I've come across both of the following:

Woher haben Sie das?
Wo haben Sie das her?

I assume both sentences mean the same thing (Where did you get that from?). Do they differ in any other way (e.g. register, dialect)?

Curiously, at least judging by the number of Google results,

Woher wissen Sie das?

…is far more common than

Wo wissen Sie das her?


2 Answers 2


You have simply encountered two different verbs:

"haben" is a common non-separable German Verb (and an auxiliary) in standard German. And if you are asking "where from" someone has acquired something, you would ask

Woher haben sie das?

"herhaben" is a separable verb listed by some dictionaries as regional and/or colloquial. Even if it is colloquial, its usage must follow standard German rules, such as that in questions the separable prefix moves to the end of the sentence. This ends up in your second form

Wo haben Sie das her?

The lower frequency in Google results simply reflects the fact that this form is considered colloquial.

  • 2
    Gets even more obvious when you reinforce the sentence: Wo haben Sie das her? - Ich will wissen wo sie das herhaben!
    – Daniel
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 7:41
  • I am not convinced of the thesis that herhaben should be seen as a separate verb of its own. My argument: there is absolutely no situation where you could use this verb but in the example given in the original question "Wo haben Sie das her?". Whatever you try - "Kann ich das mal herhaben", "Wir sollten das mal herhaben", etc. - you do no get acceptable well-formed sentences. As opposed to e.g. "herkommen" where you indeed can say: "Könnten Sie mal herkommen?". I thererfore plead for not counting herhaben as a full (dictionary-worthy) word. Which then would devaluate the answer. Commented May 23, 2018 at 17:42
  • 1
    Did you follow the dictionary links? Apparently not. all accessible major online dictionaries list it as a separate verb
    – tofro
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 17:58
  • It's not clear (to me at least) whether this is a separable verb or a compound. The DWDS usage database has examples both ways: Ich weiß nicht, wo sie das her hat. & Wo sollte ich 5 Mio. Euro herhaben? Also, if it has a perfect tense at all it's rare; DWDS lists one example: Ja, aber wo hat Barney den Taucheranzug hergehabt? I'm not convinced that's idiomatic German though, Ja, aber wo hat Barney den Taucheranzug her? seems to have the same meaning and is simpler.
    – RDBury
    Commented May 7, 2022 at 12:08

This is a difficile topic.

There are differences, but not in "direct" (core) meaning, rather in - as you correctly suppose - register and the situation where you would, could or should use those sentences.

Wo haben Sie das her?


Woher haben Sie das?

when used with reference to some object (a book, a picture, a piece of clothing) or possibly also some kind of a disease or infection (in a situation where people speak about something like this) can be used quite interchangeably, without too much difference in register.


Woher wissen Sie das?


Wo wissen Sie das her?

are clearly different. The first one would be the standard expression as it could be found also in a textbook for learning German. The second, though, sounds very sloppy, informal, berhaps even rude or provocative, at least in my personal perception (native speaker, professional writer, a bit of linguistic background). Perhaps it sounds more rude because it is so unusual, and so when you hear or read it, you imagine a not so well-educated person speaking... ?

Generally, I would say, the "Woher" form tends to be more polite, and the "Wo xxxx her" form tends to be a bit more aggressive or intensive.

A note on dialects

Initially I thought dialect was not a factor here. But when thinking more about it, I find that

Wo wisset Sie dees hääär?

would be a typical form of speaking in the Swabian region (whose dialect I have deeper insight into) although

Wohär wisset Sie des?

would be similarly likely.

So, finally, I cannot exclude that there are different habits in different regions of the German speaking world regarding the everyday use of the two constructions.

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