February 2018

German Alphabets : An overview

German alphabets2

German A to Z

German has often been viewed by non-Germans as a harsh sounding language. That may be due in part to the more guttural pronunciation of certain German alphabet sounds and diphthongs and perhaps even a still lingering effect of old WWII movie stereotypes. Once non-German speakers familiarize themselves with German’s different sounds, however, another kind of poetic beauty will unfold before them that has been revered worldwide in the works of many German greats, such as Goethe, Schiller through prose and song.

The German Alphabet is a vital part of the language, which is spoken by more than 130 million people in 38 countries of the world, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, and 33 other countries. The alphabet consists of the same 26 letters as English alphabet, plus some extra ones. German pronunciation of letters is in many places the same as English, as well as how to write them, however there are some unique letters and different ways of pronouncing some other letters.

German Alphabet

Aa as in the word “ask” and never as in the word “able”
Bb same as in English
Cc usually in “sch” “ch” or “ck” rarely out of these letters.
Dd same as in English
Ee as in “elevated”
Ff same as in English
Gg like in the word “God”, never pronounced as in the word “gym”.
Hh same as in English.
Ii as in the word “ink” never as in the word “island”
Jj similar to the letter “y” in “yacht”
Kk same as in English
Ll same as in English
Mm same as in English
Nn same as in English, most of the German letters are just like English.
Oo same as in English “Old” never as in “Hot” which is pronounced somehow like {hat}
Pp same as in English
Qq same as in English but rare.
Rr same as in English but slightly like as in “gh” as in the French “Merci”
Ss sounds like “z”.
Tt same as in English but not as sharp. 
Uu sounds like “oo” or “uu”, never as in the word “up” or “university” 
Vv sounds like “f”
Ww sounds like “v”
Xx same as in English although rare.
Yy same as in English although rare.
Zz sounds like “ts”

Additional German letters:

Ä /ä, Ö/ ö, Ü / ü. ß (called scharfes s)

Ä /ä sounds more like “e”

Ö/ ö sounds more like “oe”

Ü / ü sounds more like “ue”

ß sounds like “ss”

Compound letters:

Sch: sounds like “sh”

Ch: sounds sometimes like “sh” or like “kh”.

St: sounds like “sht” at the beginning, and like “st” at the end of a word.

German alphabets

Unique Characteristics of the German Alphabet

  • More than 26 letters in the alphabet – German has a so-called extended Latin alphabet
  • The extra letters are ä, ö, ü and ß
  • The pronunciation of some of these letters do not exist in the English language
  • Several letters are pronounced more from the back of the throat: g, ch, r (though in Austria the r is trilled).
  • The W in German sounds like the V in English
  • The V in German sounds like the F in English
  • Most of the time the S in German sounds like Z in English when placed at the beginning of a word followed by a vowel.
  • The letter ß will never appear at the beginning of a word.

Das Deutsche Alphabet (The German Alphabet)

Click on the following letters to hear them pronounced. (Audio saved as .wav files.)
Buchstabe/ Letter Aussprache des Buchstabenamens/ Pronunciation of letter name Aussprache des Buchstaben – wie in/ Sound of Letter – as in Beispiele/ Examples
A a ah astronaut der Adler (eagle), Januar  (January)
B b approximate: bay baby der Bruder (brother), aber (but)
C c approximate: tsay creative, Celcius (soft c sound in German sounds like ts) der Chor, der Christkindlmarkt(south German term for der Weihnachtsmarkt/ Christmas market), Celcius
D d approximate: day dollar Dienstag (Tuesday), oder (or)
E e approximate: ay elegant essen (to eat), zuerst(first)
F f eff effort der Freund (friend), offen (open)
G g approximate: gay gorgeous gut (good), gemein(mean)
H h haa hammer der Hammer, dieMühle (mill)
I i eeh Igor der Igel (porcupine), der Imbiss (snack), sieben (seven)
J j yot yellow das Jahr (year), jeder (each)
K k kah camel das Kamel, der Kuchen (cake)
L l ell love die Leute (people), das Land (land)
M m em man der Mann, die Ameise
N n en nice nicht (not), die Münze (coin)
O o oh oven Ostern (Easter),rot(red)
P p approximate: pay party die Polizei (police), der Apfel
Q q koo coral das Quadrat (square), die Quelle (source) Note: All German words start with qu (kw – sound)
R r approximate: er rich der Rücken (the back), der Stern (star)
S s es zoo, shine, mouse summen (to hum), schön (pretty, nice), die Maus
T t approximate: tay tyrant der Tyrann, acht(eight)
U u ooh ou sound in you die Universität(university), der Mund(mouth)
V v fow father der Vogel (bird), dieNerven (nerves)
W w approximate: vay van die Wange (cheek), dasSchwein (pig, wieviel (how much)
X x ix sounds like kz das Xylofon/ Xylophon, die Hexe (witch) Note: There are hardly any German words that start with X
Y y uep-si-lohn yellow die Yucca, der Yeti Note: There are hardly any German words that start with Y.
Z z tset sounds like ts die Zeitung(newspaper), der Zigeuner (gypsy)
Umlaut + ß
Aussprache des Buchstaben/ Pronunciation of Letter Beispiele/ Examples
ä sounds similar to the e in melon ähnlich (similar), gähnen (to yawn)
ö sounds similar to the i in girl Österreich (Austria), der Löwe (lion)
ü no equivalent nor approximate sound in English über (over),müde(tired)
ß(esszet) double s sound heiß (hot),die Straße(street
Learn more specifics of several German letters and their dipthongs in this guide for beginners, German Pronunciation and Alphabet  or if you are starting to feel comfortable with German pronunciation put yourself to the test with these Zungenbrecher (tongue twisters).

