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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"?

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  • just a side note: Zimmer is neuter, not masculine, hence it is das Zimmer. I have made an edit – Arsak Apr 17 '18 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. – Kilian Foth Apr 18 '18 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'? – Zhanfeng Lim Apr 18 '18 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." – Kilian Foth Apr 18 '18 at 8:51
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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.

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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)

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    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? – Zhanfeng Lim Apr 17 '18 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 '18 at 1:44
  • ^the word in question was worin however @Janka – Zhanfeng Lim Apr 18 '18 at 8:38
  • worin still asks for a location. – tofro Apr 18 '18 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 '18 at 12:05

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