German Da Compounds

Overview

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".

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In English and in German, there are some verbs that are used extensively with certain prepositions. In English, these are called “phrasal verbs”. Adding a preposition to a verb changes the meaning slightly. For example, the verb “to run”. By itself, it means to move swiftly using your legs. But we can also “run into” someone. Someone can “run for” something, or we can “run something by” someone. We have changed the original meaning of the verb “run” simply by adding a preposition. 

There are many verbs in German as well that are used with a preposition. For example “warten” (to wait). I can simply “wait”, but I can also “wait for” something. (warten auf). In German, we added the preposition “auf” to alter the meaning of the original verb slightly. 

These prepositions can be combined with “da(r)” if we wish to refer back to the object of the preposition, without repeating it. 

Example:
Wartest du auf dein Paket? Ja, ich warte darauf
Are you waiting for your package? Yes, I am waiting for it. 

In the above example, we formed a “da” compound with the preposition “auf” from the phrasal verb “warten auf”, to refer back to the package without repeating it. Because the preposition “auf” starts with a vowel, we added the extra “r”. If the preposition starts with a consonant, we do not add “r”. 

Example:
Arbeitest du mit Microsoft Word? Ja, ich arbeite damit
Are you working with Microsoft Word? Yes, I am working with it. 

1. When not to use a “da” compound

There are some prepositions that cannot be used with “da”: außer, gegenüber, ohne, & seit”. However, Some directional adverbs, such as hinherrein can be used with “da” as well (e.g. dahin, daher, darein).

“Da” compounds also cannot be used to refer back to people or living beings. To shorten an expression where the object is a person, we would use a personal pronoun. 

Example:

Der Junge geht ohne seinen Hund spazieren. 
The boy goes for a walk without his dog. 

Der Junge geht ohne ihn spazieren. 
The boy goes for a walk without him. 

In the above example we used the preposition “ohne” which cannot be used in a “da”compound. In addtion, “sein Hund” is a living being, so the only way we can shorten the experession is to use the pronoun (here: accusative pronoun for a masculine noun)

2. Common “da” compounds

There are a few “da” compounds that have specific meanings and are frequently used. 

da compounds jpg

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment). Can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

Writing:
I can write short, simple notes and messages relating to matters in areas of immediate needs. I can write a very simple personal letter, for example thanking someone for something.
Spoken Production:
I can use a series of phrases and sentences to describe in simple terms my family and other people, living conditions, my educational background and my present or most recent job.
Spoken Interaction:
I can communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities. I can handle very short social exchanges, even though I can’t usually understand enough to keep the conversation going myself.
Reading:
I can read very short, simple texts. I can find specific, predictable information in simple everyday material such as advertisements, prospectuses, menus and timetables and I can understand short simple personal letters.
Listening:
I can understand phrases and the highest frequency vocabulary related to areas of most immediate personal relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local area, employment). I can catch the main point in short, clear, simple messages and announcements.