German Personal Pronouns: How to use them?

How to use Personal Pronouns in German?

German personal pronouns (ich, sie, er, es, du, wir, and more) work in much the same way as their English equivalents (I, she, he, it, you, we, etc.). When you study verbs, you should already understand pronouns well. They are a key element of most sentences that you should memorize and know by heart. We have included sample sentences for many of the pronouns to see how German pronouns work in context. The pronouns listed below are in the nominative (subject) case. German pronouns are also used in other cases, but that is for another discussion at another time. A good exercise: For now, read the chart below carefully and memorize each pronoun. Read the pronouns and all the sample sentences aloud at least twice to familiarize yourself with hearing them spoken. Write the pronouns out at least twice to master the spelling. Memorize them and write them again. It would also be useful to write out the German sample sentences as well; this will help you remember the pronouns used in context.

Take Care When Using ‘Du’ and ‘Sie’

German makes a clear distinction between the singular, familiar “you” (du) and the plural, formal “you” (Sie) in social situations. Unlike in English, most European and other languages also have both a familiar and a formal “you.” In this regard, Germans tend to be more formal than English speakers, and they use first names only after a long period of getting to know each other (sometimes years).

This is a good example of how language and culture are intertwined, and you need to be aware of this to avoid embarrassing yourself and others. In the table below, the familiar “you” forms (du in the singular, ihr in the plural) are marked “familiar” to distinguish them from the formal “you” (Sie in the singular and plural).

Note that German has three different forms of sie. Often the only way to tell which one is meant is to notice the verb ending and/or the context in which the pronoun is used. Even the capitalized Sie (the formal “you”) is tricky if it appears at the beginning of a sentence. A lower-case sie can mean both “she” and “they” as in: sie ist (she is), sie sind (they are).
die deutschen Pronomina German Pronouns
Nominative Singular
Pronomen Pronoun Sample Sentences
ich I Darf ich? (May I?) Ich bin 16 Jahre alt. (I’m 16 years old.) The pronoun ich is not capitalized except at the beginning of a sentence.
du you (familiar, singular) Kommst du mit? (Are you coming?)
er he Ist er da? (Is he here?)
sie she Ist sie da? (Is she here?)
es it Hast du es? (Do you have it?)
Sie you (formal, singular) Kommen Sie heute? (Are you coming today?) The pronoun Sie always takes a plural conjugation, but it is also used for the formal singular “you.”
Nominative Plural
Pronomen Pronoun Sample Phrases
wir we Wir kommen am Dienstag. (We’re coming on Tuesday.)
ihr you guys (familiar, plural) Habt ihr das Geld? (Do you guys have the money?)
sie they Sie kommen heute. (They’re coming today.) The pronoun sie in this sentence could also mean “you” Sie. Only the context makes it clear which of the two is meant.
Sie you (formal, plural) Kommen Sie heute? (Are you [all] coming today?)

Use of hin and her in German

Hin or her?

