I have a few questions relating to the difference between words that start with da (like darüber, darauf, dazu, usw).

These questions are similar, but not exactly the same to, the ones asked here:

"darüber" vs "über es", and the "dar"-family

How do the "da-" and "wo-" prefixes work?

but my question is slightly more specific. I would like to know what the difference between these words and relative pronouns are. Consider, for example,

Der Prozess, dadurch man an eine Universität studieren dürfen kann, heißt "Bewerbung"

I recently gave a grammatically identical answer in my german class, and the tutor said that was wrong. He said the correct answer was

Der Prozess, durch den ...

I understand why the second is correct, but not why the first is wrong. In an answer to one of the questions posted above, it is mentioned that prepositions cannot be used for people, only things. That is not the problem here since a process is not a person.

I have also asked another german teacher a different question, using a different sentence from the Deutsche Welle

das kleine Montenegro, das in etwa so viele Einwohner hat wie eine durchschnittliche europäische Großstadt - rund 620.000 - am Sonntag (2.04.2023) einen der wichtigsten Tage seiner Geschichte

I asked why it was not possible to use darin,

das kleine Montenegro, darin etwa so viele Einwohner wie eine durschnittliche ... haben.

She said the "haben" has no more relation and I must use "es gibt", which I do not understand either. I would think this is a variation on the simple sentence

So viele Einwohner wie ... haben im Montenegro ...

Could someone explain the difference between a relative clause and a relative preposition?


2 Answers 2


The relative clause needs a relative pronoun "der / die / das" or a "w-word". The forms "darin / dadurch" etc are neither.

However, such relative clauses did exist in earlier stages of German, but they have mostly disappeared in the present-day language.

Examples can be found in the last section of: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relativadverb


You would need wodurch, but even then, it is simply the observation that relative pronoun + preposition is the usual (standard) way to use - but you would not be wrong to use wodurch.

Unusual, but still correct:

Ein Prozess, wodurch

More common today, preferred:

Ein Prozess, durch den/ durch welchen

Duden 4 Nr 1658

Your teacher is right that it is not used for people, but this usage shift has entered things just the same way in relative usage. (Duden 4 Nr 863)

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