and welcome to our German Word of the Day. And this time, we’ll take a look at the meaning of one of your least favorite words…
Hin is really confusing for a lot of learners and even advanced speakers often make mistakes with it. Or better, without it. Like here…
- Ich bin da gegangen.
This is wrong, it should be:
- Ich bin da hingegangen.
- Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop
Forgetting hin is a really really common, I’m sure many of you have made it. And even though you’ll still be understood, a missing hin sounds quite bad and really really ruins your language swag. Kind of like this:
- I drinks a beer.
It’s just a letter, it’s understandable, but it sounds like I am an A2 student.
Today, we’ll take a thorough look at hin and see what it does and why it sounds so bad if you forget it. And we’ll talk about its weird nature and how it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a prefix or not.
Here are the links to the sections so you can hop around (but I’d say you shouldn’t).
- German’s OCD about Space
- The Core Idea of “hin”
- “hin” – the indication of #destination
- “hin” – generic destination
And now let’s jump right in.
The purpose of language is ultimately to convey information – of any kind. Be it facts, opinions or feelings. There’s an unlimited amount of information to choose from and for the most part, what we say depends on what we … well… want to express. But to an extent, it also depends on the language we’re using. Because each language has a different focus on certain aspects of reality.
Arabic for instance finds it really important to make a grammatical distinction between “you two” and “you many”.
Japanese and other Asian languages abound with information about the status of the speakers in relation to each other.
Many of the Slavic languages really care about whether an action is brought to an end (perfektive) or not and English, while generally quite easy going, does care about whether something is ongoing or not.
Many of you are probably now silently screaming “gender”. And yes… German does care what grammatical gender a freaking chair has.
But besides that, there’s another area where German cares a great deal to be precise.
And that is … location.
German’s OCD about Space
Courses and textbooks usually don’t talk about that, because it’s not generally considered “a thing”, but German actually makes a big effort to be precise and explicit about spatial relations. All those prepositions, the two way prepositions, hin and her… all these are symptoms of German really caring about being precise in that area.
And there’s one aspect in particular that German really is kind of OCD about and that is… OCD!
The distinction between origin, current location and destination.
Well, actually it’s mainly the distinction between current location and destination, but then it wouldn’t be OCD.
Anyway, let’s look at an example in English:
- I am coming from the market.
- I am at the market.
- I am going to the market.
Obviously, English also expresses that by using prepositions. But in comparison with German, English (and many other languages) are pretty chill. In particular, they don’t bother with the distinction between destination and current location.
- I am there.
- I am going there.
English leaves this up to Captain Context and he does a pretty fine job.
German on the other hand can’t help it but to make it explicit, resulting not only in it being super clear, but also in a massive headache for learners because they have to deal with seemingly pointless bits of grammar.
One tool German uses for that are the so called two-way prepositions.
Just in case you don’t know what those are, here’s a fictional example with a fictional character…
- Thomas kotzt unter dem Tisch.
- Thomas kotzt unter den Tisch.
Both sentence translate to “Thomas vomits under the table.”. But the Dative in the first one marks “under the table” as a fixed location, where the vomiting takes place while the Accusative in the second one marks “under the table” as the destination of the vomit. This is gross, by the way. I really need to have a talk with my peons… erm… I mean interns.
Anyway, so yeah… these two-way prepositions are one way for German to make clear whether or not something is a destination.
And another important tool is hin.
The core idea of “hin”
Hin is a cousin of her and hier and together they form a trinity that is kind of similar to the OCD one we just learned about.
her – hier – hin
Hier is the stationary here, the current location of the speaker.
Her expresses a very general idea of toward the current location/speaker, while hin expresses the very broad notion of outward, toward another location.
Here’s an example
- Ich jogge immer her. (I always run here.)
- Ich jogge immer hier. (I always run here.)
- Ich jogge immer hin. (I always run there.)
The first sentence says that I’m jogging to here, the second sentences says that here is where I do my running, and the last one expresses that I run to there from here. As you can see in the translations, English doesn’t mark these things. The first two sentences are the same and we’d need context to tell what they mean. And the last sentence could also mean that I do my running there.
In German, it’s clearly marked whether we’re in one location (hier) or not (her, hin) and where the new location is.
Now, technically her and hin both express directed motion. But her has this vibe of inward, toward the speaker and in essence it’s only referring to one location: here. Sure, “here” can be anywhere but in any situation there’s just one of it.
