The Difference Between 'Das' and 'Dass'

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Many students of German, and even many German native speakers confuse "das" and "dass" on a regular basis. But if you take the trouble and learn to distinguish them once, it is actually not that difficult.

"Das" with one "s" is always an article or a pronoun and can be replaced with "dies" (this), "dieses" (this) or "welches" (which). "Dass" with two "s" is used only to start a relative clause and cannot be replaced with these words.




How to Use "Das"

Demonstrative Pronoun

"Das" used as a demonstrative pronoun refers to something not directly mentioned in the sentence. In this case, it can be replaced with "dies" (this) without changing the meaning of the sentence.


Examples:

Das kann doch nicht wahr sein. - This cannot be true.
Das hatten wir schon letztes Jahr. - We already had that last year.
Das hatten wir nicht erwartet. - We did not expect that.

Relative Pronoun

As a relative pronoun, "das" starts a relative clause and refers to a noun that was mentioned in the first part of the sentence. In this case, it can be replaced with "welches" (that/which). As "dass" is also used to start a relative clause, this is an especially important rule!


Examples:

Ein Feuerzeug, das nicht funktioniert, ist nichts wert. - A lighter that doesn't work isn't worth anything.
Das Haus, das sie sich kauften, war wunderschön. - The house they bought was beautiful.
Er nahm sich das Stück Käse, das die wenigsten Löcher hatte. - He chose the slice of cheese that had the fewest holes in it.

Definite Article

"Das" is also a definite article in German used for gender neutral nouns, while masculine nouns use "der", and feminine nouns "die".


Examples:

Ich habe das Fenster schon repariert. - I already fixed the window.
Für Stefan ist das Schreiben immer noch schwierig. - For Stefan, writing is still difficult.
Das Frühstücksei ist Ihnen herovorragend gelungen. - The boiled egg you made came out perfect.



How to Use "Dass"

"Dass" can be used to start three types of relative clauses.

1. Attributive Clause

An attributive clause is used to describe something mentioned in the same sentence more closely.


Examples:

Das Gerücht, dass wir unsere Brötchen nicht selber backen, hat unserem Laden geschadet. - The rumor that we do not bake our own rolls has damaged our shop.
Die Äußerung, dass das Budget gekürzt werden soll, gibt uns zu denken. - The statement that the budget is to be cut worries us.
Die Regelung, dass er früher gehen darf, macht andere Mitarbeiter neidisch. - The rule that he is allowed to leave early makes other colleagues jealous.


2. Subjective Clause

A subjective clause acts like the subject of a sentence - so it is the part of the sentence that "does something".


Examples:

Dass er wegzieht, macht uns traurig. - It makes us sad that he is moving away.
(What makes us sad? The fact that he is moving away.)
Dass Sie zu unserem Kaffeekränzchen kommen ist mir eine Ehre. - It is an honor that you're coming over for coffee. (What is an honor? - The fact that you're coming over for coffee.)
Es freut mich, dass es ihm wieder besser geht. - I'm happy he is feeling better. (What makes me happy? The fact that he is feeling better.)







3. Objective Clause

An objective clause behaves like the object of a sentence - it is the part of the sentence that "has something done to it".


Examples:

Er fand heraus, dass sie in seiner Nähe wohnte. - He found out that she lives near his house. (What did he find out? - That she lives near his house.)
Ich weiß, dass du lügst. - I know that you're lying. (What do I know? That you're lying.)
Ich glaube, dass sie mich nicht mögen. - I think you don't like me. (What do I think? That you don't like me.)
Wir finden, dass die Nachbarn zu laut sind. - We think the neighbors are too noisy. (What do we think? - That the neighbors are too noisy.)
Aus Wien schrieb sie, dass die Linzertorte dort herrlich schmeckte. - From Vienna she wrote that the Linzertorte there was outstanding. (What did she write from Vienna? That the Linzertorte there was outstanding.)