dabei, damit, dazu, dafür

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by mo rice-oxley, Sep 11, 2008.

  1. mo rice-oxley New Member

    English, Arabic
    Hello Everyone,

    I would really like to know, cause I get confused whenever I see them on sentences .

    and also when to use then, meaning, what is the difference between dafuer and deshalb..?!

    Thank you :)
  2. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    I am afraid there is no magic way of explaining all of these words. There are all adverbs and sometimes also conjunctions and you have to learn them one by one. And beware of false friends! Dafür is a cognate of therefore but doesn't mean the same thing.
  3. vermillionxtears Senior Member

    USA; Vereinigte Staaten; États-Unis
    American English (general American dialect)
    I would like to try to explain my basic understanding of these ever-so-confusing words (well, confusing to English speakers at least!). They are called pronomial adverbs in English. If you are an Anfänger (beginner!), it might be a bit rough of a topic.

    To put it generally, you would never really use prepositional phrases like against it, about it, or of this in German; you would instead implement one of these nifty pronomial adverbs. The construction of the pronomial adverbs is da + preposition. I'll show a few examples.

    - What do you think of the new law?
    - I am against it.
    - Wie findest du das neue Gesetz?
    - Ich bin dagegen.
    - Ich bin gegen es.

    You say dagegen instead of saying gegen es, which I'm sure if a German ever saw you post, their eyes would tremble.

    For your other examples:

    (First note that you would say Viel Spaß bei... to mean Have fun with...)
    - We have never had so much fun with it before.
    - Noch nie hatten wir so viel Spaß dabei gehabt.

    - I have to withdraw some money. With it, I can buy bread.
    - Ich muss etwas Geld abheben. Damit kann ich Brot kaufen.

    There's also another type of prenomial adjective with wo, but I think I've said enough. :)
    I'm not a native speaker, but that's what I'd have to say.
    Wenn ich Unrecht habe, bitte ausbessern Sie meine Fehler.

    (Further information on this topic:
  4. evanovka Senior Member

    German - Bavaria
    Good explanation so far :)
    I think there are more meanings of (some of) these words ...I will try to give some examples for dafür:

    Similar to the previous examples:
    Hier sind fünf Euro von der Oma, dafür kannst du dir was nettes kaufen.
    Here you have five Euros from Grandma, you can buy something nice with them.

    A very idiomatic one:
    Ich kann nichts dafür.
    It was not my fault.

    Which is, in a full context:
    Da kann ich doch nichts dafür, wenn du zu spät kommst und wir den Zug verpassen.
    If you are late and we miss the train, I cannot be blamed for it.

    Note: In some regions you would drop the da in dafür if you have it already at the beginning of the phrase - Da kann ich doch nichts für.
    Da sage ich nichts dazu - Da sag ich nichts zu.
    I will not comment on that.

    A different meaning:
    Ich werde keine Vorspeise, aber dafür eine Nachspeise essen.
    I will not have an appetizer, but a dessert instead.

    In none of these example you could substitute dafür by deshalb!
    An example for deshalb:
    Es regnet, deshalb sitzte ich immer noch vor dem PC.
    It's raining, this is why / because of this I am still in front of the PC.

    And just a small correction:
    Wenn ich Unrecht habe, bitteausbessern Sie bitte meine Fehler aus.

  5. vermillionxtears Senior Member

    USA; Vereinigte Staaten; États-Unis
    American English (general American dialect)
    Yes, I knew something was fishy about that sentence. :)
    I just haven't looked far enough into the polite imperative to know to separate the verbs with separable-prefixes. I guess that should have been commonsense.

    Just as a little extra, as far as I know, deswegen can be used in the same way. [:
  6. Jaseis Member

    Southampton, England
    English - England
    Moderator note: This was a separate thread; now merged with the other one covering the same topic

    Hello all.

    This may sound like a very pointless question, but any help would be greatly appreciated.

    The word 'dabei' confuses me so much. Like any of these coupled words 'vorbei, dazu, damit' I just cannot get the hang of them.

    Do they have direct translations into English? I would assume not.

    For example. I came across a sentence today that confused me.

    Was meinst du dazu? I believe this means 'what do you mean?'
    But why don't you just say, Was meinst du?. Does this not mean the same thing?

    And also - ich bin dabei. I can't seem to understand this one either. Does it need more context?

    Again, any help would be appreciated!
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2009
  7. killerbees Senior Member

    Philadelphia, PA
    English [US]
    I'm sure that somewhere in this forum there is a thread on 'da[r]' compounds, but I'm not the best at using the search function here so I didn't really find anything comprehensive.

