Germany is subdivided into 16 (federal) states, of which Bavaria is the largest.

The thing is that my dictionary is not perfectly clear about this, i.e. there is no direct translation available. Actually the direct translation according to the dictionary would be:

Germany is subdivided into 16 (federal) states, of these Bavaria is the largest.

However, this does not seem correct. Therefore, my questions are:

  1. Is the first sentence proper English?
  2. Are there better ways to phrase this sentence?
  • 1
    Hello Christian, proofreading questions are off topic as per the FAQ. If you have a specific doubt, you can edit your question and rephrase it accordingly. – Alenanno Sep 16 '11 at 23:10
  • This is proper English. I don't know what "better ways to put it" means - it's perfectly understandable, reasonably plain English, so as an isolated sentence it's fine, but there's always the risk that it might not fit into its context well. – Billy Sep 16 '11 at 23:16
  • Thanks for your suggestions. I edited the question accordingly. – Christian Sep 16 '11 at 23:29
  • I still don't quite understand why this question isn't proofreading--can you please explain a bit more? – simchona Sep 16 '11 at 23:32

Germany is subdivided into 16 federal states, of which Bavaria is the largest.

This sentence is perfectly correct, but the other sentence,

Germany is subdivided into 16 federal states, of these Bavaria is the largest.

is unfortunately not correct, because what you are doing there is using the comma to join two sentences which cannot be joined as they are.

Of which therefore is a proper way to start a sentence. There are similar examples, like:

At what time do we meet?
About what did you talk last night?
To whom were you giving the lecture?

We are used to ending the sentences with a preposition, but they can also begin with the preposition, so yes, your sentence is perfectly grammatical.

  • Your answer is very insightful, because it also points out the error that I made when trying to apply the translation that is provided in the dictionary. "Of these" can be used in this context, to form another sentence, but not to start the relative-clause. Thanks! – Christian Sep 17 '11 at 0:16
  • Germany is divided into 16 federal states; of these, Bavaria is the largest. Not that one should do this, just that one can. – Tortoise Nov 5 '12 at 23:41

Ok-the previous answerer correctly noted that the first version is a correct sentence (with a relative clause) and the second one isn't (with the comma splice).

(However, the expression "of which" is not starting a sentence here. Rather, it is starting a relative clause, which is perfectly acceptable. "Of which Bavaria is the largest" is not a complete sentence.)

Now, to your second question: "Are there better ways to phrase this sentence?" In this case, "better" may be a matter of style. With that said, here is another option:

"Germany is subdivided into 16 (federal) states, Bavaria being the largest."

What do we learn from this? A dictionary translation isn't always right.

  • Germany is subdivided into 16 federal states. Of which Bavaria is the largest. This is acceptable nowadays (sentence fragments being considered allowable for the staccato, emphatic effect). Unlike the comma splice. And unless the practice is overdone. Or leads to ambiguity or other lack of clarity. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 9 '13 at 9:40

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