Da- & Wo-Compounds with Wechselpräpositionen & Verbs with Fixed Prepositions

Hallo, Deutschlerner. If you have seen words like “daran”, “worüber” “davor” and “woran” in your German learning and aren’t quite sure how to use them. Let me help you cut through this Gordian Knot of German grammar. I learned German like you might be. I took classes in high school and at the university. Eventually, I figured out how to use da- and wo- compounds. Now I am the Carl Sagan to your Bill Nye. Let me teach you the ways. 

Da- & Wo-Compounds with Wechselpräpositionen & Verbs with Fixed Prepositions - B1 German Grammar

If you are really wanting to put your German learning on track, consider joining Herr Antrim’s Deutschlerner Club! For just $14.99 per month you will get access to his full A1 and A2 courses plus new materials as he creates them. You will go from knowing zero German to being able to have a short conversation in a short few weeks. Before you know it, you will be conversational in German on a variety of important topics, all while mastering German grammar.

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I’ve already made several videos about da- and wo-compounds. The first one talked about them in broad strokes, rules, usage, that kind of thing. I also have one about da- and wo-compounds formed with accusative prepositions and one for dative prepositions. Today we are focusing on the nine Wechselpräpositionen, also known as two-way prepositions. 

How to Use Da- & Wo-Compounds

As a quick reminder: When you add da- in front of a preposition, it is used to say something like the usual translation of the preposition plus “that”. So “auf” goes from “on” to “on that”. When you add wo-, you get the normal translation of the preposition plus “what”. Often there are idiomatic expressions that are commonly used with certain prepositions, which can also be expressed with da- and wo-compounds. Also, don’t forget, if the preposition starts with a vowel, add an R between da- or wo- and the preposition. 

What are the 9 Wechselpräpositionen and What do their da- and wo-compounds mean?

There are nine Wechselpräpositionen in German. You can see them on screen now in this chart. Every one of them can be used with da- and wo-compounds, but you will definitely hear certain ones more than others in spoken German.

It is important to note that, while the da- and wo-compounds on today’s list can be used in a more literal sense to describe the location of something or some action, there are a lot of times that the literal translations of these words won’t work well, due to the Wechselpräpositionen’s proclivity to be used in idiomatic expressions and in those so-called “verbs with fixed prepositions” kind of phrases. 

Two-Way Prepositions 
an – on, at  daran – on that, about that, at thatworan – on what, about what, at what
auf – ondarauf – on thatworauf – on what
hinter – behinddahinter – behind thatwohinter – behind what
in – in, intodarin – in thatworin – in what
neben – next todaneben – next to thatwoneben – next to what
über – over, abovedarüber – about that, over thatworüber – about what, over what
unter – underdarunter – under thatworunter – under what
vor – in front of, beforedavor – in front of thatwovor – in front of what
zwischen – betweendazwischen – between that/thosewozwischen – between what

an, daran, woran

Let’s start with daran and woran. You can translate these to be very literal: daran – on that and woran – on what. For example: 

Woran schreibt er? –
On what is he writing? 

Er steht an der Tafel. Daran schreibt er. –
He is standing at the board. He is writing on it. 

Common Verbs with “an”

This is definitely not the way you will likely hear these in conversations, however. The preposition “an” is incredibly common in those so-called “verbs with fixed prepositions”. For example: 

  • arbeiten an – to work on 
  • sich beteiligen an – to participate in 
  • denken an – to think of
  • erkranken an – to get sick with 
  • erinnern an – to remind of
  • sich gewöhnen an – to get used to 
  • glauben an – to believe in 
  • liegen an – to be due to 

You can use each of these with da- or wo-compounds. For example: 

Woran arbeitest du gerade? –
What are you currently working on? 

Ich bin Mitglied in einem Chor. Ich beteilige mich jede Woche daran. –
I am a member of a choir. I participate in that each week. 

Woran denkt er? –
What is he thinking about? 

