From Spiegel-Magazine:

Zudem stellen sich heute, wo mehr als 70 Prozent eines Jahrgangs eine akademische Karriere anstreben, ganz andere Herausforderungen.

In this thread, it was pointed out that for the time period "am Dienstag zwischen 10-11", using in der or während der are the best solutions, while using wo is colloquial and is inappropriate for written language.

What about here, for the time period "heute"? It seems that in der or während der no longer work, since the time period "heute" here refers to the present in general, and thus is less specific.

Does wo here still sound colloquial? (I assume the Spiegel author wouldn't exactly want to sound colloquial.) What are some alternative ways to write the sentence?

  • 1
    Note that in der is referring to die Zeit.
    – user6191
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 0:53
  • 2
    Almost a duplicate of german.stackexchange.com/questions/5177 Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 7:27
  • "wo" is now the preferred way to refer to time periods in the present via relatives (and "als" for the past, and "wenn" for the future). Don't ask why - and don't ask why "wann" isn't used instead, which would be more logical. Euphony, habit or accident often beat logic. Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 9:27
  • "Heute" can be replaced by "heutzutage" to make clear that a period of time in the present is meant.
    – Sam
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 12:09

2 Answers 2


No, this is a different case where wo doesn't sound colloquial.

Wo is used to make it clear where in time more than 70 percent of the alumni strive for an academic career. Not in the past, not in the future, but today, where ...

  • Here, wo is the only correct possibility (I'd say). In some situations als is possible, too. See also the corresponding Duden entry.
    – user6191
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 0:57
  • 2
    While the Duden justifies using wo with a present point in time, the reasoning given here would apply to any point in time (not in 1972, not in 1974, but 1973, where...) and is thus misleading, because you would need to use "als" for past and "wenn" for future. In particular, using "wo" for past point in times is strongly colloquial.
    – Matthias
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 6:51
  • @Robert - Jahrgang = yeargroup or alumni? Usually Jahrgang collects items of a specific year e.g. children born 2013, vine made 2006, hence I've choosen "yeargroup". However if Jahrgang here means students which have finished their Study at the same year, you are right. The "academic career" supports your translation. While the word alumni is also known in the german language it's mostly used by academically educated persons and not understood by the "lower classes". Perhaps that was the reason why "Jahrgang" instead of "Alumni" was choosen.
    – Kitana
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 8:52
  • @Kitana Fair enough. In US English, alumni refers even to the kids finishing elementary school.
    – Robert
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 16:41

IMHO using "wo" here is colloquial in the sense of "being unprecise with language". It is possible to use "wo" to start an adverbial subclause qualifying a point in time. @Grantwalzer and @Hulk contributed the corresponding Duden entry, and @Alexander Kusobek this related question where @tohuwahohu did a fine job compiling many examples from German literature for this way of using "wo".

In the given article, however, "wo" is not used in an adverbial way. The subclause

wo mehr als 70 Prozent eines Jahrgangs eine akademische Karriere anstreben

does not qualify further "heute", but gives a reason for why very different challenges arise. The article also says that they arise today, but this general present is not better described by the subclause.

The easiest way to fix the phrase is replacing "wo" with "da". According to the corresponding Duden entry it is used to denote a temporal, but also causal relationship, and thus matches exactly the situation we are facing here. Also note the example from the Duden

jetzt, da es beschlossen ist, kommt dein Einwand zu spät

which has exactly the same structure.

As an alternative, one could write "... heute, in einer Zeit, in der ...", but this is more complicated to read; I would only consider it if I really wanted to have that break created by the insert.

Or, as @Kitana suggested

Da heute mehr als 70 Prozent eines Jahrgangs eine akademische Karriere anstreben, stellen sich [X] ganz andere Herausforderungen.

which makes the causal relationship even clearer. I would consider inserting an indirect object at [X] then; otherwise I had the feeling that something is missing there.

  • Not wrong, but in this context i would translate da with the reasoning word because. then you should rephrase the sentence. Da heute mehr als 70 Prozent eines Jahrgangs eine akademische Karriere anstreben stellen sich ganz andere Herausforderungen.
    – Kitana
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 0:38
  • I agree with @Kitana - da puts a stronger focus on the causal relationship between the situation and the challenges arising from it, and takes away focus from the temporal developement of the situation.
    – Hulk
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 6:15
  • 1
    @Hulk But there is a causal aspect involved. I tried to make this clearer with my edit.
    – Matthias
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 6:41
  • With the different sentence order we could replace da by während to put emphasis on the temproal aspect but we can't use wo.
    – Takkat
    Commented Nov 17, 2014 at 8:57
  • @Matthias I never said there was no causal aspect. I merely stated that your version shifts the focus further in that direction.
    – Hulk
    Commented Nov 18, 2014 at 6:12

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