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The preposition "to" in German: Part 5 — zu

This week, we will conclude our five-part series on how to express movement from one place to another in German — in other words, translations of the preposition "to." We have looked at instances in which nach, in, an, and auf are used for this purpose, and now it's time for the preposition zu

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There are a few things to know about the preposition zu. First of all, it is always followed by the dative, even when used to express movement! This means you will often see zum, which is a combination of zu + dem for when a masculine or neuter object follows, and zur, which combines zu + der for a female object (again, it is always dative). 

 

Kuckt mal, jetzt gehen wir mal zur Mauer und kucken uns die mal an.

Look, now let's go to the Wall and take a look at it.

Caption 7, 25 Jahre Mauerfall Bürger Lars Dietrich erinnert sich

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Am nächsten Tag geht er zur Schule.

The next day, he goes to school.

Caption 16, Sabine erzählt Witze Ein Satz

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Und wer von der Politik genug gesehen hat, kann einfach weiterflanieren, zum Beispiel zurück zum Potsdamer Platz.

And anyone who has seen enough of politics can just continue strolling, for example, back to Potsdamer Platz.

Captions 38-39, Berlin Hauptstadt des vereinten Deutschland

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Zu is the most widely used preposition to express "to" and it can often (but not always) substitute for in, an, and auf. We can say Ich gehe ins Fitnessstudio, but also Ich gehe zum Fitnessstudio. Both Ich gehe auf den Markt and Ich gehe zum Markt are correct. However, sometimes only zu is correct and sometimes it can't be used at all. Ich fahre ins Restaurant doesn't sound right because you aren't literally going to drive your car into the restaurant. With the verb fahren it's better to use zum Restaurant.

 

There is an instance in which zu is used exclusively and you have likely already come across it. You may know that zu Hause sein means "to be at home" and nach Hause gehen is "to go home." But when we talk about visiting someone at their home, we always use zu and it is actually very simple. 

 

Ich gehe um elf zu Lisa.

I'm going to Lisa's at eleven.

Caption 16, Nicos Weg - A2 Folge 5: Geld ist für mich…

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Aber jetzt gehen wir erst mal zu deiner Tante.

But first let's go to your aunt's now.

Caption 22, Nicos Weg - A1 Folge 23: Ich habe kein…

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Further Learning
Re-read the other parts of this series of lessons linked in the first paragraph. You can keep a running list of how you see the preposition "to" translated on Yabla German, or make a list of places and try to say "I'm going to ____" for each one in German. Here are some sentences you can translate to get started: "I'm going to the park," "I'm going to the restaurant," "I'm driving to the beach," "I'm taking the train to Munich," "I'm going to Ana's house," "I'm getting into the car," "I'm going to the market," "I'm going home." Consider: which of these can also be said in German using zu?

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