The adverbs hin and her cause much confusion for German learners. There are no direct equivalents of either of these in English and to English speakers they often seem superfluous in a sentence. German in fact signifies directional movement (vs. position) in several ways that English does not. The adverbs hin and her are examples of this specification of movement in a particular direction or from a point of origin.
hin generally indicates movement in a direction away from the speaker toward a particular destination.
Wir gehen zum Hafen hin. We are going to the harbor.
Schau mal hin! Look (over there)!
her generally indicates movement from a point of origin in a direction toward the speaker.
Komm mal her! Come over here (from there)!
Wo bekommen wir das Geld her? Where will we get the money (from)?
Hin and her are used in their most literal sense with verbs of movement (e.g., gehen to gokommen to come) or activity that involves direction (e.g., sehen to lookgeben to givereichen to hand over). Often they appear as separable prefixes (e.g., herkommen herholenhinlegen, hinschreiben). More specific directional adverbs are created through a number of compounds that combine hin and her with prepositions that denote direction (e.g., heraufherabheraushereinhinaufhinüberhindurchhinzu) or with other adverbs (e.g., hierherwoher, dahinüberallhin).
Er geht die Treppe hinauf. He is going up the stairs.
Er kommt die Treppe herunter. He is coming down the stairs.
Der Apfel fiel vom Baum herab. The apple fell (down) from the tree.
Der Apfel fiel ins Gras hinunter. The apple fell (down) into the grass.
Note in particular the contrasting examples with the apple. Here, the perspective of the speaker is unclear. Is the speaker in the tree? Under the tree? Beside the tree?  But the additional prepositional phrases specify respectively movement from a point of origin (vom Baum), in which case her is used, and movement toward a particular destination (ins Gras), in which case hin is used. The adverbs hin and her also appear in expressions with extended meanings. They occur for instance in time expressions (e.g., eine Weile hin a while longer stillschon viele Jahre her many years ago). They also appear in a number of fixed idiomatic expressions (e.g., hin und her back and forthhin und wieder occasionallyhinter dir her behind you [and moving in the same direction as you]auf seinen Rat hin at his advicevon der Erziehung her on account of one’s upbringing). And they occur as verb prefixes with sometimes abstract or figurative meanings (e.g., herstellen to producehinrichten to execute). Finally, in actual everyday usage the lines between hin and her are blurred. While southern German speakers tend to maintain the distinction between the two adverbs, in German spoken north of the Main River her is favored in most situations regardless of direction or perspective, and this is commonly reduced to ‘r (herüber ‘rüberhinaus heraus ‘raus). No wonder hin and her cause confusion for learners! Apart from being aware that these variations exist, the basic guidelines of movement toward a destination (hin) and movement from a point of origin (her) can at least provide a useful point of reference.

Meaning of Hin and Her

The adverb „hin“ describes movement away from the speaker. The adverb „her“ describes movement towards the speaker. Hin und her german local adverbs The questions „woher?“ and „wohin?“ ask about direction. They can be written together or separate. Wohin gehst du?“ – „Wo gehst du hin?“ Woher kommst du?“ – „Wo kommst du her?“

Hin and Her with Adverbs

When using local adverbs with „hin“ or „her“, we are giving a specific direction towards or away from the speaker. Examples: Dahin, daher, dorthin, dorther, hierhin, hierher
  • „Ich gehe dorthin, wo wir uns das erste mal getroffen haben.“
With other adverbs they aren‘t directly combined. Instead, they go with the verb.

Hin and Her with Verbs

Hin and her are often used as a prefix with a separable verb. This works for all verbs involving movement. They give the appropriate direction of the movement.
  • Komm bitte her! Ich muss mit dir reden.“
  • Geht bitte irgendwo anders hin! Ich brauche Ruhe!“

Hin and her with Prepositions and Verbs

To give a more specific direction, they are often combined with a preposition and most often a verb of movement.
  • „Anna kam ins Haus hinein und ging gleich wieder heraus.“
  • „Ich will den Berg hinauflaufen und dann wieder herunterlaufen.“
  • Du ich kann über die Mauer hinübersehen, aber auch er kann von der anderen Seite herübersehen.“
›When combining hin and her with prepositions we often use contractions. Both are correct but the short version is much more popular. These can even be used as prefixes for separable verbs: raus = hinaus / heraus   rein = hinein / hinaus rauf = hinauf / herauf   runter = hinunter / herunter rüber = hinüber / herüber

Meanings of the shortened versionsgerman grammar raus

raus = hinaus / hinaus
  • „Ich gehe (aus dem Haus) raus.“
Similarly: rauslaufen, rauskommen, rausfahren, rausrennen, rausschwimmen, raustragen, rausschauen …German Grammar rein rein = hinein / herein
  • „Ich gehe (in das Haus) rein.“
Similarly: reinlaufen, reinkommen, reinfahren, reinrennen, reintragen, reinschauen, … German Grammar rauf rauf = hinauf / herauf
  • „Ich gehe auf den Berg rauf.“
Similarly: rauflaufen, raufkommen, rauffahren, raufrennen, rauftragen, raufklettern, raufbringen … runter = hinunter / herunterGerman Grammar runter
  • „Ich gehe in den Keller runter.“
Similarly: runterlaufen, runterkommen, runterfahren, runterrennen, runtertragen, runterbringen, … rüber = hinüber / herüber
  • „Ich klettere am besten dort über den Zaun rüber.“German Grammar rüber
Similarly: rüberlaufen, rüberkommen, rüberfahren, rübertragen, rüberbringen, … „Rüber“ ›means changing locations: moving from one side to the other.


