3. Demonstrative Pronouns

The relative pronouns listed in the chart in Unit 8 may also be used as demonstrative pronouns, which are generally translated as “that one,” “the one,” or “those.” The most common uses of demonstrative pronouns which are of significance for reading and understanding written German are as follows:

  1. Introducing a relative clause:

    Diese Werkzeuge sind die, die wir in Deutschland kauften.
    These tools are the ones (those) which we bought in Germany.

    Here a demonstrative pronoun (in bold) acts as the antecedent of a relative clause, which begins after the comma. Note that the demonstrative pronoun does not change word order. The demonstrative pronoun here acts as a link between the relative clause and the subject Diese Werkzeuge, allowing the entire relative clause to modify Diese Werkzeuge, without having to appear awkwardly immediately after the word Werkzeuge.

    Another example of this usage:

    Der Kuchen auf dem Tisch ist der, den ich gebacken habe.
    The cake on the table is the one I baked.

  2. As a reference back to a preceding noun, without requiring a relative clause:

    Ich finde die Regeln deutscher Schulen und die der amerikanischen Schulen ganz anders.
    I find the rules of German schools and those of the American schools quite different.

    Here the demonstrative pronoun (in bold) refers back to “die Regeln,” allowing a genitive relationship, die Regeln der amerikanischen Schulen to be expressed without having to restate die Regeln. Note that the demonstrative pronoun die agrees in number with die Regeln (plural).

    Another example of this usage:

    Die Computer von gestern sind kaum zu vergleichen mit denen von heute.
    The computers of yesterday can hardly be compared with those of today.

  3. As a reference to a noun in a preceding sentence:

    Der Porsche ist ein Sportwagen. Der ist wirklich ein Wunderauto.
    The Porsche is a sportscar. It is truly a miracle car. [or:] That is truly a miracle car.

    Here the demonstrative pronoun (in bold) is used to refer back to the masculine singular subject (der Porsche) of the previous sentence.

    Another example of this usage:

    Rosen riechen am besten. Deren Duft ist wunderbar.
    Roses smell the best. Their aroma is wonderful.

Special demonstrative pronouns

  1. derjenige, diejenige, dasjenige, diejenigen

    These mean “that one” or “those.” As you can see, these are just the definite articles combined with “-jenige.” Both parts are declined just like any other combination of article and adjective (see Unit 4) and therefore reflect the different cases.

    Ich werde demjenigen wärmstens danken, der mir jetzt hilft.
    I will thank most warmly whomever helps me now.

    Unter eingeborenen US-Amerikanern ist der Anteil derjenigen, die eine andere Sprache sprechen, äußerst gering.
    The fraction of US-born Americans who can speak another language is extremely small. (literally: Among US-born Americans, the fraction of those who speak another language is extremely small.)

    Biographien können das Leben sowohl als die Umwelt desjenigen beschreiben, über den die Biographie berichtet.
    Biographies can describe the life as well as the environment of their subjects. (literally: Biographies can describe the life as well of the environment of the one about whom the biography reports.)

    Latein war geprägt von deutlichen Unterschieden zwischen den Varietäten der ungebildeten Bevölkerung und denjenigen der High Society.
    Latin was marked by distinct differences between the varieties spoken by the uneducated population and those of “high society.”

  2. derselbe, dieselbe, dasselbe, dieselben

    Usually translatable as “the same,” and function just as the words above:

    Ich mag es nicht, wenn mein Chef dieselbe Krawatte trägt, die ich trage.
    I don’t like it when my boss wears the same tie I’m wearing.

    Die Sonne kann nicht zweimal an demselben Tag aufgehen.
    The sun cannot rise twice in the same day.

Last revised on December 9, 2016.