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In my last post I began to tell about the three possible German translations of English “to go (to)”. Remember that “to go” can be translated as fahren (to drive), fliegen (to fly), and, of course, as gehen (to go).
You have to use these three verbs with the German preposition “zu” when you want to say that you go or travel to a particular person, that is, you have to name this concrete person. How you name this concrete person is up to you. You can call the person by his or her name or simply say how are you related to this person (mother, sister, uncle, brother, friend, acquaintance).
Ich gehe heute Abend zu einem Freund. – I’m going to a friend tonight.
Ich fahre morgen zu meiner Oma. – I’m going (by car, train) to my grandma tomorrow.
Ich werde nächste Woche zu einer Freundin in den USA fliegen. – Next week, I will go (by plane) to a friend in the USA.
Using the three German verbs above with the preposition “zu” is not the only option you have in German. You can also use these verbs with the German preposition “nach”, but this is only possible when the object of your sentence is not a concrete person, but a point on a map, so to speak. In other words, you have to use the preposition “nach” (instead of “zu”) when you say that you go or travel to another city, country, or continent.
In English you can say, for example, that you go to a particular city, country, or continent, meaning that you will travel to there:
I’m going to Paris/Spain/Asia.
A German translation word by word would result in this sentence:
Ich gehe nach Paris/Spanien/Asien.
BUT: This does not mean the same as in English! German “gehen nach” rather means that you will move there or, at least, intend to stay there for a while. Mind the following possible dialog between two high school graduates.
A: Weißt du schon du zum Studium hin willst? Nach Berlin? Nach Hamburg? Oder nach München? (Do you already know where you want to go to for your studies? To Berlin? To Hamburg? Or to Munich?
B: Ich weiß es noch nicht genau. Aber ich denke, ich werde nach München gehen. (I don’t know for sure, yet. But I think I will go to Munich.)
You use the German verb “fahren” + preposition “nach” when you want to say that you travel to another city or country by car, train, or bus.
Ich muss nächste Woche geschäftlich nach Düsseldorf fahren. – Next week I have to go to Dusseldorf on business.
Ich fahre noch heute Abend nach Hause! – I will do go home tonight!
As you can see, others won’t know how you get to a particular city or country. Usually, it is not necessary to emphasize that. Nevertheless, you can, of course, add this piece of information to your sentence:
Ich fahre mit dem Zug nach Düsseldorf. – I go to Dusseldorf by train.
Ich fahre mit dem Auto nach Hause. – I go home by car.
When people are on vacation they often travel long distances, and some destinations cannot be reached by car or train. Instead, people have to go there by plane. In this case, we use the verb fliegen in German:
Diesen Sommer fliegen wir nach Gran Canaria. – This summer we will go/fly to Gand Canary.
Letztes Jahr sind wir nach Amerika geflogen. – Last year we went/flew to America.