Ich hasse Krebs. Mein Vater ist daran erkrankt. –
I hate cancer. My father got sick from that.  

Als ich fünf Jahre alt war, habe ich mich in unserem Garten verlaufen. Mein Bruder ist so gemein. Er erinnert mich jeden Tag daran. –
When I was five years old, I got lost in our garden. My brother is so mean. He reminds me of this every day. 

Woran kannst du dich nicht gewöhnen? –
What can you not get used to? 

Er glaubt nicht mehr daran, dass es einen Weihnachtsmann gibt. –
He no longer believes that there is a Santa Claus. 

Woran liegt das? –
What is that due to?

Foreshadowing…

I plan on making a series of videos coming up soon that tackle the verbs with fixed prepositions on a preposition by preposition basis to explain how to use them more fully. I’m really looking forward to shining a light on these monsters. Maybe then they won’t seem so scary. 

auf, darauf, worauf

Next up are “darauf” and “worauf”. Again, you can use these literally or as paired with certain verbs. Here is an example of how you can use them in a more literal sense. 

Worauf sitzt er? –
What is he sitting on? 

Er hat versucht, sein Handy zu verstecken. Jetzt sitzt er darauf. –
He attempted to hide his phone. Now he is sitting on it. 

Common Verbs with “auf”

The list of verbs that are often paired with “auf” is pretty long. Here are just a quick sample of these verbs. 

  • sich spezialisieren auf – to specialized in 
  • sich verlassen auf – to depend on, rely on 
  • verzichten auf – to forgo, pass up 
  • sich vorbereiten auf – to prepare oneself for
  • warten auf – to wait for 
  • beharren auf – to insist on

Here they are in example sentences. 

Worauf spezialisierst du dich? –
What are you specializing in?

Worauf kannst du dich sicher verlassen? –
On what can you depend with certainty? 

Seitdem sie einmal zu viel Alkohol getrunken hat und sehr krank wurde, verzichtet sie darauf. –
Since she drank too much alcohol one time and got very sick, she avoids it. 

Worauf muss sie sich vorbereiten? –
What does she have to prepare for? 

Ich warte auf die Testergebnisse. Darauf warte ich schon zu lange jetzt. –
I am waiting for the test results. I have been waiting for that for too long now.

Ich muss darauf beharren, dass wir Limonade auch anbieten müssen. –
I have to insist that we also offer lemonade. 

hinter, dahinter, wohinter

Unlike the last two examples, there aren’t any idiomatic expressions or verbs with fixed prepositions to go with “hinter”. This one can really only be used in literal terms. This means that the words “dahinter” and “wohinter” are always translated as “behind that” or “behind what” respectively. Here are a few examples of them in action. 

Wohinter steht der Mann? –
Behind what is the man standing? 

Sein Auto ist in der Garage. Dahinter steht er. –
His car is in the garage. He is standing behind that. 

Eine Säule steht in der Mitte des Zimmers. Die Kinder dahinter können gar nichts sehen. –
There is a column in the middle of the room. The children behind that can’t see anything. 

Der Tisch, wohinter ich mich versteckt habe, ist aus Glas gemacht. –
The table, behind which I hid myself, is made of glass. 

in, darin, worin

Next up on the list is “in” and the words “darin” and “worin”. “In” is used with quite a few “verbs with fixed prepositions” expressions, but let’s start with the literal example. 

Worin besteht das Problem? –
In what does the problem lie? 

Darin sehe ich keinen Sinn. –
I see no sense in that. 

Worin liegt der Unterschied zwischen diesen beiden Produkten? –
In what does the difference lie between these two products? 

Common Verbs with “in”

Here are a few of the most common verb + in combinations. 

  • sich teilen in – to divide into 
  • sich verlieben in – to fall in love with 
  • sich irren in – to be mistaken about 
  • sich üben in – to practice 
  • sich unterscheiden in – to differ in 

Here they are with da- and wo-compounds. Worin hat er sich verliebt? In Schokolade. –
What did he fall in love with? With chocolate.

