Where the English language uses the preposition “to” for travelling anywhere, the German language has 5 different prepositions depending on where exactly you travel. In this blog post, I will explain those five spatial prepositions and show you how to use them.
Nach - cities, most countries, going home
e.g. Ich fahre nach Berlin, ich fliege nach Deutschland/Spanien/Griechenland, ich gehe nach Hause.
(NB. when you are or stay at home, you use "zu". e.g. ich bleibe zu Hause)
In - countries/regions with an article or entering locations
e.g. Ich fliege in die Schweiz/in die Türkei/die Vereinigten Staaten (die USA)/ die Niederlande;
Ich reise in die Provence/Toskana.
Ich gehe in den Park/in den Supermarkt.
(NB. there are other countries with an article, such as der Irak, der Iran, der Sudan, but it's best to pick them up as you progress in your German course. Most countries don't have an article, so you'd use nach)
An - coast
e.g. Ich fahre an das Meer, ich gehe an den Strand.
Auf - most islands
e.g. Ich fliege auf die Malediven, ich fliege auf die Kanarischen Inseln.
Zu - unnamed destinations and people
Ich fahre zum Supermarket (NB. travelling towards rather than entering). Ich fahre zu meinen Eltern, ich fahre zu meinen Freunden
Learn more about two-way prepositions, Accusative, Dative, and Genitive only prepositions on our blog. We also have a post about the prepositional phrase "in der Nähe von" and the most common temporal prepositions in German- check it out.
While the beauty of the English language lies in its simplicity, the beauty of the German language lies in its precision. Yet, its precision often makes the language a lot more complicated than English, as you can see from the above. You'll get there with practice, though.
To learn more about other grammar topics, such as German word order, the four German cases etc., just check out the other posts on our German language blog. Learn more about our new intensive German courses here. On our German language blog, you will also find posts that compare the most popular online dictionaries Linguee, dict.cc, dict.leo and Collins and review language learning apps like Duolingo, Memrise, and Babbel. We also tell you how to say evening in German and translate many other words.