In German, the prefix da- can precede a number of prepositions, and in each case the compound da preposition is an anaphor, with the meaning of the preposition itself + it. For instance, the preposition mit means 'with' in a variety of senses (accompaniment, instrument, amongst several others); the compound version of this preposition, damit, means 'with it/that'. So

Wenn ich endlich damit fertig bin, kann ich draußen gehen

means When I am finally done with it, I can go outside. Naturally, the interpretation of 'it' - i.e. what it refers to, its antecedent - should be available from the context.

Now, you may well be familiar with the anticipatory 'it' in English. The anticipatory 'it' functions as a substitute for an extraposed subject. For instance,

It is rude to speak like that. [To speak like that is rude.]

It is such a pity that he is so clueless. [That he is so clueless is such a pity.]

It has been a pleasure working with you guys. [Working with you guys has been a pleasure.]


In these constructions, 'it' is said to anticipate the subject. I probably ought to note that 'it' can sometimes be used to anticipate an object, as in I find it amazing that no one has yet questioned the politician on this matter. In these cases, the extraposition is obligatory.

In German, the compound da prepositions can likewise anticipate clauses. For instance,

Ich freue mich darauf, dass wir nächstes Jahr nach Deutschland fahren werden.

means I am looking forward to going to Germany next year, but translates literally to I am looking forward to it, that we are going to Germany next year. Similarly,

Es hängt davon ab, wie viel Geld wir verdienen können.

means It depends on how much money we can earn (where 'it' here refers to whether or not they can go to Germany next year). Literally, however, it translates to It depends on it, how much money we can earn.

In German, the need for anticipatory da constructions arises from the fact that a preposition cannot directly take a clausal complement. In English, this is not so: English prepositions can take as complement all types of clause but one, namely the content clause. In the case of the content clause, an alternative construction may be used: preposition + the fact + content clause. Here are some examples of this construction, as well as of clausal prepositional complements:

I am looking forward to going to Germany next year.

I agree with what she says.

She is familiar with how the education system works.

We need to get used to the fact that the entire world has changed.

We should be proud of the fact that he managed to get straight A's in his exams.


Although this overview of German da prepositions is by no means comprehensive, it is sufficient for the purposes of this question. For more information, I refer you to the following: Libre Texts - Da- Compounds University of Michigan - Germanic Languages and Literatures Learn German with Herr Antrim

Now, without further ado, on to my question. In English, there exists a similar class of words to the German da prepositions: namely, the there compound prepositions. Amongst these are the following:

thereby, therewith, thereto, therefor, thereupon, therein, thereafter, therein, thereat, thereto, therefrom

Many of these compound prepositions are now archaic, or used exclusively in legal writing (or by quaint linguistic antiquarians). However, I am curious to know whether or not there were constructions in archaic English that employed the there compound prepositions in a similar way to the German da anticipatory constructions. In other words, did archaic English have anticipatory there constructions? Would sentences such as

His argument relies thereon(,) that all the accused are guilty.


I am looking forward thereto(,) that we are going to Germany next year.


The need for anticipatory da constructions in German arises therefrom(,) that a preposition cannot directly take a clausal complement.

have been grammatical, or indeed commonly uttered? (Naturally, the wording of the above sentences would have been different in archaic English, but I hope I have conveyed the thrust of my question.)

  • Yes, the cognate constructions in English use there. But they're rather formal and not used in ordinary conversation, except for therefore, which has a logical meaning. Jul 16, 2022 at 2:02
  • Thereto, thereby, etc. Some of the Audible recorded books use "holds the copyright thereto" and I find it quite annoying. Jul 16, 2022 at 4:38
  • @aparente001 "X holds the copyright thereto" is not anticipatory.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 16, 2022 at 8:20
  • The etymology of the English "there" shows that it cognate with Old Saxon thâr , Middle Low German dār, Old High German dâr (Middle High German dâr , dâ , German da ). It is/was used in the same way: The OED has an entry: C1. there in combination with adverbs and prepositions. ‘The compounds of there meaning that, and of here meaning this, have been for some time passing out of use. That said, thereabout adv., thereafter adv., still exist. (See also "hereby (by this), "whereof (of which))
    – Greybeard
    Jul 16, 2022 at 9:52
  • Could you look again at the list: "thereby, therewith, thereto, therefor, thereupon, therein, thereafter, therein, thereat, thereto, therefrom" and perhaps drop the duplicates? Sep 7, 2022 at 20:53


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