Es gibt zehntausend Menschen in dieser Stadt? Ich denke du musst dich darin irren. Das kann nicht stimmen. –
There are ten thousand people in this city? I think you have to be mistaken about that. That can’t be right. 

Ich versuche Klavierspielen zu lernen. Ich übe mich jeden Tag darin. –
I am trying to learn to play the piano. I practice that every day. 

Die Qualität und die Preise der beiden Produkte sind nicht gleich. Darin unterscheiden sich die Produkte. –
The quality and prices of both products are not the same. In that the products differ. 

neben, daneben, woneben

There are no verbs with fixed prepositions for “neben”, which means that “daneben” and “woneben”. That said, “daneben” is often used figuratively, which helps it to be a bit more versatile. Alone, “neben” translates as “next to”. It follows then, that “daneben” is “next to that” and “woneben” is “next to what”. Here are a few examples of daneben and woneben in action. 

Woneben sitzt die Frau? –
Next to what is the woman sitting?

Siehst du das Schild da? Der Schalter muss daneben sein. –
Do you see the sign there? The counter has to be next to that. 

Woneben sollte ich dieses Paket hinsetzen? –
Next to what should I put this package? 

In seinem Zimmer steht eine Komode. Daneben liegen seine Bücher. –
In his room there is a dresser. His books are lying next to that. 

Woneben gehört dieses Buch? –
Next to what does this book belong? 

Ich arbeite als Lehrer und mache daneben YouTube Videos. –
I work as a teacher and make YouTube videos on the side. 

über, darüber, worüber

Next up we have “darüber” and “worüber”. You can use these in combinations of “über” and certain verbs in German or use them figuratively. Here are just a few of the verbs that are commonly paired with “über” in German. 

Common Verbs with “über”

  • sich ärgern über – to get angry about 
  • berichten über – to report about 
  • diskutieren über – to discuss 
  • entscheiden über – to decide on 
  • sich freuen über – to be pleased with, happy about 
  • lachen über – to laugh about 
  • sich wundern über – to wonder at, be astonished by/about

Here are a few examples of “worüber” and “darüber” in sentences. 

Worüber ärgert sich deine Mutter? –
What is you mother getting angry about? 

Worüber berichtet der Journalist? –
About what is the journalist reporting? 

Wir wissen noch nicht, ob wir einen neuen Park in der Stadt bauen lassen sollten. Wir diskutieren morgen darüber. –
We don’t know if we should have a new park built in the city. We are discussing it tomorrow. 

Wann wird der Richter darüber entscheiden? –
When will the judge decide on that? 

Worüber freut ihr euch so sehr? –
What are you so happy about? 

Ich habe ihm ein Video mit einem Waschbär gezeigt, der versucht, Zuckerwatte mit Wasser zu waschen. Darüber lachen wir. –
I showed him a video with a raccoon that tries to wash cotton candy with water. We are laughing about that. 

Er hat gerade zum ersten Mal einen Doppelregenbogen gesehen, worüber er erstaunt ist. –
He just saw a double rainbow for the first time, which he is astonished by. 

unter, darunter, worunter

The da- and wo-compounds for “unter” are a strange pair. The da-compound, “darunter”, is rarely used in the literal sense. It is usually meant as “among that” or “including”. The literal usage is possible, but the use as “including” is far more popular. Here are a few examples using “darunter” and “worunter”. 

Worunter stehen die Kinder, während es regnet? –
Under what are the children standing while it is raining? 

Mein Bruder wohnt im 3. Stock und ich genau darunter. –
My brother lives in the 3rd floor (4th in America) and I live directly below that. 

Die Sache, worunter ich am meisten leide, ist die Einsamkeit. –
The thing under which I suffer the most is loneliness. 

Die Katze hat sich unter dem Bett versteckt. Darunter konnte ich sie nicht finden. –
The cat hid under the bed. I couldn’t find her under there. 