Hin on the other hand with its notion of outward, away from the current location can refer to any location other than here. So it’s much more general. And that’s basically its core function:
Hin is used to establish a generic destination that is not “here”.
And that makes it a very useful word because we’ve learned just how important this is for our favorite language (German, I mean German).
Now, hin can be used in two slightly distinct ways. The first one is as a sort of destination-tag.
“hin” – indicating a #destination
Take this sentence:
- I’m going there twice a week.
When people want to say this in German, a LOT of times they say
- Ich gehe zweimal pro Woche da.
All the words are translated correctly. And yet, it’s wrong. And with what we’ve learned about German’s OCD, we can understand why.
You see, the German word da is a metaphorical pointer to a location. Just like there. The problem is that it can only answer at the question “at what place”.
The sentence, however, is obviously about me going to some place. So the location is in fact a destination and giving an answer to the question “to what place“.
You’re probably like “Okay… so what.”
And English is like “Yeah, whatever, it’s fine.”
But German REALLY flips its shit.
“WHAT?! You’re trying to answer to what place with an element that answers at what place?!?! OMG, this is outrageous! I … I’m out of words.”
And that’s what we need hin for.
- Ich gehe zweimal pro Woche da hin.
- Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop
Hin is basically like a hashtag #destination that’s added to the static location da.
Here’s another example.
- I’ll put the book here.
Ich lege das Buch hier… NOPE!
- Ich lege das Buch hier hin.
- Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop
Again, the sentence involves a destination. But hier by itself only indicates a fixed location. The directional part is missing and we can add that by using our little tag hin.
Now you might think like “Ah okay… so I’ll add hin whenever there’s a destination.”
But not so fast, young Jedi. Work that will not.
Take this sentence:
- I’m going to the gym five times per week.
It’s the same as the one above, only that I’m serious about my fitness goals this time around, and there’s this really hot Pilates trainer there. She is so freaking gorgeous it’s unreal. Makes me get off topic if I even think about her. Where was I… oh yeah… hin.
So yeah, the other difference in the example is that we now replaced the generic da/there with an actual location (the gym).
Now what would you say… which of the following translations is considered correct, or at least idiomatic. Number one, number two or both?
- Ich gehe fünf mal pro Woche ins Fitnessstudio.
- Ich gehe fünf mal pro Woche ins Fitnessstudio hin.
The answer is… only number one is considered correct.
Well, for one thing, the location is already unambiguously marked as a destination by the preposition (and case) we’re using.
- to the gym
- ins Fitnessstudio
Those two phrases are clearly destinations, they answer the question “to what place” , so there’s no need for an extra marking.
But the bigger problem, the thing that makes it sound really weird to add hin to that is the fact that hin isn’t only a tag – it can actually be a destination itself.
hin – the generic destination
Take the following sentence:
- I’m putting the book.
This sounds wrong, right?
The reason is that to put involves a location, a destination to be precise. It wants an element that answers “to what location/whereto” but no such element is in the sentence.
You could add it by saying “on the table“ for example. But there are also more generic options you can use
- I’m putting the book down/away.
And in German, the most generic option for a destination is … hin.
- Ich lege das Buch. NOPE!
- Ich lege das Buch auf den Tisch. Yup
- Ich lege das Buch hin. Yup
- Practice pronunciation – click once to start recording and again to stop
As you can see, hin fills up the “whereto”-slot of the sentence. And now we can understand why the sentence we had earlier sounds at least weird.
- Ich gehe fünfmal pro Woche [ins Fitnessstudio] [hin].
We have two fully functional, complete sounding answers to to what place here: ins Fitnessstudio and hin. And that sounds weird, and often wrong.
Time for a quick recap:
Hin expresses the notion of “destination (other than “here”).
It can add this notion to words like da or hier, which by themselves can only answer “at the place”.
And it can be used to “fill” the “to what place”-box by itself.
This is pretty much all you need to know if you want to understand what hin means and does.
What we haven’t talked about yet, is the grammatical side of it.
Is it a prefix? Is it a stand alone? What about wohin? Is it da hin or dahin?
And that’s what we’ll talk about in part two.
Yup, that’s right… we’ll take a break here :). Originally, I wanted to do it in one post, but besides grammar, I also want to go over the most common phrasings with hin and I realized that all of it together would have been a little too much for one article.
