been named or referred to, and is masculine or neuter:

 

Acht Minuten später schickt der Paulianer geschickt Julian Schieber, dessen Schuss aber knapp vorbeigeht.

Eight minutes later the "Paulianer" [someone from St. Pauli] skillfully sends Julian Schieber whose shot, however, just misses.

Captions 10-11, Fußball - U21-Nationalmannschaft - Part 2

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Deren is used when the person or noun in question has already been named or referred to, and is feminine or plural:

 

Seine königliche Hoheit, der Prinz, wird die Frau heiraten, deren Fuß in diesen Glasschuh passt.

His Royal Highness, the Prince, will marry the woman whose foot fits into this glass slipper.

Captions 83-84, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Aschenputtel

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Wessendessen, and deren are all genitive relative pronouns. The relative pronoun denen, however, is used for relative clauses involving a plural noun in the dative case, with prepositions such as mitauf, nach, or bei.

 

Es macht einfach Spaß, mit denen Zeit zu verbringen.

It is simply fun to spend time with them.

Caption 36, Curly Horses - Pferdeglück auch für Allergiker

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Und hier sehen wir zwei alte Kutschen, auf denen man im Sommer Kutschfahrten machen kann mit der Familie zusammen.
And here we see two old coaches, upon which you can take coach rides together with your family in the summer.
Caption 38, Berlin: Domäne Dahlem

Und hier sehen wir zwei alte Kutschen, auf denen man im Sommer Kutschfahrten machen kann mit der Familie zusammen.

And here we see two old coaches, upon which you can take coach rides together with you family in the summer.

Captions 37-38, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem - Part 1

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Further Learning
Searching for any of these words on Yabla German will bring up a lot of examples that can help you solidify your understanding of the topic. You can additionally watch our videos featuring German teacher Barbara and her students working on relative clauses, starting with this one

Plural Nouns in German

There is no single standard form for making German nouns plural, but most nouns follow one of ten general patterns. You will instinctively recognize many of them, but others just have to be learned. One thing, at least, is easier: the definite article for German plurals is always die, regardless of the noun's gender.

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(1) Add -e:

 

„Ich fahre nach Stuttgart, weil ich meine Freunde treffen will".

"I drive to Stuttgart because I want to meet my friends".

Caption 61, Deutschkurs in Tübingen - Warum, weil - Erklärungen

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Der Freund, plural die Freunde.

 

(2) Add -n or -en: 

 

Und all diese Fragen
And all these questions

 

Wir sind ja schon immer als Studenten nach Frankfurt gepilgert.

We have indeed always, as students, gone to Frankfurt.

Caption 14, Museum - für Moderne Kunst

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Die Frage, plural die Fragen; der Student, plural die Studenten.

 

(3) Add -e and umlaut:

 

Wer würde ihren Haferbrei essen und ihre Stühle zerbrechen?

Who would eat their oat porridge and break their chairs?

Caption 55, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Goldlöckchen und die drei Bären

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Der Stuhl, plural die Stühle.

 

(4) Add -er, or umlaut and -er: 

 

Allein unter seiner Herrschaft waren es weit über hundert... Männer, Frauen, Kinder...

Alone under his rule, it was far above a hundred... men, women, children...

Caption 22, Geschichte - Hexenverbrennung im Odenwald

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Das Kind, plural die Kinder; der Mann, plural die Männer.

 

(5) Change the main vowel to its umlaut equivalent, but make no change to the noun's ending:

 

Die drei Brüder waren entsetzt.

The three brothers were horrified.

Caption 32, Märchen - Sagenhaft - Die drei Brüder

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Der Bruder, plural die Brüder. This rule applies especially to family members such as der Vater, plural die Väter; die Mutter, plural die Mütter; die Tochter, plural die Töchter.

 

(6) Add -s:

 

Das sind wirklich die schlimmsten Autos, die jemals hergestellt wurden.

These are really the worst cars that were ever made.

Caption 36, Der Trabi - Das Kultauto aus dem Osten

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Das Auto, plural die Autos.

 

(7) Nouns ending in -in, which denote that the person in question is a woman, are always pluralized with -nen: 

 

Emmi und Johanna sind Freundinnen.

Emmi and Johanna are friends.

Caption 3, Fußball und die Frauenwelt - Der Manndecker

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Die Freundin, plural die Freundinnen

 

(8) Add -ien: 

 

Man muss die Materialien kennen.

One must know the materials.

Caption 29, Trendberuf Restauratorin - Eine Lebensaufgabe

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Das Material, plural die Materialien

 

(9) Nouns ending in -nis are pluralized by adding -se: 

 

Die Ergebnisse des Tages sollen natürlich auch Früchte tragen.

The results of the day should, of course, also bear fruit.

Caption 26, Rhein-Main-TV aktuell - Nachhaltigkeit

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Das Ergebnis, plural die Erebnisse

 

(10) No change at all: plurals are only distinguished by context or in the case of non-feminine nouns, the use of the definite article die: 

 

Die Zimmer sind besondere Hinkucker [Hingucker, Umgangssprache].

The rooms are special eye-catchers [attractions].

Caption 5, Das Ostel - Über Nacht zurück in der DDR

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Das Zimmer, plural die Zimmer

 

Last of all, there are the irregular plurals, which consist of nouns that each have their own unique rules for pluralization. These, of course, must be learned individually. A few examples are der Saal (plural die Säle), das Datum (plural die Daten) das Klima (plural die Klimate), der Bus (plural die Busse).

 

Further Learning
Read this article about German irregular plurals and look here for an in depth overview of German plurals. Find examples of plurals used in a real world scenario on Yabla German.

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