Help, I don’t know when to use zu Hause or nach Hause!

So you’ve been learning dative prepositions and you know that ‘zu’ and ‘nach’ can mean ‘to’, because you’ve been practising lots of sentences, like “Wie komme ich zum Bahnhof?” or “Wir fliegen nach Deutschland.” …….

And then somebody says “Ich bin zu Hause” and tells you that it means ‘I’m at home.’


And you hope that they might be wrong.  But they are not wrong.

So, yes, when asking for directions, you need to use ‘zu’ + dative, if you are asking for a place with an article (to THE station – zum Bahnhof) and you use ‘nach’ + dative when the place doesn’t have an article (to Germany – nach Deutschland).

And therefore, if you needed to ask ‘how do I get to that house?’ you would use “Wie komme ich zu dem Haus?”

‘Hause’, with the extra ‘e’ at the end, doesn’t mean house, it means home.

  • Ich gehe nach Hause – I’m going home. This is easy to remember as it follows the rule of ‘nach’ but no article with the noun.
  • Ich bin zu Hause – I’m at home. This one you just have to learn as a set phrase.

Which now leaves the question, is it zuhause, zu Hause or Zuhause?

Yes, you’ve guessed it, all three can be correct.

  • Zuhause is a noun, das Zuhause = the home.
    Ich habe mein eigenes Zuhause – I have a home of my own.
    Ich habe ein zweites Zuhause – I have a home away from home.
    England wurde mein zweites Zuhause – England became my second home.
  • zu Hause and zuhause are both correct. The Duden prefers zu Hause, but also accepts zuhause.
    Ich bin zu Hause/ zuhause – I’m at home.
    Ich bleibe heute zu Hause/ zuhause – Today I’m staying at home.
    Bei dir zu Hause/ zuhause ist es schön – It’s nice at your home.
    Das erinnert mich an zu Hause/ zuhause – This reminds me of home.
    Fühl dich wie zu Hause/ zuhause – Make yourself at home.
    Willkommen zu Hause! – Welcome home!

And finally, how did E.T. say “E.T. phone home!” in the German version of the film?
Answer below the inforgraphic.

“E.T. nach Hause telefonieren!” Did you guess it right?

If you’d like to learn more about dative prepositions and all the other cases and prepositions, check out my online course German grammar – the four cases

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2 thoughts on “Help, I don’t know when to use zu Hause or nach Hause!”

  1. And now I’m thinking of how the first line in “Die traurige Geschichte vom Feuerzeug” is technically incorrect. “Paulinchen war allein zu Haus/die Eltern waren beide aus.” From what I see here, it should be “… allein zu Hause”.

    • It’s what’s called ‘poetic licence’. Yes, it should be ‘Hause’ but that doesn’t rhyme with ‘aus’. But if you look carefully, you’ll see an apostrophe: … zu Haus’, which replaces the e and is used a lot, especially in spoken German. For example, we often say ich hab’ instead of ich habe. The apostrophe makes it grammatical correct again. The beauty of the German language 😉


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