Is there a specific way of using the wo/da prefix words in infinitive clauses?

I have two examples here, but am unsure if the prefix words are meant to be placed differently because of their formation:

  • Ich wusste nicht, worin den Müll zu setzen – ich musste meine Eltern fragen!

    I didn’t know what to put the rubbish into – I had to ask my parents!

  • Ich wusste nicht, womit dem Müll zu tun.

    I didn’t know what to do with the rubbish.

1 Answer 1


The first sentence implies a missing facility to get rid of the rubbish. Whereas in English, the interrogative particle "what" relating to the rubbish itself is combined with "into" to indicate a movement in a certain direction and to a place, in German you start with a local relation using the interrogative particle "wo", but only in a general sense, because after that, you have to specify whether you're speaking of a movement or something that has already been moved to a place. This is done with a verb:

Ich wusste nicht, wo ich den Müll hineintun / hineingeben sollte (the rubbish ready to be moved, but where to?): "hinein" (into) combined with "tun" or "geben"

"...wohin ich den Müll tun/geben sollte" is not sufficient, because it would imply that the dust should be placed somewhere, but not "into" somewhere.

Ich wusste nicht, wo der Müll sich befand (rubbish previously moved somewhere, but where?)

If you don't use a verb, you have to specify the movement by the question word:

Ich wusste nicht, wohin mit dem Müll.

But this is not the proper equivalent for "I didn't know what to do with the rubbish", because it restricts the statement to putting the rubbish somewhere, while "I didn't know what to do with it" can have several meanings: E.g., you have produced some rubbish and want to put it somewhere, or you see the full bin bag in the kitchen and want to get rid of it but don't know how, and so on. Therefore, you would say in German:

Ich wusste nicht, was ich mit dem Müll tun sollte.

  • You could say "..., wohinein/worein ich den Müll tun sollte." What matters is that there is an adverbial in there expression an inward direction.
    – Emanuel
    Feb 7, 2015 at 23:07
  • 1
    ...and move to which quarter in Berlin never again to be able to speak to anybody outside it? Neither "wohinein" nor "worein" (never heard of it) would seem proper German to me. But you could say "Ich wusste nicht, worin ich den Müll verstauen sollte Feb 7, 2015 at 23:24
  • My remark concerning Berlin was a joke, of course... Feb 7, 2015 at 23:35
  • Never heard of "worein"? Curios. duden.de/rechtschreibung/worein... so much for proper German.
    – Emanuel
    Feb 9, 2015 at 0:21
  • @Emanuel Never heard and never read in a modern text. When was the last time you used it, honestly? We know that Duden tends to list words because they are used "somewhere" and "sometimes", although they are not standard. I think to non-native speakers of German, we should provide expressions they can use as standard vocabulary in standard situations. Feb 11, 2015 at 22:24

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