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If I would like to ask in German "Where is this from?", which of the following should I say:

  • Wovon ist das?
  • Von wo ist das?

Are both sentences correct or is one of them better?

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    Depends on context. Both sentences are correct, but (can) have a different meaning. And the question word "woher" wouldn't be wrong per se, either. – Em1 Apr 15 '16 at 9:18
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    I would say: "Woher kommt das" oder "Wo kommt das her?" – Iris Apr 15 '16 at 9:55
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    Wovon ist das? sounds like an old-fashioned variant of Woraus ist das [gemacht]? ‘What is this made of?’ It could also mean ‘What is this a part of? What/where does this belong to?’ Von wo ist das?, on the other hand, is a colloquial variant of Woher kommt das? – Crissov Apr 15 '16 at 10:18
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Wovon and Von wo denote different questions.

Wovon means something like What is the cause.

Example:

Wovon ist dir schlecht geworden? (What made you sick?)

@raznagul said that wovon is equivalent to von was, which is correct. So you could also say

Von was ist dir schlecht geworden?

Von wo means something like Where did something originate.

Example:

Von wo kommt das Geräusch? (Where does the sound come from?)

Like @Crissov said in the comments, woher is mostly equivalent. So you could say:

Woher kommt das Geräusch?

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    @raznagul Yes, wo- in interrogatives has two uses/origins: locational (wo, woher, wohin) and referential (womit, wodurch, wovon …). In the latter case, it parallels either da- (damit, dadurch, davon …) or article / demonstrative pronoun preceded by the respective preposition (mit dem, durch die, von diesem …) in answers. That’s certainly confusing for DAF learners. – Crissov Apr 15 '16 at 11:15
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Armin it totally right.

However, you can always use "Woher?" because it has both meanings: "What is the cause?" and "Where does it originate?".

Example: "Woher kommt das?" is equal to "Wovon kommt das?", but also equal to "Von wo kommt das?"

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    Ich finde deine Antwort fehlleitend. "Woher kommt das?" und "Wovon kommt das?" werden leicht unterschiedlich verwendet. Auf "Mir ist übel." würde man eher mit "Wovon?" als "Woher?" antworten. – kay Apr 15 '16 at 12:27
  • @Kay Oder mit "Wie", i.e. "Wie kommt's" – Em1 Apr 15 '16 at 13:48
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    I have to agree with @Kay. Woher is mostly used for locations and the usage for causes is mainly in dialects. this is supported by duden, wich doesn't list your meaning for the word. duden.de – Armin Apr 15 '16 at 15:53

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