    Da compounds, for the most part, represent what we call "pronominal adverbs" in English. That, by all means, is an overly simplistic explanation.

    Here are a few examples:
    Siehst du den Tisch in der Küche? Dein Buch liegt darauf.
    Do you see the table in the kitchen? Your book is on top of it.

    A: Hast du dein Schlüssel gefunden?
    B: Nein, ich suche noch danach
    A: Did you find your keys?
    B: No, I'm still looking for them.

    To know how to use them [or understand them], you have to also know the appropriate preposition. Your first example proves handy here [and makes it a little confusing]:

    Was meinst du? / What do you mean?
    Was meinst du damit? / What do you mean by that?
    Was meinst du dazu? / What do you think of that? [Explaining why this one works this way is difficult for me, I would wait for a native speaker's input]

    You also use them in an anticipatory manner for a secondary clause, but I think you should start getting the hang of them before you worry about that. I recommend looking up some resources on the internet [and waiting to hear from some natives] for better explanations.

    PS: 'Ich bin dabei' without any context could mean a number of things, I suppose, but the first two that come to mind are: "I'm here/present" and "I'm in!" [as in, "You can count me in!"
  8. Sidjanga Senior Member

    German;southern tendencies
    I think your explanation is great, killerbees.
    It's hard to give a concise but comprehensive overview over such a complex topic.

    In any case, if you mentally remove the da(r)- part, you get the preposition that by means of that da(r)- refers back to what has been mentioned before.

    There's more here:
    pronunciation: damit, dabei, dazu, darin, dafür

    and still more, if you simply type "dabei", "dafür" etc. into the search function at the bottom or top right of this forum's main page (especially if you use the "Advanced Search" and choose the option "Search Titles Only").

    PS: vorbei does not fall into this category; it's a normal adverb and simply means [to go/drive/look/etc.] past sth, or, with a temporal meaning, that something is over.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2009
  9. Jaseis Member

    Southampton, England
    English - England
    Hi. Thanks so much for your explanations. It has really sparked my understanding of these words.
    Now I know that this confusing da word does not only mean 'there' :p
    I guess it's one of those German things which you just have to learn.

    Thanks again!
  10. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    It actually does in all of these examples. English has adverbs like
    therefore and thereby too. English has just lost their pronominal uses (I think during the Middle English period) while German has retained them. Imagine the following transformation
    What do you mean by that? -> Thereby, you mean what? -> *What do you mean thereby?
    This is the logic of the German sentence
    Was meinst du damit?
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2009
  11. johannes.braunias New Member

    German (German and Austrian)
    You gave a good explanation, vermillionxtears.
    I'd like to focus on two more points:

    1. One thing they mentioned is that this is generally
    not used for living things.
    Hast du das für Michael gekauft? – Ja, ich hab's für ihn gekauft.

    2. And then you may have noticed that the first two examples
    on the linked page (I'm not allowed to post links yet)
    have "starred" (= grammatically wrong) alternatives in parentheses:
    If the pronominal is in the accusative case (and a non-living thing),
    it must obviously substituted.
    In the last two examples of the link, the pronominal is in the dative case
    and doesn't need to be necessarily substituted by the pronominal adverb.
    So both parenthesized and non-paranthesized versions are correct here:
    - Das ist etwas, wobei (or: bei dem) wir euch helfen könnten.
    - Wovon (or: Von was) hast du heute Nacht geträumt?

    In my example (with Michael), Michael is in the accusative case,
    but would nonetheless be not replaced with dafür,
    because "da" would refer to a non-living thing called Michael.

    I hope that helped somebody.

    Nah, but a bell would ring. :)
  12. Sidjanga Senior Member

    German;southern tendencies
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2009
  13. Jaseis Member

    Southampton, England
    English - England
    Excellent explanation, thanks a lot!
  14. Mr_Saikou Member


    I am interested in an explanation for this too, this usage of "meinst" is confusing.
  15. johannes.braunias New Member

    German (German and Austrian)
    @Jaseis: Freut mich!
  16. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Well you have "Meinung" (opinion) and the corresponding verb "meinen" (literally: to articulate an opinion)

    Was meinst du dazu? = Wie/Was ist deine Meinung zu der Sache?
  17. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Yes. It is important to note that English to mean and German meinen are false friends.
  18. Mr_Saikou Member

    Ok, so then I would translate it more as:

    Was meinst du dazu? = What is your opinion of that ?

    Just it my mind, it translates better than "What do you think of that"
  19. bluejay_AT New Member

    German (Austria)
    Yes with "opinion" it's the better translation.
    think is more "denken" than "meinen", i think :)

    Was meinst du dazu?
    Was denkst du darüber?

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