German for Beginners: Lesson 10 - Directions - Adverbs of Time

Girl with map at Brandenburger Tor
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Directions: How do I get there?

Wie komme ich dorthin?

Wann? • Adverbs of Time

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.

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!


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 withouthin to ask about motion or direction in German. - You must always use the correct form of "where" for location (wo?) or motion/direction (wohin?).

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.

Notice that in some of the phrases below, the gender (der/die/das) may affect the article, as in "indie 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!
Go along/down this street.
Gehen Sie diese Straße entlang!
Go back.
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 leftlinks - nach links
right - to the rightrechts - 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
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.


Related Pages

German for Beginners - Contents

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