Hin and her describe a movement in a certain direction. ›”Hin” describes movement away from from the speaker. “Her” describes movement towards the speaker. We can combine them with other local adverbs, verbs and prepositions.


Irgend–Prefix in German

learn-german-through-english-with-examplesWhat are German indefinite pronouns? These are pronouns that do not indicate the gender or number of things/people discussed. To put it simply, they are those vague words like ‘somebody’, ‘everybody’, ‘a few’, and ‘some’. Why are these important to learn? Because sometimes we aren’t able to be – or don’t want to be – too specific! (Note some of the words’ endings here might change in real speech, according to the gender of the subject. But the main thing at this stage is that you get a feel for how these words look and sound. ? ) So how do we say these indefinite pronouns in German? Everybody – Alle/Jeder All of us – Allesamt Somebody – Jemand/Irgendwer Nobody – Niemand/Keiner Anybody – Jedermann/Irgendjemand Something – (Irgend)Etwas Somewhere – Irgendwo Nowhere – Nirgends/Nirgendwo Both – Beide Some/a few – Einige A lot/many – Viel(e) Those two/three/four – Diese zwei/drei/vier Any – Irgendwelche(s) A bit – Ein bisschen A little – Ein wenig One/You (eg. ‘One can do this’) – Man Several – Mehrere Such/of the like – Solche Take a look at some of the above words in action: Niemand will heute Abend mitgehen ———– Nobody wants to go this evening. Einige von uns gehen ins Kino ——- A few of us are going to the cinema. Beide sehen gut aus ———- Both look good. Mehrere von uns wollen mitgehen ———– Several of us want to go. Alle hier sind verrückt ————– Everyone here is crazy. Irgendetwas stimmt nicht ———— Something is not right. Jemand muss mir helfen ———— Someone needs to help me. Solche Sachen sind hier verboten ———- Such things are forbidden here. Man muss das Fenster aufmachen  ———- One/you must open the window. Sie ist heute ein bisschen langsam ———— She’s a bit slow today. Ein wenig Butter und dann stimmt’s ———– A little butter and then it‘s perfect. Ich gehe nirgendwo hin ———- I’m going nowhere. Ich brauche irgendwelche Gedichte für meine Hausaufgaben ——– I need any/some sort of poems for my homework. Es steckt irgendwo im Schrank ———— It’s somewhere in the wardrobe. I hope this post has been helpful. Any questions, let us know in the comments! Constanze What does the German word “irgendwie” mean? 4 Answers Will McChesney Will McChesney, bilingual American English/German, by design Updated Feb 9 2015 In colloquial speech, a great idiomatic translation is often “kinda.” Ich war halt irgendwie müde, und hatte keine Lust auszugehen. I was just kinda tired, and didn’t feel like going out. Es ist mir dann halt irgendwie eingefallen, und ich wusste, was ich tun musste.Then it just kinda came to me, and I knew what I had to do. Then, as other posters have noted, a common literal translation is “somehow.” Wir müssen es irgendwie doch schaffen. We’ll have to get it done somehow. Bonus! A similar Füllwort (filler word) to irgendwie is quasi. It is also often idiomatically translated as “kinda” or “sorta.” Dann haben wir Angela Merkel gesehen! Als Bundeskanzlerin ist sie quasi der „Obama von Deutschland“. Then we saw Angela Merkel! As chancellor, she’s kinda like the “Obama of Germany.” » Übersetzung(en) tabellarisch anzeigen | immer » Übersetzungen mit gleichem Wortanfang » irgend | irgendwann SYNO     eines Tages | früher oder später … irgendwann anytime {adv} sometime {adv} eventually {adv} somewhen {adv} [some time] [rare, perceived as archaic or non-standard unless used as a stylistic device, esp. in combination with “somewhere” etc.] any time {adv} one day or other {adv} one of these days {adv} at one time or another {adv} at some time or another {adv} by and by {adv} [old-fashioned] somewhere along the line {adv} [coll.] [at some time] irgendwann [in der Zukunft] some day {adv} irgendwann einmal sometime {adv} irgendwann einmal [früher einmal] once upon a time {adv} (früher) irgendwann mal at some point (in the past) {adv} irgendwann (mal / einmal) at some point Alles rächt sich irgendwann. What goes around, comes around.proverb irgendwann in der Zukunft one day {adv} (at) some point down the line {adj} Alles was du besitzt, besitzt irgendwann dich. The things you own, they end up owning you. [Fight Club]quote Ich würde gern irgendwann mal Weihnachten Skifahren gehen. [ugs.] I’d like to go skiing one Christmas. Vielleicht komme ich irgendwann darauf zurück. I may take you up on it some time.idiom Was du Anderen Gutes tust, kommt irgendwann zu dir zurück. What goes around, comes around.idiom Wir wurden durch das Fernsehen aufgezogen in dem Glauben, dass wir alle irgendwann mal Millionäre werden, Filmgötter, Rockstars … Werden wir aber nicht! We were raised to believe that someday we were all gonna be millionaires or movie stars or rock stars. But we’re not. [Fight Club]quote Irgendwann in Mexico Once Upon a Time in Mexico [Robert Rodriguez]Ffilm » Übersetzung(en) tabellarisch anzeigen | immer » Übersetzungen mit gleichem Wortanfang » irgend | irgendwann SYNO     eines Tages | früher oder später … irgendwann anytime {adv} sometime {adv} eventually {adv} somewhen {adv} [some time] [rare, perceived as archaic or non-standard unless used as a stylistic device, esp. in combination with “somewhere” etc.] any time {adv} one day or other {adv} one of these days {adv} at one time or another {adv} at some time or another {adv} by and by {adv} [old-fashioned] somewhere along the line {adv} [coll.] [at some time] irgendwann [in der Zukunft] some day {adv} irgendwann einmal sometime {adv} irgendwann einmal [früher einmal] once upon a time {adv} (früher) irgendwann mal at some point (in the past) {adv} irgendwann (mal / einmal) at some point Alles rächt sich irgendwann. What goes around, comes around.proverb irgendwann in der Zukunft one day {adv} (at) some point down the line {adj} Alles was du besitzt, besitzt irgendwann dich. The things you own, they end up owning you. [Fight Club]quote Ich würde gern irgendwann mal Weihnachten Skifahren gehen. I’d like to go skiing one Christmas. Vielleicht komme ich irgendwann darauf zurück. I may take you up on it some time.idiom Was du Anderen Gutes tust, kommt irgendwann zu dir zurück. What goes around, comes around.idiom Wir wurden durch das Fernsehen aufgezogen in dem Glauben, dass wir alle irgendwann mal Millionäre werden, Filmgötter, Rockstars … Werden wir aber nicht! We were raised to believe that someday we were all gonna be millionaires or movie stars or rock stars. But we’re not. [Fight Club]quote Irgendwann in Mexico Once Upon a Time in Mexico]]>

