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This is my profile-description of the StackExchange-Site:

"Dösbaddel" is a (North-)German word for "Dummkopf" which probably means "fool" in English.

Is it written properly or do I need to insert a comma right after "Dummkopf"?

"Dösbaddel" is a (North-)German word for "Dummkopf", which probably means "fool" in English.

If you find more things one could/should change, I would be glad if you would inform me about that.

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  • Probably, considering you posted this question here. Please re-read the Tour, and the Help on what kind of questions are acceptable here.
    – David
    Feb 13 '20 at 20:22
  • Dummkopf is actually in English dictionaries, defined as a stupid person or blockhead, so not the same thing as a fool though obviously there's overlap.
    – nnnnnn
    Feb 14 '20 at 4:55
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Because your subordinate clause following which is here an “optional” non-restrictive clause rather the type of “required” restrictive clause which I have just now used here, the orthographic convention in standard written English is to always use a comma.

This is quite different from the standard orthographic conventions of written German. In German, you’ve been trained to put a comma before subordinators like das even when these are used restrictively. So where in English we might write:

  • This is the house that Jack built.

In German you would need an obligatory comma there:

  • Dies ist das Haus, das Jach gebaut hat.

We don’t do that for restrictive subordinate clauses in English, so you have probably gotten used to not doing so in English.

But there’s a different convention in play here for English. When your subordinate clause is merely adding optional information, the clause is considered non-restrictive. You can delete it without changing the overall meaning of the sentence. This kind of clause we do indeed precede with a comma in English. This strategy allows us to to distinguish these two very different statements:

  1. This is Jack’s house, which I have never seen before now.
  2. This is Jack’s house that I have never seen before now.

The first sentence says it’s Jack’s house — then, almost as a parenthetical aside, mentions that you haven’t seen it before now. You could have used a dash there instead of a comma, even, although this is more abrupt. Both represent an actual change in the cadence of the phrase, a little “pause” if you would. It is not a “silent” comma; it can be heard in speech.

The second sentence suggests that Jack has other houses besides this one, ones which you have seen previously. If you deleted the clause, you would lose that meaning.

Because your cited sentence is only adding descriptive information rather than restricting exactly which particular Dummkopf it is that you mean, it should take a written comma.

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  • I'd think most would use brackets for a total aside (ie we've not already been discussing translations ...) here. Feb 13 '20 at 16:54
  • Thanks for your detailed explanations! I think that with your information I can apply this to similar problems with setting commas.
    – Doesbaddel
    Feb 13 '20 at 17:20

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