# Relative clauses (restrictive / non-restrictive)

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by Thelb4, Oct 1, 2012.

1. ### Thelb4Senior Member

UK English
Hallo allerseits!

I have a question about restrictive and non-restrictive relative clauses.

Consider two sentences that I just made up:

British people, who eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average, are twice as likely to develop cancer.
This sentence is comparing two groups: (1) British people; (2) other people. Apparently British people eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average. Those in group 1 are twice as likely as those in group 2 to develop cancer. This kind of sentence might be used to describe the results of an international study, which compared chocolate consumption and cancer rates between countries.

British people who eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average are twice as likely to develop cancer.
This sentence is comparing two groups: (1) those particular British people who eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average; (2) other British people. Those in group 1 are twice as likely as those in group 2 to develop cancer. This kind of sentence might be used to describe the results of an intranational study, which compared chocolate consumption and cancer rates among individuals.

These sentences have totally different meanings, but I would translate each of them into the same German sentence:
Britische Leute, die mehr als 100 Gramm Schokolade pro Tag essen, sind zweimal so warhscheinlich, Krebs zu entwickeln.

How does German resolve this difference between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses?

Danke im Voraus!

Last edited: Oct 1, 2012
2. ### Frank78Senior Member

Saxony-Anhalt
German
The first is always ambiguous in German. At least I haven't found a solution.

"Briten, die im Schnitt mehr als 100g Schokolade essen, haben ein doppelt so hohes Krebsrisiko."

Maybe you can flip the whole sentence:
"Briten haben ein doppelt so hohes Krebsrisiko, wenn sie im Schnitt mehr als 100g Schokolade essen." - British people will develop cancer twice as likely if they eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average.

The second can be made clear:

"Diejenigen Briten, die im Schnitt..." - Those of the Brits who eat more...

3. ### RobocopSenior Member

Central Switzerland
(Swiss) German
British people, who eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average, are twice as likely to develop cancer.
Die Briten, die im Durchschnitt mehr als 100 Gramm Schokolade pro Tag konsumieren (essen), erkranken doppelt so häufig an Krebs.

British people who eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average are twice as likely to develop cancer.
Diejenigen Briten, die im Durchschnitt mehr als 100 Gramm Schokolade pro Tag konsumieren (essen), erkranken doppelt so häufig an Krebs.

4. ### dec-sevSenior Member

Sevastopo;
Russian
Der Peter, der in der Marketingabteilung arbeitet, hat gestern in der Lotterie gewonnen.

Wie würdest du diesen Satz, genauer gesagt, den Teil zwischen den Kommas interpretieren? Ist das
a) zusätzliche Information (non-restrictive)
b) Präzisierung (restrictive)
?

5. ### berndfModerator

Geneva
German (Germany)
I agree, dec-sev. Robocop found an elegant solution to disambiguate the second sentence but the first, unfortunately, remains ambiguous.

6. ### ABBA StanzaSenior Member

Hessen, DE
English (UK)
Can't the first one also be easily disambiguated (e.g., using Gedankenstriche or commas)?

Die Briten die im Durchschnitt mehr als 100 Gramm Schokolade pro Tag konsumieren erkranken doppelt so häufig an Krebs.
Die Briten (die im Durchschnitt mehr als 100 Gramm Schokolade pro Tag konsumieren) erkranken doppelt so häufig an Krebs.

Der Peter der in der Marketingabteilung arbeitet hat gestern in der Lotterie gewonnen.
Der Peter (der in der Marketingabteilung arbeitet) hat gestern in der Lotterie gewonnen.

Furthermore, I assume that the ambiguity being discussed in this thread applies primarily to written language. In spoken language, I would normally expect to hear a slight pause where the Gedankenstriche are used above.

Cheers
Abba

7. ### berndfModerator

Geneva
German (Germany)
With a little correction I agree.

8. ### ABBA StanzaSenior Member

Hessen, DE
English (UK)
Oops, I meant to say "brackets" instead of "commas". Thanks for pointing that out, Bernd.

9. ### TheKingOfSpainSenior Member

Entschuldigung, dass mein Deutsch nicht so gut ist. Wo liegt die Verwirrung mit diesem Satz? Die Übersetzung, die mir offensichtlich ist, ist "Peter, who works in the marketing department, won the lottery yesterday".

Kann jemand mir dies erklären?

10. ### berndfModerator

Geneva
German (Germany)
Im Deutschen müssen hier immer Kommas stehen, unabhängig davon, welche der beiden Bedeutungen gemeint ist.

11. ### TheKingOfSpainSenior Member

Ja, aber welche andere Bedeutung ist hier möglich?

12. ### berndfModerator

Geneva
German (Germany)
Do you see the difference in meaning between the two English sentences?
British people, who eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average, are twice as likely to develop cancer.
British people who eat more than 100g of chocolate per day on average are twice as likely to develop cancer.
Im Deutschen müsste in beiden Fällen Kommas gesetzt werden.

13. ### TheKingOfSpainSenior Member

Natürlich, aber mit dem "Peter" Satz kann ich keine andere Bedeutung finden.

14. ### berndfModerator

Geneva
German (Germany)
Ah, jetzt verstehe ich. Es könnte mehrere Peters geben:
Der Peter, der in der Marketingabteilung arbeitet [und nicht der, der in der Buchhaltung arbeitet], hat gestern in der Lotterie gewonnen.

15. ### SyzygySenior Member

German
I think German relative clauses are usually understood as restrictive unless it's clear from context that they're not. If I were asked to express the first sentence in German, I would just connect the two thoughts with an and. If you need to stick to the relative clause structure, I second ABBA's suggestion.