My attempts:

  1. Alles kommt darauf an, an was du glaubst
  2. Alles kommt darauf an, woran du glaubst

I'm not sure about the "an" in the second part, though my understanding is that it should be there, since it's "an etw. glauben". If that is true, then I'm not sure about whether "an was" has to turn into "woran" or can stay as it is.

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    Both translations are fine; "Es kommt ganz darauf an" seems far more common to me than "Alles kommt darauf an", though. – G. Bach Dec 24 '13 at 23:47

The proposed main clause is correct.

Alles kommt darauf an, …

An alternative translation is

Es kommt alles darauf an, …

The verb in both main clauses is

[auf etwas] ankommen

which becomes

es kommt [auf etwas] an

in the third person. Thus, this an is part of the verb form.

An alternative verb for „[auf etwas] ankommen“ in the main clause is

[von etwas] abhängen

which becomes

es hängt [von etwas] ab

in the third person. The resulting main clause is

Alles hängt davon ab, …


Es hängt alles davon ab, …

In order to introduce the proposed subordinate clause, the pronominal adverb woran is used in standard written German:

…, woran du glaubst

The construction an + was is not recommended, but it is quite frequently used in colloquial German.

…, an was du glaubst

The same applies to other similar constructions of a preposition + was, e.g.:

Wozu brauchst du den Schraubenzieher?
Zu was brauchst du den Schraubenzieher?

Worin besteht der Unterschied?
In was besteht der Unterschied?

Womit soll das Brett befestigt werden?
Mit was soll das Brett befestigt werden?

Wonach hat er sich erkundigt?
Nach was hat er sich erkundigt?

Woran hast du das erkannt?
An was hast du das erkannt?

(examples taken from Duden – Richtiges und gutes Deutsch)

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  • For the first part - in particular when replying to someone - I'd probably rather say: "Das kommt darauf an,..." – Gerhard Dec 18 '14 at 0:29

You could translate it as

Alles hängt davon ab, woran du glaubst.


Es hängt alles davon ab, woran du glaubst.

To me, there is no difference between an was du glaubst and woran du glaubst. The woran version could be slightly more common (highly my point-of-view). To ask What do you believe in? (religious context) I would choose a question with "woran" (Woran glaubst du?)

Can you provide a little more context for this sentence? Maybe we can find a better translation.

Merry Christmas.

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  • It's in the context of a text that talks about achievement of personal goals and objectives, meaning that nothing is impossible if you believe enough in it. – persson Dec 26 '13 at 19:03

Präposition plus Relativpronomen (an was)

Is basically used when referring to persons, animate beings in general, things or terms.

Der Mann, an den du geschrieben hast.
Sobald das Paket eintrifft, von dem ich erzählt habe, ...

Also compare

Womit? Mit wem?  
Woran? An wen?  
Wobei? Bei wem?  
Wodurch? Durch wen?  
Wovon? Von wem?

It's also colloquial.

An was hast du gedacht?
Sie hätte sich denken können, mit was er die Tür aufbekommen hat.

Pronominaladverb (woran)

Is used, if you refer to a indefinite pronoun (1), a numeral in neuter (2) or if the sub clause has no direct relation to the main clause regarding it's content (3).

  1. Was gibt es noch, woran du dich erfreust?
  2. Es gibt einiges, womit ich zu kämpfen habe.
  3. Sie hätte sich denken können, womit er die Tür aufbekommen hat.

Source duden.de:

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  • Thanks, I'm not familiar with the "Der Mann, an den du geschrieben hast". I know "schreiben + dativ" ("Der Mann, dem du geschrieben hast" = the man you wrote to) and "schreiben an + dativ" in the meaning on "working/writing about something" but not "schreiben an + akkusativ". What does that mean? – persson Feb 28 '14 at 8:59
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    @karoshi you use Ich schreibe jemandeM (Dat.) etwas (Akk.) but Ich schreibe etwas (Akk.) AN jemandeN (Akk.). But schreiben in the sense of working on smth would be Ich schreibe AN etwas (Dat.) (an eineM Buch) – user5513 Feb 28 '14 at 9:37

How about the Yiddish phrasing: "Es wendt auf..." (lit. "it turns on"...). Does that work in German?

EDIT: Actually, I forgot the reflexive: from Harkavey's Yiddish-English dictionary, I find "Das wet sich wenden an ihm" for "That will depend on him".

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  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. – Carsten S Jun 29 '14 at 0:03
  • Yes it does provide an answer to the question. It offers an alternative phrasing from a particular German dialect. There is nothing improper in the fact that it goes on to ask what other dialects (if any) also use this phrasing. – Marty Green Jun 29 '14 at 1:05
  • If OP doesn't explicitly ask for a certain dialect, any questions are considered to be related to standard German. In that respect, your answer is not an answer. I'm afraid but it's hardly possible that OP want to know a Yiddish phrasing, like he's also not interested into Bavarian, Ripuarian or any other dialect. – Em1 Jun 29 '14 at 5:37
  • So you would have downvoted my answer if I had said, "this is how we say it in Bavaria"? – Marty Green Dec 17 '14 at 20:15

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