Woher kommst du? / Wo kommst du her?

Discussion in 'Deutsch (German)' started by elizwordref, Apr 25, 2009.

  1. elizwordref New Member

    English - American
    In school I always learned "woher kommst du?" I just started the FSI German course, written in the 1950s, and they use the construction "Wo kommen Sie her?" I understand that they're just splitting it and I'm sure it means the same thing, but I was wondering what kind of person would use each construction? Is it formal vs colloquial, modern vs old-fashioned?

    If I used "wo...her," would I sound weird, upper-class, seventy years old, Swiss, etc?
  2. Frank78

    Frank78 Senior Member

    Both are acceptable and used in contemporary German. There´s no real difference in those two sentences.
  3. Derselbe Senior Member

    Deutsch, German, ドイツ語
    I don't see a difference either. It appears to me that "Wo ... her" is easier to say and might sound slightly more natural in spoken language. But that might be depending on the region.
    However I wouldn't split it at least in formal writings.
  4. IchBinEinBavarianKreme New Member

    Old post but for the sake of people coming here for help it seems some more input is necessary. Your headline doesn't quite match the write-up. Woher means from where. And using the pronoun+verb form of Sie automatically means you are addressing someone formally. Now about tacking the her on the end just makes the sentence a tad bit more... contemporary and somewhat informal. Personally I will not use it as a new german speaker without more experience conversing with first language Germans. To answer your question directly: splitting woher would not make you sound old-fashioned but rather the opposite. I think a young adult would be more apt to split it. Notice "I think."
  5. Demiurg

    Demiurg Senior Member

    It's not about splitting "woher" but about two different verbs: kommen and herkommen:

    Woher kommst du? (Woher bist du gekommen?)
    Wo kommst du her? (Wo bist du hergekommen?)
  6. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Just as an idea: Maybe splitting vs. non-splitting is again a regional preference? I tend to believe that the splitted form is much more common in Northern Germany and I feel it quite a lot more idiomatic in everyday language.

    How do our Southern members feel about preference for one or the other?

    Maybe this correlates somewhat with the splitting of "da+prepositions" like "dahin/dafür"?
  7. Perseas Senior Member

    It would be also of interest to know what the answer with those verbs would be:
    Ich komme aus X (Verb: kommen)
    Ich komme ? X her (Verb: herkommen)
    X=name of country
  8. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    Seeing Perseas's question, I begin to doubt Demiurg's analysis... Maybe both versions are just a "wo | her"?
  9. Demiurg

    Demiurg Senior Member

    See Duden: herkommen
    Von draußen vom Walde komm ich her. Ich muß euch sagen, es weihnachtet sehr! ;)
  10. Frieder

    Frieder Senior Member

    For me there is a difference between "Wo kommst du her?" and "Woher kommst du?". The first question can be translated as "where have you been?" while the second one means "where are you from?".

    Q: Wo kommst du her?
    A: Vom Bahnhof.

    Q: Woher kommst du?
    A: Aus Afghanistan.

    Wo kommst du her? –> wo warst du (die ganze Zeit)?
    Woher kommst du? –> Aus welchem Land stammst du?
  11. JClaudeK

    JClaudeK Senior Member

    Français France Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
    I don't see things like Frieder.
    For me,
    Wo kommst du her? = Woher kommst du? (No preference for any of them.)
    Both could mean (to me) "wo warst du (die ganze Zeit)? / Aus welchem Land stammst du?"
    For me, it's just about splitting "woher".

    The same would apply for "Wohin?"
    Wohin gehst du? = Wo gehst du hin?
  12. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    I see the things like Frieder ... but it depends on context and intonation.
    It is not strict.

    • Wo kommst du denn jetzt her?
    This means often:
    • Warum kommst du so spät?
  13. ayuda?

    ayuda? Senior Member

    This here is question is a little bit of a tangent, but I think there are times when hierher could be used as an equivalent to her when verbs of motion like kommen, laufen, etc., are involved.

    Example: Sie hat geschrien…
    Dann kam er hierher.
    Dann kam er her.

    ● It seems like hierher might tend to emphasize the situation a bit more at times than just her and might be less common, too.
    Is that correct?