So, for now just let that sink in and test yourself in the little quiz we have prepared.
And of course, please ask all your questions and your friends’ questions in the comments and I’ll try to clear them up. Oh, and let me know if you found this clear and helpful so far. Using hin correctly isn’t the most crucial thing in terms of being understood but it makes a huuuuuuge difference in how your German sounds, so it’s really important to me that you understand what’s going on.
So yeah, let me know your questions and feedback in the comments.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.
0 of 5 Questions completed Questions: You have already completed the quiz before. Hence you can not start it again. Quiz is loading… You must sign in or sign up to start the quiz. You must first complete the following: 0 of 5 Questions answered correctly Time has elapsed You have reached 0 of 0 point(s), (0) Earned Point(s): 0 of 0, (0) Which is the idiomatic translation for the following sentence: Which one is NOT a translation for the following sentence: Which of the following statements is idiomatic? Which of the following is NOT a function of “hin“? Which word captures the essence of “hin“?
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“I fell down.”
“I want to go there.”
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Which is the idiomatic translation for the following sentence:
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Which of the following statements is idiomatic?
Which of the following is NOT a function of “hin“?
Which word captures the essence of “hin“?
I am not seeing a link to HIN Part 2 (“Son of Hin”). I came here after a recent post that showed hin being more idiomatic at the end as Wo gehst du hin? I came across a sentence that was in past tense that was something like “Wohin bist du im Urlaub gereist?” (don’t hold me to those exact words…) and I was thinking: is it possible to have HIN at the end, split apart from wo? If I missed an obvious link to Part 2, I apologize.
I haven’t written part two yet… shame on me! I got stuck while structuring it and whenever I get stuck on a post, I walk away and let it be until my mind naturally comes back to it.
As for your question:
– Wo bist du im Urlaub hingereist.
This totally works!
Hey, is it possible that I missed a comment of yours? I can’t remember what post it was on…
Its ok. I know I ask a lot of questions.
I think it was about Sollen/Sollten and the slippery slope where “Ich sollte ein Nicherchen machen” could be a casual comment, or past tense (‘should have’) after being commanded/ordered to do so.*
*If wrong, than I am worse off than I thought.
So it would probably be under the article for Modal verbs which include Sollen.
Oh, it’s not you. I just got overwhelmed a bit by the feedback to the Duolingo article. That threw me off track a bit :D.
The comment you mentioned was indeed the one. I replied now.
Also, I forgot to reply to your question about how to tell me about typos… that’s actually what I remembered not having replied to. So the absolute best (and only) way is to put them right in the comments under an article. I tried by mail, but I really hate it, so yeah, comments is the way to go :)
Can’t find your notes feature to write out things I have learnt
Are you logged in?
Thank you for the article, very nice read. But I have a question. “hier hin” in “Ich lege das Buch hier hin.” It sounds to me like a contradiction: since “hin” is outward from speaker, but if “hier” is at the speaker, then what are we doing exactly? Are we putting the book away from the speaker or here? Besides that, I feel like “hier her” would be more natural here. Since “her” already means towards the speaker. Pls help :(
The speaker has the book in their hands, so putting it down is definitely “parting” from the book.
The “here” in this case is a location presented by the speaker… like “Here, on this desk.”
Does that help?
Yeah I guess so. But this has to be one of the of the hardest concepts to wrap my head around so far. Thank you again for the effort you put in and I am looking forward to part2!
Let me know if you have any more questions like that. I don’t think I’ll do part two soon. I’m completely “out of the topic” at the moment.
But I’m happy to help clear it up in the comments!
Oh my goodness. At the age of 45 after learning German I’m school, I’ve never fully understood hin/her until reading this post. Thank you, thank you, thank you x
Happy to hear that :)!
Hey Emanuel, thanks for the wonderful Article. But Emanuel even if I read all these explanations and there are so many of them, it becomes so daunting to remember each and every one of them and then put it all in context. I always end up getting so overwhelmed!
I can imagine!!
There is definitely more information in each article than is realistic to remember. What’s important is that you take one or two key takeaways. It’s totally fine to ignore the finer points.
Maybe you could use my notes-feature to write out two core learning after each article. Not more, just two.
And then you try to just remember those.
