You’ve been learning German for a while now and then you see sentences with parts that look like this:

Does it make you want to pull your hair out?

Shall we make some sense of this?
Okay, let look at the easiest one:

daß

The reason why I call it easy is that it’s obsolete. Since the German spelling reform in 1996, the word ‘daß’ needs to be written ‘dass’.

The reason why it’s still worth mentioning is that you still see it in old textbooks for German learners and old German books in general. There are also Germans who refuse to use the ‘new’ spelling and still write ‘dass’ as ‘daß’.

So, you don’t need to write it, but you may read it. And if you do, remember it’s now spelled ‘dass’.

dass

‘Dass’ is a conjunction and means ‘that’. If you have learned about ‘dass’ sentences, you know that it always comes after a comma and that it pushes the verb to the end.
Example: Ich weiß, dass Berlin die Hauptstadt von Deutschland ist.

das

‘Das’ means ‘the’ for neuter nouns: das Haus, das Auto, das Kind …
It can be a general ‘that’:
Ich kenne das. – I know that.
Wo ist das? – Where’s that?
Das macht €25.50. – That comes to €25.50.

‘Das’ can also be a relative pronoun. It still relates to a neuter noun, but comes after a comma.
Das ist das Haus, das ich gekauft habe. – That’s the house (that) I bought.

das or dass

So, how do you know whether you need ‘das’ or ‘dass’ (especially after a comma)?

There is a simple trick:
‘Das’ can in theory be replaced with other words: ein (one), dieses (this), jenes (that), welches (which)

For example:
Ich sehe das Haus. Ich sehe ein Haus. I know it changes the meaning of the sentence, but we’re only changing it to find out if we need ‘das’ or ‘dass’.

Das ist das Haus, das ich gekauft habe.
Dies ist jenes Haus, welches ich gekauft habe. Now this sentence sounds clumsy but in theory all three ‘das’ could be replaces with another word, therefore it has to be ‘das’.

‘Dass’ on the other hand cannot be replaced with anything else.

Try this little story. Wich words are ‘das’, which are ‘dass’?

Ich weiß, da… du morgen Geburtstag hast.
Ich bringe da… Geschenk, da… ich für dich gekauft habe.
Da… Geschenk, da… da… schöne Geschenkpapier hat, ist da… Radio, da… du dir gewünscht hast.
Du wirst dich freuen, da… ich dir da… Geschenk morgen bringe.

A quick reminder!










The answers:
Ich weiß, dass du morgen Geburtstag hast. (I know (that) it’s your birthday tomorrow. I could not translate this sentence as ‘I know which it’s your birthday tomorrow, so it has to be ‘dass’)
Ich bringe das Geschenk, das ich für dich gekauft habe. (I could have said ‘Ich bringe ein Geschenk, welches ich für dich gekauft habe.’ So ‘das’ could have been replaced.)
Das Geschenk, das das schöne Geschenkpapier hat, ist das Radio, das du dir gewünscht hast. (All these could have been replaces with a word for ‘a’ or ‘which’.)
Du wirst dich freuen, dass ich dir das Geschenk morgen bringe. (Only the second one could be replaced, for the first one you could not use ‘which’ – You will be happy, that … It cannot be ‘which’.

Did you get them right?

If you want more practice, take any German text, find a sentence with ‘das’ or ‘dass’ and come back here with that sentence to explain why it has a ‘das’ or ‘dass’.

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4 Responses to Das, dass or daß? That’s the question!

  1. George Eckhardt says:

    I would attend some German class if offered within the area.
    I had three years of German language over thirty years ago.

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