How do we know that we have to use "dafür" in this sentence? Why "dafür" and not some other "da-word"?

Ich will auch, dass du glücklich bist, aber nicht genug, um etwas dafür zu tun.

  • 2
    What other da-word would you find plausible or what would you expect instead? Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 9:32
  • "damit" maybe? Considering that the verb "tun" is often used in the following way: "zu tun haben mit".
    – user54214
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 9:36
  • 1
    Another question: What do you think this sentence means? Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 9:57
  • The following is the translation of that sentence; I want you to be happy too, but not enough to do anything about it.
    – user54214
    Commented Oct 16, 2022 at 10:17
  • do about sth (what shall we do about the open points?); do with sb (we will do that jointly with the other group); do with sth (we could do with some paint so that we can finish this room); do sth (we do our tasks); How do I know? with? about? No particle? I have to pick the right form according to what I want to express. It's the same in German. You have to learn and know the meaning with the particles. Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 9:19

1 Answer 1


You're confusing verb constructions with the same verb here.

It's true that there is

mit jemandem/etwas zu tun haben (to deal with someone/something)

In your above sentence, there is no haben though, which is crucial in this construction. Thus we can rule this out.

Another construction with tun is

etwas für jemanden/etwas tun (to do something for someone/something)

So a way to identify the correct da-word would be to start backwards. What do you want to say in English, find out what the appropriate (infinitive) form in German is and then find the corresponding da-word.


There is also

etwas gegen jemanden/etwas tun (to do something against someone/something)

which would then require dagegen.

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