How to use which – “welch-” in German 

How to use which – “welch-” in German 

You might have encountered that asking for which in German is a little more difficult than in many other languages. This article explains everything you need to know to use “welch-” properly.

 

The interrogative pronoun “welch-”

In German, the word “welch-” is an interrogative pronoun. This means that it replaces the noun or pronoun we are asking about in the question.

In contrast to forming questions with question words like “wer” or “wo,” we need to adjust “welch-” according to the gender and case of the noun. If I ask “who” does something, I do not know the gender of the person as this is what I am asking for; however, if you ask for “which,” you will always add the subject or object after that. For instance: “Which man goes home?”. This means that in this case, it is already clear that we are asking about a male person, and actually, we just replaced “the” (“The man goes home.”) by “which.”

Of course, the same applies to German. However, in German grammar, the gender of a noun and its grammatical case is more important than in other languages like English. You always need to show that you know the gender and case of the noun you would like to refer the “which” to.

 

“welch-” and the German cases

Now, if you wish to use “welch-” in German properly, you need to do the following steps:

  1. The gender of the noun
  2. The case of the noun

In the following, you can see how to use “welch-” for each gender in every German case.

 

Nominative

A little reminder at the beginning: The nominative case always refers to a subject of a sentence. A subject is a person or thing that does something in your sentence. You can ask for it by using “wer” or “was” (who or what).

 

“welch-” in Nominative

male der Mann welcher Mann which man
female die Frau welche Frau which woman
neuter das Kind welches Kind which child
plural die Personen welche Personen which persons

 

  1. Welcher Junge geht seine Mutter besuchen? – Which boy goes to visit his mother?
  2. Welche Flasche steht auf dem Tisch? – Which bottle is on the table?
  3. Welches Auto parkt neben dem Haus? – Which car is parked next to the house?
  4. Welche Kinder gehen heute in die Schule? – Which children are going to school today?

 

Accusative

The accusative case refers to the direct subject in a sentence. You can ask for it by using “wen” or “was” (whom or what).

“welch-” in Accusative

male den Mann welchen Mann which man
female die Frau welche Frau which woman
neuter das Kind welches Kind which child
plural die Personen welche Personen which persons

 

  1. Welchen Urlaub buchst du? – Which vacation do you book?
  2. Welche Milch kaufst du im Supermarkt? – Which milk you buy at the supermarket?
  3. Welches Regal bestellst du im Internet? – Which shelf do you order on the internet?
  4. Welche Kinder holst du heute von der Schule ab? – Which children are you picking up from school today?

 

Dative

By using the Dative case, you refer to the indirect object. This can be the place or the person for whose benefit something happens. In German, you would ask for it by using “wem” or “was” (to whom or what).

“welch-” in Dative

male dem Mann welchem Mann (to) which man
female der Frau welcher Frau (to) which woman
neuter dem Kind welchem Kind (to) which child
plural den Personen welchen Personen (to) which persons

 

  1. Welchem Freund gratulierst du zum Geburtstag? – Which friend are you congratulating on a birthday?
  2. Welcher Frau hilfst du beim Tragen? – Which woman do you help carry?
  3. Welchem Gast schmeckt die Suppe? – Which guest likes the soup?
  4. Welchen Kindern antwortest du? – Which children do you answer?

 

Genitive

The Genitive case shows possession. Though in modern German, the Dative case more and more replaces it, you can and should, of course, still use it. However, asking questions with “welch-” in Genitive might sound a little “old-fashioned” at times.

As you can see in the table below, there is also the form “welchen” in the Genitive singular masculine and neuter. However, you need to be aware that you can only use this form if the following noun forms the genitive with -s / -es.

Theoretically, you can start the question with “welch-” if it refers to a noun that gets “-s” or “-es” ending because that shows the possession. Yet, it will sound very weird for many Germans, and they might assume that you read too many old books because people do not talk like this anymore. Therefore, you should usually start with the subject and add the “welch-” in Genitive and the noun after it.

“welch-” in Genitive

male des Mannes welches / welchen Mannes which man’s
female der Frau welcher Frau which woman’s
neuter des Kindes welches / welchen Kindes which child’s
plural der Personen welcher Personen which persons’

 

  1. Welchen/s Mannes Geburtstag hast du vergessen? / Den Geburtstag welchen/s Mannes hast du vergessen? – Which man’s birthday did you forget?
  2. Das Auto welcher Frau steht neben dem Haus? – Which woman’s car is next to the house?
  3. Welchen/s Kindes Eltern warten draußen? – Die Eltern welchen/s Kindes warten draußen? – Which child’s parents are waiting outside?
  4. Den Eltern welcher Kinder antwortest du? – Which children’s parents are you answering?

 

Asking questions with “welch-”

After reading this article, I hope that it became clear how to form questions with “welch-.” If you want to deepen your knowledge about this topic, you should check out how to use German question words (W-Questions).

Bis bald!

Steffie

 


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