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Different ways to express the adverb: to

How do you say "to" in german without getting confused? I know theres the common "zu". But there's others that can be used as well like: auf,bis,an and nach. I left the German course a while ago and I am trying to get back on track.

November 27, 2017



As ever, it all depends. I assume you refer to the use of "to" in going to a place/thing. If you are going to a named place (e.g. London) it would be "nach London" unless the place has an article in its proper name when you would use "in" (e.g. in die Turkei). If it is to a place without a proper name (e.g. stadium, station or shopping centre) use "zu". If the place you are going to means going inside (e.g. cinema or theatre ) use "in" plus the accusative (ins Kino, ins Theater). That covers most but there are a few idiomatic usages. "nach oben" and "nach unten' can be used for "to the top (or upstairs)" and "to the bottom (or downstairs)" respectively. To go to a thing with a vertical plane (window or door) use "an" (Sie gingen an die Tür/ ans Fenster). If it is not covered by this lot use "zu". You will be understood anyway. Not a native speaker so corrections very welcome.


If it is to a place without a proper name (e.g. stadium, station or shopping centre) use "zu".

Hmm, really? I would rather say 'Ich gehe ins Stadion.' or 'Ich gehe zum Stadion/Einkaufszentrum.' but never 'Ich gehe zu Stadion/Einkaufszentrum.'

But there are - as always - exceptions, like a named shopping mall, i. e. Aldi or Rewe, than I would rather say 'Ich gehe zu Aldi/Rewe/Edeka...'.

As a small rule (I learned at school as I was a child ;-) ): One goes 'zu' a person and 'nach' a place.

In German: 'Man geht zu einer Person und nach einem Ort.'

But there are sadly many exceptions of this rule, i. e. 'Ich gehe zum Lehrer.' although a teacher is a person, we use dativ here.

And to make it more difficult: There are also differences between the local dialects - who will really tell some of them, they speak wrongly? ;-)

Please have a look at this Post in German:


This topic is also difficult for Germans :-)

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