Explanation and Examples of 'Wo' and 'Da' in German

More Than Just 'Where' and 'There'

One of the things that can make translating other languages difficult for many is that the rules of grammar change with each language. Knowing the correct word order can be difficult if you don't understand the rules o the language you're learning. In English adverbs usually come after prepositions but in German, it is the opposite. 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. It's important that people learning German understand how prepositions can alter these common words if they want to be understood. 

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