Use of "da" in German


[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="537"] USE of Da in German[/caption]

1. Da– Compounds

German can use words formed by affixing da– or dar– to the beginning of a preposition in order to refer back to something. In its most basic usage, we usually translate a da– compound into English as a preposition followed by a pronoun.
Er hat einen Bleistift. Er schreibt damit. He has a pencil. He is writing with it. Hier ist ein Stuhl. Sie sitzt darauf. Here is a chair. She is sitting on it.
Note that the form dar– is used when the preposition begins with a vowel.

2. Some Common Da– Words

In older forms of English and often in English-language legal documents, there are a large variety of words formed with the prefix there-, such as “therefore,”“thereby,” “therein,” “thereafter,” etc. In German there are a number of similar adverbs, which represent special meanings of da– compounds (remember that one of the meanings of da is “there”). Be sure not to confuse these da– words with the da– compounds described above. The difference is that these adverbs use da– to refer not to a specific object already mentioned in the text, but rather to a more abstract concept, such as a time or logic relationship. Da– words have their own entries in your dictionary, whereas simple da– compounds as above do not.
Sie bringt immer einen Regenschirm, damit sie nie naß wird. She always brings an umbrella, so that she never gets wet. Er sprang von der Mauer. Dabei brach er das Bein. He jumped from the wall. In the process he broke his leg. Sie kaufte die Aktien rechtzeitig und wurde dadurch reich. She bought the stock at the right time and thereby became rich. Ich habe kein Geld. Dafür bin ich gesund und glücklich. I have no money. On the other hand, I’m healthy and happy.
Following are some commonly used da– words:
dabei in the process, in this matter, there, at the same time, as well
dadurch thereby, in doing so
dafür instead, on the other hand
dagegen but, in comparison, on the other hand, whereas
daher therefore, that is why
damit so that, because of that, with that / this
danach accordingly
daneben compared with (something or someone), at the same time, as well as (something, that)
darauf after that
darin in this respect
darüber hinaus beyond that, furthermore
darum because of that
darunter among them
dazu along with (it / that), in addition to (it / that), for (it / that), about (it / that)