So, why “Ich lege das Buch hier hin“? Shouldn’t it be “Ich lege das Buch her“, or maybe “Ich lege das Buch hier her“? Because “her” means “here” with the sense of direction, and “hin” establishes a destination that it’s not “here”
The versions with “her” also work but to my ears they put a focus on the fact that the book is precisely “there” (here).
“hin” is more generic and just expresses that you put down the book, you put it “away” from your hands.
In the original example is really only expresses “destination”, nothing else. The rest is carried by “hier”.
Does that help?
Oh by the way… this stuff also depends on region. So in some parts of Germany, you version with “hier her” might be the more common one.
Thank you! The “away from your hands” idea made it totally clear to me
So, to clear things up, when we use ”her,hin,hinein,herein…” we don’t have to specify the place with the prepositions ”in/aus” (Ich steige ins Auto ein) we just have to pick one (Ich steige ins Auto/Ich steige ein). Is this applicable with all the situations, like taking something out of somewhere (Ich ziehe die Eier aus dem Wasser/Ich ziehe die Eier raus).
And another question, if we really want to specify the direction things are going to/coming from, depending on the context, can I say something like ” Ich bin doch ins Auto eingestiegen” oder ” Ich habe doch die Eier aus dem Topf rausgezogen…”
I’m hesitant to say ALL situations but it definitely applies to MANY situations.
Your example with the eggs… perfect (though I would use “nehmen” , not “ziehen”.
And yes, native speakers do “double up” the directions. For many verbs, like “einsteigen” it’s even common and more idiomatic than not doing it.
This is correct, too, but it sounds a bit like from a book novel.
I hope that helps :)
I saw that there was “in etw. hineingehen”. I was wondering how this differs from “in etw. gehen”. From this article It seems the hinein is superfluous but I hear it in stories and such. I thought you only need hin-/her- when there is not a prepositional phrase in the sentence.
You do need them if there is NO prepositional phrase but you CAN still add them even if there is one. It depends on context and phrasing if they’re idiomatic or not, and colloquially I’d use “reingehen” rather than “hineingehen”. These “duplicated” directional statements sound a bit “stronger”… but I don’t think it’s possible to capture that in a translation :)
To check my understanding, we only need her or hin when there’s movement?
For example: “The book is here” would just be “Das Buch ist hier”?
Also, is her or hin only needed for certain verbs? Google translates “I’ll lay the book here” as “Ich lege das Buch hier hin” as you did. However, when translating: “I’ll leave the book here”! Google drops the hin and just says “Ich lasse das Buch hier.” Is the difference caused by a Google translation failure, or because of legen vs lassen?
Google has it right, I’m impressed actually. “legen” is a directed motion, a change from “not lying” to “lying”. “lassen” however is about leaving something in the state that it is in, so in its essence it’s stationary.
For “lassen” you could ask “At what location do you leave the book?”, while for “legen” you’d as “To what location will you lay the book?”
That’s a quick test – which might fail sometimes, but overall it’s a good guideline :).
Bottom line: your understanding is spot on!
Ist “hin” Teil einer festen Wortgruppe in diesem Satz?
Grüßen kann auch über eine Distanz hin erfolgen.
Oder betont es nur die Bewegung vom Sprecher weg? Kann es weggelassen werden, ohne dass sich der Sinn des Satzes ändert?
Ja, “über [eine Distanz] hin” ist irgendwie eine fixe Phrase. Geht auch mit “weite Entfernung” und ähnlichem. Für mich macht es hier nur den Aspekt der “gerichteten Bewegung” etwas klarer. Aber du kannst es auch weglassen, ohne das sich den Sinn ändert.
this is well explain ,danke
I would say you explained this well enough, I even got 5 of 5 on the Quizlet and I don’t know German more than 2 greeting sentences
Wow, that’s amazing then :). Why’d you actually end up reading about such a topic?
This article was very helpful, thank you for that.
I have 2 question, first: I could not find second article about “hin” you wrote that there will be second article about “hin” but in grammatical way.
second: I did not understand differences between “hierher” and “hierhin”
Thanks in advance <3
About part two – I still have to write it :). I kind of got stuck writing it and whenever that happens I just stop and leave the topic for a while.
As for “hierher” and “hierhin”… in the context of people going places, they’re synonymous, but “hierhin” can also be used as “there” when pointing to a really close location.
