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German for Beginners
Lesson 10

Directions: How do I get there?
Wie komme ich dorthin?

Wann? • Adverbs of Time

Direction signs In this lesson you'll learn vocabulary and grammar related to going places, asking for simple directions and receiving directions. You'll learn words and phrases that will let you talk about going places, as well as understand what someone else says when giving simple directions.

How do I get there?
Wie komme ich dorthin?
What directions is this cluster
of signs in Berlin giving us?

Foto: © Hyde Flippo

One word of caution before we begin. Asking for directions is easy. Understanding the torrent of German you may get back is another story! Most German textbooks/courses teach you how to ask the questions, but fail to deal adequately with the understanding aspect. That's why we will also teach you some coping skills in this lesson to help in such situations. One example is to ask your question in such a way that it will elicit a simple ja or nein, or a simple "left," "straight ahead" or "right" answer. And don't forget those ever reliable hand signals that work in any language!


WO vs. WOHIN
German has two question words for asking "where." One (wo?) is for asking the location of someone or something. The other (wohin?) is for asking about motion or direction ("where to").

For instance, in English you would use "where" to ask both "Where are the keys?" (location) and "Where are you going?" (motion/direction). In German these two questions require two different forms of "where":

Wo sind die Schlüssel? ("Where are the keys?")

Wohin gehen Sie? ("Where are you going?")

In English this can be compared to the difference between the location question "where's it at?" (poor English, but it gets the idea across) and the direction question "where to?" But in German you can only use wo? for "where's it at?" (location) and wohin? for "where to?" (direction). Sometimes wohin gets split in two, as in: "Wo gehen Sie hin?" But you can't use wo without hin to ask about motion or direction in German. - You must always use the correct form of "where" for location (wo?) or motion/direction (wohin?).

We'll cover this in more detail in Part 3, and test your understanding of this grammatical concept later in the exercises for this lesson.

Now let's look at some common words and expressions related to directions and places we might go to. You need to memorize this vocabulary.

DIRECTIONS - RICHTUNGEN
Notice that in some of the phrases below, the gender (der/die/das) may affect the article, as in "in die Kirche" or "an den See". Notice that der sometimes changes to den, and so on. You'll learn more about the grammar for this in a future lesson. For now, just notice what's going on related to gender!
Englisch Deutsch
along/down
Go along/down this street.
entlang
Gehen Sie diese Straße entlang!
back
Go back.
zurück
Gehen Sie zurück!
in the direction of/towards...
   the train station
   the church
   the hotel
in Richtung auf...
   den Bahnhof
   die Kirche
   das Hotel
left - to the left links - nach links
right - to the right rechts - nach rechts
straight ahead
Keep going straight ahead.
geradeaus (guh-RAH-duh-ouse)
Gehen Sie immer geradeaus!
up to, until

up to the traffic light
up to the cinema
bis zum (masc./neut.)
bis zur (fem.)
bis zur Ampel
bis zum Kino
COMPASS DIRECTIONS
HIMMELSRICHTUNGEN
north - to the north
north of (Leipzig)
der Nord(en) - nach Norden
nördlich von (Leipzig)
south - to the south
south of (Munich)
der Süd(en) - nach Süden
südlich von (München)
east - to the east
east of (Frankfurt)
der Ost(en) - nach Osten
östlich von (Frankfurt)
west - to the west
west of (Cologne)
der West(en) - nach Westen
westlich von (Köln)
  Note: More compass directions can be formed in German just as in English by combining more than one element. Northwest - Nordwesten, Northeast - Nordosten, Southwest - Südwesten, etc.

More vocabulary/phrases, plus questions and answers in Part Two.

NEXT > Part 2: More Places to Go

LESSION 10 > Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Exercises


Glossary of Nations
An annotated English-German glossary of vocabulary related to countries, language and nationality.

Previous Lesson (Lektion 9)

Next Lesson (Lektion 11)

German for Beginners - Contents


Related Pages

How to Say "to" in German
Tips for using the prepositions nach and zu—when to use which for English "to."

Day by Day: Day Expressions in German
A detailed look at daily, day-to-day and other "day" vocabulary.

Countries Glossary
An annotated English-German glossary of vocabulary related to countries and nationality.

Prepositional Pitfalls
Potential problems and how to avoid them. With quiz.

Tutor Directory
Find a tutor to help you with your German!

English-German Glossaries
All of the annotated glossaries on this site - from aerospace to travel.

German Grammar
All of the grammar resources on this site.


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