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'Wo' and 'Da'

More Than Just 'Where' and 'There'

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The adverbs wo and da coupled with prepositions become helpful tools in day-to-day German conversation. By themselves wo means "where" and da means "there", but by adding prepositions, it changes their whole meaning.


Wo +Preposition

Wo + preposition is useful when asking questions for clarification such as in Worauf wartet er? (What is he waiting for?) Notice that the translation for worauf is "for what" - not a literal translation. That's because many of the wo + prepositions replace the colloquial, but incorrect German word combination preposition + was. (incorrect -> Für was ist das?, correct -> Wofür ist das?) Since the incorrect German version of preposition + was most closely resembles the English translation, English speakers find it difficult to overcome this natural tendency of question formation. That's why it is important that English-speaking students of German learn early on to incorporate the use of wo-words in their conversation.


Da + Preposition

Similarly, the da + preposition combinations cannot always be translated literally. It all depends on context. Sometimes da will keep its "there" meaning if it refers to a location. Otherwise "that" is meant. For example:

Was kommt daraus? (What is coming out from there?)
Was konntest du daraus feststellen? (What were you able to determine from that?)

Da- words are very useful so as to not sound redundant. For example, if someone were to ask you Bist du mit diesem Zeitplan einverstanden? The shorter response would be Ich bin damit einverstanden, instead of reiterating the noun.


Examples

Below you will find a list of some common wo- and da- compounds. Take note that if the preposition starts with a vowel then it will be preceded by an –r- when combining it with either wo or da. ( unter -> darunter)

  • bei = by -> wobei – dabei
  • durch = through -> wodurch – dadurch
  • für = for -> wofür – dafür
  • gegen = against -> wogegen - dagegen
  • her (prefix) = coming from -> woher – daher
  • hin (prefix) = going to -> wohin – dahin
  • mit = with -> womit – damit
  • nach = after -> wonach – danach
  • an = on, at, to -> woran – daran
  • auf = on -> worauf – darauf
  • aus = out of, from -> woraus – daraus
  • in = in -> worin – darin
  • über = over, above -> worüber – darüber
  • unter = under, underneath -> worunter – darunter
  • von = from -> wovon – davon
  • vor = before, in front of -> wovor – davor
  • zu = to, at -> wozu – dazu
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