3. Hier– Words

Again, just as in older English “herewith,” “hereupon,” and “heretofore,” German has parallel constructions. Examples are hiermithieraufhierzu. We translate the hier with “it,” “that,” or “those,” whichever fits the context, along with the preposition as appropriate. For example:
Hiermit schließen wir diese Übung. With this we end this exercise. Hierzu brauchen wir viel Geld. To do that we need a lot of money. [or:] For this purpose we will need a lot of money. [or:] To achieve that we need a lot of money

4. Da– Clauses

Some da– compounds are used before a clause beginning with daß or a dependent infinitive construction with zu. These are anticipatory da– words:
Mein Vater hat nichts dagegen, daß wir oft ins Kino gehen. My father has nothing against the fact that we go to the movies often. [or:] My father has nothing against our going to the movies often. Wir denken oft daran, nach Deutschland zu reisen. We often think of travelling to Germany.
In both of these sentences, the da– compound serves the grammatical function of allowing the entire dependent clause to serve as the object of the preposition within the da– compound. In other words, in the first sentence, you are learning to recognize that the entire daß clause is the object of the preposition gegen. Likewise, in the second sentence, thedar– prefix serves like a signpost so that you will see the neighboring infinitive clause as the object of the preposition an. Observe how this same relationship gets expressed quite literally in the English translations. Be sure to remember that the preposition captured inside of a da– compound still communicates its normal meaning within its local clause. In the first example above, note how the meaning of gegen is still crucial to understanding the first clause, as part of the idiomatic phrase nichts gegen etwas haben. In the second example, note how an is still functioning in its capacity of determining which meaning of denken is in use here (see dictionary for denken + an). By the way, generally speaking, when the da-word refers to an idea in which the subject is different from the subject of the main clause, the da-word will point to a dependent clause (a complete statement with subject, verb, predicate). See the first example above. Whereas when the subjects are the same, an infinitive phrase with zu is used, as in the second example above. More examples for you to work through on your own:
Morgen sprechen wir darüber, wie wir das bezahlen werden. Tomorrow we’ll talk about how we’re going to pay for that. Eine Vielzahl von Fehlern in medizinischen Doktorarbeiten ist auch darauf zurückzuführen, dass die Betreuungssituation nicht so gut ist. A number of errors in medical dissertations can also be traced back to the fact that the advising situation is not so great. Sie träumt davon, eine Pflanze zu werden. She dreams of becoming a plant.

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. At other times the word means something closer to the English “that”. Understanding this difference is important for students of German who want to make sure their speech is grammatically correct even if their meaning is still understood

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 of Wo and Da Use 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

5. Wo– Words

In addition to the question words you learned about in Unit 1, more complex question words exist that follow the same approach as da– compounds. By prefixing any preposition with wo– or wor-, a “what?” (German was?) question is posed.
Womit schreiben Sie? With what are you writing? Worauf stehen Sie? On what are you standing?

Wo– words also appear sometimes as equivalents to relative pronouns when they refer to inanimate objects:

Das Haus, worin ich wohne, ist neu. The house in which I live is new.

This sentence has the same meaning as the sentence: Das Haus, in dem ich wohne, ist neu.

Der Stuhl, worauf sie steht, ist unsicher. The chair on which she is standing is unsafe.

This sentence has the same meaning as: Der Stuhl, auf dem sie steht, ist unsicher.

. Da-compounds replace “preposition + accusative/dative pronoun”: 

mit ihm/ihr ==> damit = “with it” [Damn it! = Verdammt!]; auf ihn/sie/es ==> darauf = “on it”; von ihm/ihr ==> davon = “from it” etc.
Marsmensch: Was macht man mit einem Messer? Erdling [=Earthling]: Man kann mit ihm/damit [=with it] schneiden.Mutter: Was hast du mit dem Messer gemacht? Norman Bates: Ich habe mich damit geschnitten. Verdammt! ]
Jason: Wo ist meine Axt [=axe]? Und wo ist meine Eishockeymaske? Jasons Mutter: Geh mal zu deinem Bett. Die Eishockeymaske liegt auf ihm/darauf [=on it], und deine Axt liegt unter ihm/darunter.
Britney Spears’ Mann: Weißt du etwas über Relativitätstheorie? Britney Spears: Ja, ich habe viel über sie/darüber [=about it] gelesen. Möchtest du eine Pepsi? Britney Spears’ Mann: Ja, ich kann nie genug [=enough] von ihr/davonkriegen [=get]. Britney gibt ihrem Mann die Pepsi, aber sie fällt und schüttet ihn voll Pepsi [=pours Pepsi all over him] Britney Spears: Oje [=Oops, Oh dear!], ich habe es wieder gemacht.

