Why are "Das Zimmer, worin ich stehe, ist leer." and "Das Zimmer, in dem ich stehe, ist leer" both correct

But "Der Stil, worin man schreibt, ist wichtig" is wrong with the correct form being "in dem" rather than "worin"?

  • just a side note: Zimmer is neuter, not masculine, hence it is das Zimmer. I have made an edit
    – Arsak
    Apr 17, 2018 at 12:21
  • Great question, and a great inconsistency that native speakers don't even notice! It seems as if the correspondence "in" --> "wo" is acceptable for the direct use, but less so for the figurative use, but even I couldn't really say why. Apr 18, 2018 at 6:38
  • @KilianFoth Does worin (or any other wo-compound) not have the more general meaning of 'in which' rather than just 'in where'?
    – Jan Lynn
    Apr 18, 2018 at 8:30
  • @ZhanfengLim It does have that meaning, but preferably for actual location, such as "The cat is in the box." - not so much for figurative meaning, such as "The novel is in an ancient style." Apr 18, 2018 at 8:51

2 Answers 2


You write correctly that style matters :-) Hence, worin refers mostly or exclusively to a location. You ask where or wherein, while in dem is much more general. You ask In what style, in what room. Therefore in dem fits for both and worin only for room.


The adverb wo relates to a location - which is perfectly valid for a room.

But even if you write in a specific style, this is no location, so "wo" cannot refer to it.

(I wouldn't say it's necessarily wrong from a language POV, but rather from a logical one. Dictionaries consider such a usage colloquial - A lot of German native speakers will accept this as a perfect sentence)

  • 1
    But I was taught that the wo- in wo compounds do not mean where, but a more general which. "Ich weiß nicht, wofür das ist." is valid, although no 'where' is involved too isn't it?
    – Jan Lynn
    Apr 17, 2018 at 21:35
  • This depends. In wohin it introduces a location or more exactly a direction, in wohingegen or even wo hingegen it's not!
    – Janka
    Apr 18, 2018 at 1:44
  • ^the word in question was worin however @Janka
    – Jan Lynn
    Apr 18, 2018 at 8:38
  • worin still asks for a location.
    – tofro
    Apr 18, 2018 at 9:12
  • Yes, but for worin there's no such counterexample. As often, there is no simple rule you could rely on.
    – Janka
    Apr 18, 2018 at 12:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.