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The preposition "to" in German: Part 1 — nach

In German, there are a number of prepositions that can be translated as "to" to express movement from one place to another: nach, zu, in, an, and auf. Often it is difficult to know which one to use in what context and with what type of place, and you simply have to memorize certain patterns. This week, let's begin with the preposition nach

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We use nach when the destination is a city, and also for most countries. However, there are some exceptions to this in which in is used with countries, for example, with die Türkei, die Schweiz, and die Vereinigten Staaten (As you may remember, some countries have genders in German). And keep in mind that the preposition in is used when the destination is die Stadt ("the city" or "the town") or das Dorf ("the village")

 

Ihre Nachkommen wanderten auch nach Italien und Österreich aus.

Their offspring also migrated  to Italy and Austria.

Caption 26, Alpenseen: Kühle Schönheiten

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Er will in die Schweiz reisen. Schön, was noch?

He wants to travel to Switzerland. Nice, what else?

Caption 37, Deutschkurs in Tübingen: Über jemanden sprechen

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Hi, ich bin Marie. Ich bin gerade mit Julia nach Berlin gezogen.

Hi, I'm Marie. I just moved to Berlin with Julia.

Caption 3, Die Wohngemeinschaft: Besuch

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Eines Tages machte sich der Kaufmann auf den Weg in die Stadt, um Geld zu verdienen.

One day, the Merchant set out for town in order to earn some money.

Caption 9, Märchen - Sagenhaft: Die Schöne und das Biest

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Nach is also used for cardinal directions and with "left," "right," "up," and "down."

 

Es drehte sich nach links und dann nach rechts.

He turned to the left and then to the right.

Caption 18, Meine Freundin Conni: Conni schläft im Kindergarten

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Der Russe dreht mit starken Kräften westlich der Düna nach Norden ein. 

The Russians are turning west of the Daugava River towards the north with strong forces. 

Caption 25, Die Stunde der Offiziere: Dokudrama über den 20. Juli 1944

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Another rule: while we say "go/drive/come home" in English, the equivalent phrase in German has a preposition: nach Hause + verb.

 

Und als der Bär nach Hause kam, machten sie sich einen gemütlichen Abend,

And when the bear came home, they had a cozy evening,

Captions 37-38, Janoschs Traumstunde: Post für den Tiger

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Further Learning
We will cover the other prepositions used to express movement from one place to another in coming newsletters. Pay attention to how "to" is translated with various places and directions on Yabla German and stay tuned!

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