2. Da-compounds cannot be used to refer to people or most animals (“most” means: start using da-compounds at the point where assuming any kind of personality for the animal would be absurd, e.g. for insects): 

Was weißt du über David Hasselhoff?–Er ist mein Idol. Ich weiß alles über ihn/darüber. Ich möchte gern ein Duett mit ihm/damit singen.
Kennst du Arnold Schwarzenegger?–Ja, ich gehe oft mit ihm/damit in die Disco. Er tanzt wie ein Mädchen. Keiner will mit ihm/damit tanzen.
Linus: Wo ist Snoopy? Ich habe einen Knochen [=bone] für ihn/dafür. [Snoopy is a dog ==> can’t use a da-compound to refer to him] Lucy:Charlie Brown ist im Kürbisfeld [=pumpkin patch] spazieren gegangen. Er glaubt immer noch an den “Großen Kürbis”. Linus: Glaubst du an ihn/daran? [Use “an ihn” if you think the Great Pumpkin is a sentient being; use “daran” if you think of it as a “thing”] Lucy: Nein! Ich habe keine Zeit für so einen Quatsch [=nonsense].

3. Da-compounds also cannot replace relative pronouns. In these situations, you can use “preposition + relative pronoun” or wo-compounds (formed just like da-compounds). “Was + preposition” is always replaced by a wo-compound (3rd and 4th examples below).  If you are reading this for German 221/231, you will be reviewing relative pronouns later, so consider this a preview! 

Das ist der Löffel, mit dem/damitFriedrich der Große seine Suppe aß. That’s the spoon with which Frederick the Great ate his soup.
Wir möchten das Bett kaufen, in dem/darin Beethoven geschlafen hat. We want to buy the bed in which Beethoven slept.
Barney ist tot, über was/worüber/darüber ich sehr traurig bin. [Rel. pron. refers to entire clause “Barney ist tot”] Barney is dead, which I’m very sad about.
In diesem Museum gibt es nichts, für was/wofür/dafür ich mich interessiere. [Rel.pron. refers to “nichts“] There is nothing in this museum that (which) I’m interested in.
If you’re not comfortable with recognizing relative clauses at the moment, think of the “which” or “that” in the English translations as a clue that you are dealing with a relative clause. 4. Da-compounds can refer back to entire clauses. Compare the Barney sentence below to the one under (3) above: 
Barney ist tot, und ich bin darübersehr traurig. [Not a relative clause: these two clauses are connected by und] Barney is dead, and I am very sad about that. [about his being dead]
Manchmal erholt sich ein Ökosystem von alleine, aber man kann sich nicht darauf verlassen. Sometimes an ecosystem recovers by itself, but one cannot rely on that. [on the ecosystem recovering by itself]
Wie der Urknall passierte ist immer noch ein Rätsel. Es gibt viele Theorien darüber. How the big bang happened is still a riddle. There are many theories about it. [about how the big bang happened]

5. In jokes, “darauf” or “daraufhin” is often used as a short way of saying “Er/Sie antwortet darauf, dass…” [=”In response to that, s/he replies…”]. Sometimes it also just means “then”:

Zwei Wurmfrauen [=female worms, or maybe “worm wives”] treffen sich im Garten. Sagt die eine zur anderen: “Wo ist denn heute dein Mann?” Darauf die andere: “Ach, der ist beim Angeln [=gone fishing]!”
Ein kleiner Junge raucht [=smokes] auf offener Straße. Ein alter Herr tadelt [=scolds] ihn: “Wenn das deine Lehrerin wüsste.” Darauf der Kleine: “Keine Sorge [=don’t worry], ich geh ja noch gar nicht zur Schule.”
Anglerwitz [=joke for people who like to fish]: Zwei Angler [guys who are fishing] sitzen regungslos [=motionless] am See. Nach drei Stunden schlägt einer der beiden die Beine übereinander [=crosses his legs]. Darauf der andere [=the other one]: “Was ist los? Angeln wir oder tanzen wir?”

6. An interesting detail we are not requiring you to learn: We have learned on this page that for inanimate objects, the combination “preposition + pronoun” MUST be replaced by a da-compound:

Was machst du mit deinem Handy? – Ich mache Fotos mit ihm/damit.

