After reading this post, you will understand:
- What the German da words are and what they mean
- How they are used to replace objects in a sentence
- How each of the da words are used in example sentences
What Are German Da Words?
German ‘da words’ are an extremely useful group of words, but can take some getting used to. Da- is a prefix which appears in front of a number of prepositions. They are used to refer back to an object which was mentioned earlier in a sentence.
Da words are important because they will help improve your fluency by making sentences more streamlined and stopping you using more nouns than necessary in a sentence.
The most common German da words are:
With German da words it helps to think of da- as meaning ‘it’, ‘that’ or ‘them’.
In English we say things like ‘I’ll think about it‘ but in German, if da- means ‘it’, that sentence translates as ‘I’ll think it about‘ (da = ‘it’ + the preposition = dar-über = ‘it about’).
Top Tip: To create a ‘da word’ it’s just a case of choosing the preposition you need and putting da- in front of it. However if the preposition starts with a vowel (über, auf etc.) we put dar- in front of it to help with pronunciation.
Meanings of ‘Da Words’
When we use a German da word and pair it with a preposition, we end up with a word that means: the preposition + ‘it’.
For example bei (with) becomes dabei (with it). Für (for) becomes dafür (for it).
Here are some of the more common German da words that you’ll encounter:
|on / of it
How Are ‘Da Words’ Used?
One important thing to note when using German da words is that they are only used to refer to inanimate objects. If you are talking about a person or animal, you need to use the preposition + pronoun:
- Ich kuscheln mit meiner Katze (I cuddle with my cat)
- Ich kuscheln mit ihr (I cuddle with her)
So whenever you refer back to any object in a sentence that isn’t a living thing, you’ll use a da word. Let take a look at an example:
|Ich fahre mit meinem Auto
|I drive (with) my car
|Ich fahre damit
|I drive (with) it
In this example you can see that if we want to substitute the object (Auto) we first need to look at what preposition we’ve used. In this case mit. So we simply add da- in front of mit and there we have it: damit.
German Da Words in Conversations
To use a da word in a conversation, you’ll see something like this:
|Wie kommen wir heute an den Strand? Mit deinem Auto?
|How are we getting to the beach today? With your car?
|Ja, wir fahren damit.
|Yes, we’ll drive (with) it.
The person asking the question has already mentioned the object (the car). Just like in English, the person answering doesn’t bother to repeat the noun. We already know that they are talking about a car, so a da word can be used instead of repeating the noun.
In English, we’re not as likely to say:
- How are we getting to the beach today? With your car?
- Yes, we’ll drive the car
It just feels unnecessary to repeat the noun, we’re more likely to say:
- Yes, we’ll drive it
And it’s the same in German.
German Da Words as Plurals
Da words can also stand in for plurals. Let’s take a look at another example:
|Früher hatte ich angst, Fehler zu machen, aber jetzt lache ich darüber.
|I used to worry about making mistakes, but I laugh about them now.
In this sentence the object is Fehler (mistakes). Since we don’t need to repeat this noun twice in the sentence, we just use dar- + the preposition (über).
Da words don’t change depending on whether it are talking about a singular or a plural object.
German Da Words Example Sentences
In order to really get the hang of these da words, let’s take a look at example sentences for each of them.
Now because German prepositions don’t translate that well into English, it’s best to familiarise yourself with their meanings first as some of the English translations I give won’t make a lot of sense.
In these examples the object that is being replaced with a da word is highlighted.
Daran (on it / of it)
|Ich denke oft an unseren Urlaub.
|I think of our holiday a lot.
|Ich denke auch daran.
|I think of it too.
Darauf (on it)
|Wenn ich Deutsch spreche, muss ich mich wirklich darauf konzentrieren.
|When I speak German I have to really concentrate on it.
Dabei (with it)
|Kannst du bei der Hausarbeit helfen?
|Can you help me with the housework?
|Ja, ich helfe dir dabei.
|Yes I’ll help you with it.
Dafür (for it)
|Wie viel verlangt er für dieses Auto?
|How much is he asking for that car?
|Er verlangt zu viel dafür.
|He’s asking too much for it.
Damit (with it)
|Ich finde die Straßenbahnen in Bremen toll, ich fahre oft damit.
|I think the trams in Bremen are great, I often ride (with) them.
Danach (after it)
|Ich muss erst arbeiten, danach gehe ich aus.
|I have to work first, I’ll go out after (it).
Darüber (about it)
|Ich habe meine Meinung darüber geändert.
|I’ve changed my mind about it.