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I am having a hard time understanding the usages of darüber, darauf, darin and most of the words in that family.

For example, what is the difference between darüber vs über es?

Compared to English, I usually presume "da" means "that" or "there", so "darüber" would mean "about that", and "über es" would mean "about it".

Is my approach correct for the whole dar-family? Any recommendations on where to get a firm understanding of this?

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As for a recommendation... yourdailygerman.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/… –  Emanuel Feb 5 at 21:34
    
I've never seen "über es". Where have you read something like that? –  Alejandro V. Feb 5 at 22:00
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I haven't actually, but I thought it would work to convey "about it" @949 has told me though that it should be "über ihm" –  Mohamed Khamis Feb 5 at 22:04
    
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@MohamedKhamis... "about it" could be "über ihm/ihn/sie/ihr/es" depending on case and gender... in theory that is, because it is "darüber" (except for people) –  Emanuel Feb 6 at 10:26

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The "dar-" propositions are basically relative propositions. You have some context and then "darüber", "darunter", etc. will give positions relative to the established context. Just like "dieser/diese/dieses" will always refer to an established context. For example:

Der Kopf ist ganz oben. Der Torso befindet sich darunter.

Note the similarity to "dieser":

Der Kopf ist ganz oben. Der Torso befindet sich unter diesem.

The "da(r)-"less prepositions always need the second object (or a substitution like "dieser") to be directly present in the sentence.

Der Kopf befindet sich unter dem Torso.

ps: It needs to be "über ihm", not "über es".

Das erste Kind steht ganz rechts. Das zweite steht neben ihm.

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"über es" is accusative. –  Carsten Schultz Feb 6 at 6:41
    
Oh, you're right. "Ich stelle ... über es." It's correct for directions (wohin?). –  949 Feb 6 at 7:34
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Also: "Das erste Kind steht ganz rechts. Das zweite steht daneben." –  elena Feb 6 at 8:18

Assuming that you are a native English speaker, I recommend digging a little bit deeper into older and more formal forms of English in regards to this construction.

Even today, forms like "thereby" and "thereabouts" are not so uncommon as to be unheard of. Note that just as it was pointed out that there are da/dar, hier, and wo/wor forms, the same holds true for English with there-, here-, and where-. Legal documents are sometimes filled with such constructions.

Here is a link I found that shows the usage of this construction in Shakespeare. Perhaps the examples will help you understand the German constructions more fully.

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.Interesting comment. –  rogermue Feb 12 at 8:41

The use of the preposition variants with da- or dar- is not easy.

Formation:

  • da+prep: davon, dafür damit
    the preposition begins with a consonant.

  • dar+prep: darauf, darüber, darunter etc.
    the preposition begins with a vowel.

Usage:

These da-variants can only refer to things, not to persons.

Die Schlüssel lagen auf dem Tisch. / Die Schlüssel lagen darauf (not: auf ihm)
Die Sachen waren in der Truhe. / Die Sachen waren darin. (not: in ihr)
Ich habe im Lexikon nachgeschaut. / Ich habe darin nachgeschaut (not: in ihm)
Ich habe über das Angebot nachgedacht./ Ich habe darüber nachgedacht. (not: über es)

Grammar:

In German grammars these words are called "Präpositionaladverb" or Pronominaladverb (so Duden Grammar).

There are three kinds of these special adverbs:

  1. the da/dar- variants
  2. the hier-variants: hieran, hierauf, hiernach etc.
  3. the wo/wor-variants: woran, worauf wobei, wodurch etc.
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