The interesting detail is that the prepositions that cannot form da-compunds, such as ohne, also cannot be used with pronouns referring to inanimate objects. Instead, the noun must be repeated:

Ich liebe mein Handy! Ich kann ohne es/ohne mein Handy nicht leben.
Ich liebe SPAM®! Ich kann ohne ihn/ohne SPAM® nicht leben.
Ich liebe Mücken [=mosquitoes]! Ich kann ohne sie/ohne Mücken nicht leben.

In informal speech, this rule can be violated: Ich liebe Pronomen. Ich kann ohne sie/ohne Pronomen nicht leben 🙂


Wo-compounds are primarily used in questions and indirect questions: Womit = with what, wovon = from what, woraus = out of what, worüber = on what (or: about what), worin = in what, wohin = to where, woher = from where….

Woher kommen Sie? Where do you come from?
Wohin gehen Sie? Where are you going to?
Wofür ist das? What’s that for?
Worüber spricht er? What’s he talking about?
Womit kann man das reparieren? What can one repair that with?
Woraus ist das gemacht? What’s that made out of?
Wohin soll ich das stellen? Where should I put that?
Wonach suchst du? What are you looking for?
Ich weiß nicht, wofür das ist. [indirect question: implies the question: “Wofür ist das?”] I don’t know what that’s for.
Ich möchte wissen, wohin diese Straße führt [indirect question: implies the question “Wohin führt diese Straße?”] I’d like to know where this street goes to.

Anticipatory Da-Compounds

Da-compounds can anticipate subsequent clauses. They are then called anticipatory da-compounds. This happens with prepositional verbs and adjectives, i.e. verbs and adjectives that require a preposition [a list of such verbs and adjectives is given below for reference]. Compare the following examples: 

a. Ich freue mich auf die Klasse. Du freust dich auf das Konzert. Wir freuen uns auf dich.
b. Freust du dich auf das Konzert? Ja, ich freue mich darauf. Freust du dich auf die Klasse? Ja, ich freue mich darauf.
c. Ich freue mich darauf, dass du kommst. Ich freue mich darauf, in das Konzert zu gehen.
In (a), the object of the preposition (what you are looking forward to) is a noun or pronoun (die Klasse, das Konzert, dich). No need for an anticipatory da-compound. In (b), the object of the preposition is a noun that was previously referred to (das Konzert, die Klasse). For the combination of preposition + pronoun, a da-compound is used, but it refers back to something, so it is not an anticipatory da-compound. In (c), the object of the preposition, the “thing” you are looking forward to, is not a noun, but a whole clause:not you, but “that you are coming”; not the concert, but “going to the concert.” This is where anticipatory da-compounds are used. The literal English equivalents are: “I am looking forward to it, that you are coming,” and “I am looking forward to it, to go to the concert.” In decent English: “I am looking forward to your coming,” and “I am looking forward to going to the concert.” More examples: 
Ich freue mich darauf, Kafkas Die Verwandlung zu lesen. I’m looking forward to reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
Gregor Samsa freut sich nicht darüber, dass er sich in ein Ungeziefer verwandelt hat. Gregor Samsa is not happy that he turned into a bug. [Gregor Samsa is the protagonist of Die Verwandlung]
Für Peter Parker ist es auch schwer, sich daran zu gewöhnen, ein Spinnenmann zu sein. For Peter Parker it’s also hard to get used to being a spider-man.
Einer staunte darüber, wie leicht er den Weg der Ewigkeit ging; er raste ihn nämlich abwärts. [Aphorismus von Franz Kafka] One man was amazed at how easily he was walking the path of eternity; for he was speeding along it downwards.
Mutige Leute überredet man dadurch zu einer Handlung, dass man dieselbe gefährlicher darstellt, als sie ist. [Aphorismus von Freidrich Nietzsche] One persuades courageous people to carry out an action by representing it as being more dangerous than it is.
Es kommt nicht darauf an, was man hat, sondern was man ist. [Aphorismus von Jeremias Gotthelf (1797 – 1854)] It’s not important [literally: it doesn’t depend on] what one has, but rather, what one is.
Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert; es kommt darauf an sie zu verändern. [Karl Marx] Philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; what’s important [literally: it depends on] is changing it.

And two tasteless examples:

Ich freue mich darauf, mir den Rücken zu rasieren. I’m looking forward to shaving my back.
Kommst du heute Abend mit in die Disco?– Ich weiß nicht. Es kommt darauf an, wie lange ich brauche, mir den Rücken zu rasieren. Are you coming along to the disco tonight?–I don’t know. It depends on how long it takes me to shave my back.


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