Asking where in German — Woher, wo, wohin

Screen Shot 2011 05 08 At 11 51 28

Asking where in German — Woher, wo, wohin

Visit almost any German speaking country and one of the questions you’re sure to be asked within the first few minutes of meeting someone is: “Woher kommen Sie?” (Where do you come from?) It’s not meant to be a rude question, but one of interest. People really want to know where you are from, in case they have been there before. But also because they want to know of all the other places in the world you could be, why you’re in their city/town/village/mountain restaurant etc.

German has not one, not two, but three words for expressing where. These three words express different situations for which we use where. The three words are: woher (where from), wo (where), wohin (where to). 

Woher:

This is the interrogative word we use when asking for something’s origin. It can also be replaced with the expression “von wo”. Sometimes the word can be split into two parts wo + her.

  • Woher kommen Sie?
  • (Where do you come from?)
    • Ich komme aus der Schweiz.
    • (I come from Switzerland.)
  • Woher hast du dieses Buch gekauft?
  • (Where did you buy this book?)
    • Ich habe es in der Buchhandlung Pile of Books gekauft.
    • (I bought it in the bookshop Pile of Books.)
  • Wo hast du diesen Wein her?
  • (Where did you get this wine from?)
    • Ich habe ihn bei Trutmann Weinbau in Stein am Rhein gekauft.
    • (I bought it at Trutmann vineyards in Stein am Rhein.)

Wo:

We use wo, when we want to know the exact place that something is situated.

  • Wo ist mein Deutschbuch?
  • (Where is my German book?)
    • Ich glaube es liegt neben deinem Bett.
    • (I believe it’s lying beside your bed.)
  • Wo befindet sich das Restaurant Aescher?
  • (Where is the Aescher)
    • Auf dem Ebenalp.
    • (On the Ebenalp.)

Wohin:

Think of wohin as the opposite of woher. Wohin ask to where something is going. We are implying motion and direction with this word. Like woher we can also split this word into its components wo + hin.

  • Wohin fahren wir?
  • (Where are we going?)
    • Wir fahren an den See.
    • (We’re going to the lake.)
  • Wohin fliesst der Rhein?
  • (Where does the Rhein flow to?)
    • Er fliesst in die Nordsee.
    • (It flows into the North Sea.)
  • Wo bringst du die Kiste hin?
  • (Where are you bringing the crate?)
    • Ich bringe sie in den Keller.
    • (I’m bringing it to the cellar.)

Exercises:

1. _____ warst du gestern?

2. _____ entspringt der Rhein? (entspringen = to have its source)

3. _____ stellst du dein Velo _____?

4. _____ hast du dein Velo gestellt?

5. _____ hast du diesen schicken Pullover?

6. _____ fahrt ihr in eurem Urlaub?

7. _____ soll ich denn das wissen? (denn is used as particle and not as because)

8. _____ hast du so viel Geld?

9. _____ fährt der Zug nach Interlaken ab?

10. _____ stammt Herr Smith? (stammen = to originally come from)

11. _____ fahren Sie zum Skifahren?

12. _____ hast du grüher gewohnt?

Answers:

wo, wo, wo…hin, wo, woher, wohin, woher, woher, wo, woher, wohin, wo
  1. ChristiChristi05-28-2012

    Thank you for this enlightening article!

  2. AaronAaron09-26-2012

    What about this sentence, “Wohin hast du die Schlüssel gelegt?”

  3. AmyAmy06-11-2013

    Thanks a lot! :D

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