1. Objectives

In this unit you will learn how to:

  • Identify and translate da- and hier- words.
  • Identify and translate da- and wo- clauses.
Last revised on October 2, 2014.

2. 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.

Last revised on October 2, 2014.

3. 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)
Last revised on July 11, 2016.

4. Hier– Words

Again, just as in older English “herewith,” “hereupon,” and “heretofore,” German has parallel constructions. Examples are hiermit, hierauf, hierzu. 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.

Last revised on October 2, 2014.

5. 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, the dar– 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.

Last revised on August 26, 2016.

6. 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?

Last revised on October 2, 2014.

7. Wo– Clauses

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.


You may find the
Review Units 9-12 exercise more valuable now or as a later review opportunity.

Last revised on October 2, 2014.