German Lessons


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!


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

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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,

Eight minutes later the "Paulianer" skillfully sends Julian Schieber

dessen Schuss aber knapp vorbeigeht.

whose shot, however, just misses.

Captions 10-11, Fußball - U21-Nationalmannschaft

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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,

His Royal Highness the Prince

wird die Frau heiraten, deren Fuß in diesen Glasschuh passt.“

will marry the woman whose foot fits in this glass slipper."

Captions 25-26, Märchenstunde - Das 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,

And here we see two old coaches,

auf denen man im Sommer Kutschfahrten machen kann mit der Familie zusammen.

upon which you can take coach rides together with you family in the summer.

Captions 37-38, Berlin - Domäne Dahlem

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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

How Embarrassing: "verlegen" as Adjective and Verb

Using the German adjective verlegen and the verb verlegen could lead to some embarrassing mix-ups if their meanings are not clearly understood. As you can see in this week's premiere episode of a new season of "Die Pfefferkörner," the meaning of the adjective verlegen is... embarrassed!



Um eine Ausrede bist du ja nie verlegen.

You are never embarrassed to make an excuse.

Caption 6, Die Pfefferkörner - Gerüchteküche

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The German verlegen is often also translated to English as shy, awkward, bashful, or as you see in its adverbial form in this video on Yabla:


„Ach so, hm“, meinte Frederick verlegen.

"Ah, so, hm," said Frederick sheepishly.

Caption 34, Piggeldy und Frederick - Das Lachen

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On the other hand, the verb verlegen has to do with more concrete matters:


... um eine ganz normale Hartsteinbetonplatte, die wir verlegen.

... with a totally normal hard stone concrete panel that we are installing.

Caption 19, Schadstoffarme Straßen - Neue Gehwegplatten für reinere Luft

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Hundert Jahre nachdem das berühmte Kinderbuch erschienen ist, hat der Regisseur die Story in den Zweiten Weltkrieg verlegt.

A hundred years after the famous children's book was published, the director has relocated the story to the Second World War.

Captions 35-37, Kinotipp - Battleship und Unter Wölfen

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The verb verlegen can also be translated as to publish, postpone, or evacuate. The German word for "publisher," which you see in nearly every German book, is der Verlag. Here you can easily see the connection to the verb verlegen.



Further Learning
For some advanced learning on the topic, go to the online Wiktionary and see some other examples of verlegen in context and some other related words.


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