How to answer the question “Wohin gehst du?”

Text 'How to answer the question 'wohin gehst du?' with image of a megaphone
Wohin gehst du, wohin?

The above video is part of Rammstein’s song ‘Mein Land’, sung here by Rammlied, the  UK No1 Rammstein Tribute Band (you can listen to the whole song at the end of this post). In it you can hear the question “Wohin gehst du?”

This blog post is giving you three possible types of answers.

Ich gehe zu
Remember, the preposition zu is always followed by the dative case and it changes der and also das to dem, and die changes to der. In connection with zu they usually get shortened, so zu dem = zum, and zu der = zur.

  • Ich gehe zum Supermarkt. I’m going to the supermarket.
  • Ich gehe zur Apotheke. I’m going to the chemist.
  • Ich gehe zum Fitnesscenter. I’m going to the gym.

Ich gehe in
The preposition in uses the accusative or dative case, depending on whether there is movement involved or not. When you say ‘ich gehe’, it clearly suggests movement, so here we need in with the accusative case. So, der changes to den, but die and das don’t change. But, in + das usually gets shorted to ins.

  • Ich gehe in den Park. I’m going to the park.
  • Ich gehe in die Kneipe. I’m going to the pub.
  • Ich gehe ins Kino. I’m going to the cinema.

Now you’re probably wondering what the difference between ‘ich gehe zu+…’ and ‘ich gehe in …’ is.
Well, most of the times they are interchangeable and it doesn’t really matter whether you say ‘Ich gehe in den Park’ or ‘Ich gehe zum Park’. Both sentences would be translated as ‘I’m going to the park’.

Sometimes, however, there may be some subtle differences and they are when you can say in English (even if you wouldn’t actually say it) ‘I’m going into…’

As an example, imagine your young child is following you every step and keeps on asking ‘Wohin gehst du?’. You’re about to leave the house because you want to go to the supermarkt, so you’d say ‘Ich gehe zum Supermarkt’. As you reach the supermarket and are about to enter it, your child asks again. This time it makes more sense to say ‘Ich gehe in den Supermarkt’

Another way to differenciate would be to use zum/ zur if you’re going to that place, but it might just mean you’re walking there and back. Use in den/ in die/ ins if you intend to enter that place. So, ‘Ich gehe zum Kino’ if you’re going for a walk until you reach the cinema, and ‘Ich gehe ins Kino’ when you want to see a film.

Ich gehe nach …

Actually this sentence should possibly use a different verb, as ‘gehen’ assumes walking, but this time we’re looking at going as in ‘fahren’ (driving) or ‘fliegen’ (flying). It’s because we use nach when we are talking about towns or countries where we don’t use an article.

  • Ich fahre nach Berlin. (If you use Ich gehe, it would mean I’m walking. Possible, but unlikely)
  • Ich fliege nach Deutschland.

If, however, you are going to one of the countries where we do use an article, you need to use in + accusative: Ich fahre in die Schweiz.

And the answers in the song?

  • Ich geh mit mir von Ost nach Süd
  • Ich geh mit mir von Süd nach West
  • Ich geh mit mir von West nach Nord
  • Ich geh mit mir von Nord nach Ost
  • Ich geh mit mir von Ost nach West

Here, of course, it makes sense to use ‘Ich geh(e)’ and we need nach, because there’s no article as it’s just from east to south, etc…

Here is the full song, in case you’d like to hear it:

If I were to ask you ‘Wohin gehst du, wohin?’, what could be a good answer for you?

PS. In the song it makes sense to use ‘wohin gehst du’ as it fits the tune well, but in spoken German most of the time you will hear ‘Wo gehst du hin?’

The answers, of course, are still the same 😉

And if you want to know more about the different cases and prepositions in German, check out my online course German grammar – the four cases

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