I'm learning German all by myself and I face here an inconsistency. I learnt I have to say

"Woran was denkst du?"

hier but there she asks the question

"An was denkst du?"

In the lesson (in french) they say it's not correct to use "an". So is it really the case or is it possible to use it (at least when speaking) as people in many different languages tend to speak their languge in a worse way except when they write?

  • @πάνταῥεῖ my concrete examples are in the links I gave you. I can't invent them.
    – ParaH2
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:05
  • There were only unfortunate forrmatting issues probably. Apr 18, 2018 at 21:08
  • In the lesson of the first link, they say correct "Le verbe 'denken' se constuit avec la préposition 'an'", so the statement "On serait tenté de dire 'an was denkst du'." is indeed correct!
    – IQV
    Apr 19, 2018 at 5:52
  • Quick but accurate rule: German questions only ever have one w-interrogative form, so "woran was" is guaranteed to be wrong. Apr 19, 2018 at 6:39
  • 1
    "woran was" does not appear in the first linked page. It is not clear to me how you arrive at the conclusion that that is what you "have to say". Apr 19, 2018 at 7:08

2 Answers 2


You can either say

Woran denkst Du?


An was denkst Du?

Both are fine. There are different ways to say the same thing.

  • 4
    +1, but an eye-opening example would be: An wen denkst du? There's not even an alternative for using an there.
    – Janka
    Apr 18, 2018 at 19:54
  • @Janka I've made the experience that one can easily confuse or overwhelm a learner with to much (extra) information. Since it's difficult online to watch their reaction, I try to follow the (KISS-principle)[ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/KISS_principle] and keep it simple.
    – Arsak
    Apr 21, 2018 at 8:35

Indeed woran is more elegant, but an was is not wrong. Wiktionary calls it colloquial (near the end).

  • 1
    I've also heard in colloquial speech: "Was denkst (du) an?" How "wrong" is this? Can you comment on this?
    – Beta
    Apr 19, 2018 at 6:42
  • @Beta, that word order seems just wrong to me. "An was denkst Du?" would be ok.
    – Carsten S
    Apr 19, 2018 at 10:50
  • 3
    @Beta "Was denkst du?" would have another meaning. You're rather asking to a opinion on sth. "What do you think of it?".
    – some_user
    Apr 19, 2018 at 10:56

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