Die Bedingungen, worunter wir den Vertrag abgeschlossen haben, waren sehr fair. –
The conditions under which we negotiated the contract were very fair. 

Es gab viele Geschenke unter dem Weihnachtsbaum, darunter auch eine neue Kamera. –
There were many gifts under the Christmas tree, among them a new camera. 

Die Umstände, worunter wir arbeiten, sind oft sehr schwierig. –
The conditions under which we work are often difficult. 

Der Text hatte viele Fehler, darunter auch Rechtschreibfehler und Grammatikfehler. –
The text had a lot of mistakes, among them also misspellings and grammatical errors. 

vor, davor, wovor

Next up we have “davor” and “wovor”. There are a few verbs that are commonly paired with “vor”, which you can see on screen now. 

Common Verbs with “vor”

  • fliehen vor – to flee from 
  • sich fürchten vor – to be afraid of 
  • schützen vor – to protect from 
  • warnen vor – to warn about 

Here are a few examples of “davor” and “wovor” in action. 

Wovor fliehen die Flüchtlinge? –
From what are the refugees fleeing? 

Es gibt riesengroße Spinnen in Australien. Davor habe ich Angst. –
There are gigantic spiders in Australia. I am afraid of them. 

Wovor schützt die Sonnencreme? –
What does the sun cream protect from? 

Es wird jedes Jahr wärmer. Die Wissenschaftler warnen uns davor. –
It is getting warmer every year. The scientists are warning us about that. 

Wovor stellst du den Stuhl? –
In front of what are you putting the chair? 

Ich möchte ein großes Haus mit einem Baum mit Schaukel davor. –
I want a big house with a tree with a swing in front of it. 

zwischen, dazwischen, wozwischen

Another one of the da- and wo-compound pairs that are almost exclusively used literally is “dazwischen” and “wozwischen”. Here are a few examples of them in action. 

Wozwischen stehen die Lampen? –
Between what are the lamps standing? 

Es gibt Lügen und andere Lügen. Die Wahrheit liegt normalerweise dazwischen. –
There are lies and other lies. The truth lies somewhere between. 

Wozwischen ist der Ball gerollt? –
Between what did the ball roll? 

Es gibt viele Einfamilienhäuser in dieser Gegend. Dazwischen befinden sich Gärten und Wiesen. –
There are a lot of one-family homes in this area. Between them there are gardens/yards and meadows. 

Ich sehe die Autos, wozwischen ich mein Auto geparkt habe, aber ich sehe mein Auto nicht. –
I see the cars between which I parked my car, but I don’t see my car. 

Ich unterrichte Deutsch 1 und Deutsch 2. Dazwischen esse ich zu Mittag. –
I teach German 1 and German 2. Between that I eat lunch. 

As you have seen in this lesson there are a lot of verbs that are commonly paired with certain prepositions in the German language. While I have talked about quite a few of them in this post through the examples I chose, there is a lot more to learn about these verbs and prepositions. I have one post that kind of explains why I try not to refer to them as “verbs with fixed prepositions” as many people do and I will be adding new lessons about these verb and prepositions pairings soon.

More Posts in This Series

Learn More About German Prepositions

Accusative Prepositions
Dative Prepositions
Two-Way Prepositions (Wechselpräpositionen)
Genitive Prepositions
Verbs with “Fixed Prepositions” Don’t Exist
Verbs Commonly Used with Dative Prepositions
Verbs Commonly Used with Two-Way Prepositions & the Dative Case
von vs vor
German Prepositions Songs
Download all of Herr Antrim’s materials about Prepositions here!

If you are really wanting to put your German learning on track, consider joining Herr Antrim’s Deutschlerner Club! For just $14.99 per month you will get access to his full A1 and A2 courses plus new materials as he creates them. You will go from knowing zero German to being able to have a short conversation in a short few weeks. Before you know it, you will be conversational in German on a variety of important topics, all while mastering German grammar.

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