Bleib dran: da-compounds

Screen Shot 2011 07 03 At 11 58 48

Bleib dran: da-compounds

English speakers often haver to crack a smile when listening to German and hearing the word “damit” which sounds like a curse in English. However, the smiles quickly change to faces of confusion when a flurry of “dran“, “drauf“, “davon” etc come at them and they aren’t quite sure what to make of them. Then there are also the question words “worauf“, “wovon” etc. that tend to cause non-native speakers to pause and think about what was just said. To help ease up some of the confusion here is a brief explanation of these words. Bleib’ dran!

Like in English when we are talking about people or things, we do not have to keep repeating their proper names. Instead, we can replace full nouns with pronouns:

Wir sehen das Buch.

Wir sehen es.

Wir helfen dem Kind.
Wir helfen ihm.

In each of these cases, pronouns can replace nouns representing either people or things. However, objects of prepositions work differently. When the noun being replaced refers to a person, then a pronoun can be used. In this case the substitution will mean him, her, them, etc.

Wir sprechen mit dem Mann.
Wir sprechen mit ihm.

However, when objects following prepositions refer to inanimate objects or things, and we want to say ‘with it’, ‘for it’, ‘to it’, etc., we cannot simply replace the full noun with a pronoun. Instead, German replaces the noun with da-, which it attaches to the front of the preposition.

Ich verstehe nichts von diesem Thema.
Ich verstehe nichts davon (NOT ‘von ihm’).

Haben Sie etwas gegen diesen Film?

Haben Sie etwas dagegen?

Wir haben uns für das orange Auto entschieden.
Wir haben uns dafür entschieden.

When the preposition begins with a vowel, an -r- is added to aid pronunciation, thus making the compound dar + preposition. In spoken German the “a” is often dropped out so that it sounds like “dr-

Wir sprechen über das Buch.
Wir sprechen darüber.

Wir freuen uns auf das Wochenende.
Wir freuen uns darauf.


Replace the underlined prepositional phrase with a da-compound. The rest of the sentence will remain the same (including word order).

1. Ich danke ihm für das Buch.


2. Wir fangen mit unserer Arbeit an.


3. Regula und Peter ärgern sich über das Wetter.


4. Du arbeitest sehr fleissig auf das neue Projekt.


5. Diana erinnert sich an deinen Geburtstag.


6. Nina Ruge hat keine mehr Angst vor Spinnen.


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  1. edoreldedoreld07-03-2011

    Thank you for this concise, easy to understand article. I had my doubts about this particular grammar point, but now I’m confident I’ll be able not only to spot it, but also to use it with ease.

  2. Thanks Christian, this one really confused me but now I get it ! See you around soon. Selina

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