    ● Also, I guess you would not find the sentence Dann kam er hier in German, which is a real temptation for an English speaker??
  14. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Right, this is incorrect German.
  15. Alemanita Senior Member

    German, Germany
    I agree with Frieder and Hutschi.
  16. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    It can be fixed in several ways:

    • Dann war er hier.
    • Dann kam er hier an.
    • Dann kam er hierher.

    An addon to formality: Just to make this part from #1 explicit:
    In formal speech you have to use "Sie". Also in informal speech you have to use "Sie" if the other is not a relative. a child, a friend or someone you agreed "du".
    This makes it difficult in formal situations, like TV, some switch to "Sie" and some stay with "du" when speaking with friends.

    • Woher kommen Sie?
  17. Perseas Senior Member

    "Woher kommst du?" is a typical question, if you want to ask someone about the country of their origin. Couldn't it be used in other contexts? For example: - "Woher kommst du? - "Ich komme vom Banhof". I wonder if there are cases, where both questions can be used interchangeably. Thanks in advance.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
  18. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Both can be used interchangeably. But I feel usually they are used with different rate depending on context, and (maybe) on region, and with some additional (flavoring) words.

    And in many cases they have subtle nuances in colloquial language.

    In a letter, for example, you would ask "Woher kommst du/woher stammst du?" to ask about the language of origin.
    "Wo kommst du her?" - I cannot imagine to ask this in a letter. I would ask "Wie kommst du her?" or "Wo wollen wir uns treffen?".
    This is because of I would not write a letter if the other one is here.

    In spoken language, I'd use "Wo kommst du (denn) her?" to express that I waited for some time and it is rather late, or to express surprise.
    I cannot imagine to ask "Woher kommst du denn?" in these situations. (I marked the main stress bold.)

    I can imagine that I ask "Woher kommst du denn?" to ask one of a group where he or she comes from right now. I would not ask "Wo kommst du denn her?" in this situation without expressing curiousity in this situation.

    I can imagine to ask "Woher kommst du?" and "Wo kommst du her"? in rather neutral manner in this situation.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
  19. JClaudeK

    JClaudeK Senior Member

    Français France Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
    Ich persönlich finde, man könnte die Paare genauso gut (wenn nicht sogar eher!) gerade umgekehrt bilden:
    Wenn ich mir ein paar Zitate dazu anschaue, sehe ich keinen Widerspruch (sondern eher eine Bestätigung) darin für diese Möglichkeit:
    Dominik, Hans: John Workmann der Zeitungsboy, Biberach an d. Riss: Koehler 1954 [1925], S. 194
    Wenn ich fragen darf, wo kommen Sie her?"
    May, Karl: Winnetou IV, Berlin: Neues Leben 1993 [1910], S. 220
    Wo kommt Ihr her?

    Und hier
    - Wo kommen Sie her? Ich komme aus Amerika.
    - entstammen: wo kommen Sie her? (wo sind Sie geboren, aufgewachsen?); wo kommen die Tomaten her? (Duden! cf. #5)
    - Das war fast wie diese kleinen Fragebögen, die Sie ausfüllen müssen, wenn Sie mit dem Flugzeug in die USA einreisen wollen: Wo kommen Sie her? Wo wollen Sie hin?
    - Aber wo liegt der Ursprung Ihrer Lebensfrüchte, wo kommen sie her? Ihr Ursprung liegt unter der Erde.
    - Welche Flüsse vereinigen sich mit dem Mayn? wo kommen sie her, und wo fallen sie in den Mayn?
    - Wo kommen Sie her? Wo wollen Sie hin? Wer ist der Vater der Kinder?
    - .... lernte er ein paar Verwandte vom Präsidenten Ahasja kennen. „Wo kommen Sie her, wer sind Sie?
    - Wo kommen Sie her, Signora. «orvath?« »Horvath«, sagte sie energisch und umrundete wieder den Schreibtisch.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
  20. Hutschi

    Hutschi Senior Member

    Ohne Kontext würde ich das verstehen: Ich bin aus Amerika hierher gereist.
    Kontext kann alles ändern.

    Wo stammen Sie her?
    Ich komme/stamme aus Amerika.
    (aber kaum: Ich komme von Amerika her.)
  21. JClaudeK

    JClaudeK Senior Member

    Français France Deutsch (SW-Dtl.)
    Ja, das stimmt.
    Natürlich nicht. Wer käme schon auf diese Idee? :D

Share This Page