– Leg deine Jacke hier hin. (points to a chair).
The speaker is not “at” the chair, and it’s also a destination, so “hin” makes sense, even though it’s really all in one room.
I think in the south of Germany, they’d also use “hierher” in the chair example. So ultimately… it doesn’t really matter that much :)
Thank you for your reply.
Now it is clear about “hierhin” and hierhere”
BTW I pressed “Follow” to my previous comment before posting it, but I did not get notification about reply, so maybe I should not press if I want to take notification? p.s. it will be more practical, if will be written “followed” and mark “✅” in my humble opinion :)
thank you anyway for you greaaat work <3
Ugh… it’s overdue, I know. I got stuck writing it and now I’m scared to revisit it. I have “hin”-anxiety!
Thanks for this brilliant article…where is the link for the next part (grammer as you said) of hin
Offf, I actually haven’t finished it yet. I got stuck half way and when that happens I usually stop and just let it sit for a while. I know that’s not ideal but if I give it the time it needs, the result will be better :).
Ok, you can say “I lege das Buch hierhin.” But can you say ” I lege das Buch hierher”? If so, what’s the difference between hin and her? I mean it’s… right there… on the table!
Slightly further up the comments, Emanuel says that both “hierhin” and “hierher” are used — with the example
But Emanuel: let me ask you this. Does the interchangeable nature of “hierhin” and “hierher” correspond to the way the difference between “over there” and “over here” can be more of a mood or feeling?
Of course “here” and “there” normally have very different meanings– but for some reason, when we all know the object in question is obviously before us (as in Jellyfish’s question), the difference between them becomes more one of style… “Put it on the table there” vs. “Put it on the table here” when the table is the exact same 2 feet away. The second one makes it sound as if the table is… ours? Part of the story in some way?
It’s kind of like how an English speaker can say “look at this guy over here”– the guy could be 50 feet away, but if the speaker slightly lifts his chin and glances over at him, all of a sudden you know there’s going to be some story about this dude.
I would say that it is NOT as strong in German, if it even exists at all.
The “hier” really dominates and I don’t perceive this difference that I perceive in English and that you described.
In English, you have the contrast “here” vs “there” with the common one being “over”.
In German, the common word is “hier”.
The counterpart to “over here” vs “over there” would probably be
– da hin vs hier hin/her
Reminds me of the older English words “hither” and “thither” expressing movement towards here or there.
They sound very archaic now but it shows (again) how much closer the language structures were in the past
Yeah, “hither” and “thither” are directionally pretty much exactly what “hin” and “her” are, though the tone/register is completely different.
Can you do vornehmen?
I could, but what exactly are you struggling with? I thought it’s pretty one dimensional but since I’m a native speaker, I very likely miss something :)
Actually, I just remembered that I have a bit on “vornehmen” in the article about “vor”. You can find it here:
Congratulations on your work, I am a A1 student, so have just started to learn German, but still, despite the difficulties, I am reading and enjoying so VERY much your posts!
I hope one day you will publish a book, I will be among the first to buy it!
I would definitely become a member, but I don’t have this PayPal system…don’t know how it works… Too bad I cannot pay by card, like when I got books and dvd s on Amazon…
Good luck with your fantastic work!
Gabriela Madaras, Transylvania, Romania.
Thanks for the great feedback :)!!
You can pay by card, though. Just take the “non”-paypal option. and even Paypal should handle a card payment without you having an account.
Send me an email, if you have more questions about that :)
I don’t agree with your example about
I am there.
I am going there.
These sentences have definitely different meanings. If I’m speaking with someone over the phone and ask them where they are I’m going to understand a different thing from each response.
You’re right, I did a poor job expressing myself. What I meant is that the word used for the location is “there” in both examples.
In the first example it tells us where I am, in the second where I am going to.
The fact that they are understood as different things is mainly thanks to context and being used to it. The word “there” has no indication.
That’s different in German, and that’s what I wanted to point out.
Hope that helps :)
I’ve been following these lessons for a couple of months and this was my favourite so far. Really clear and made sense of something that I kind of got but struggled with when using German in the wild!
I’m already a bit scared about what’s coming in Part 2 though…
No need for that :). It’ll be a bit nerdy, yes, but if it doesn’t make sense to you, then you can ignore it. It’s more for C1 students. _
Besides that, I’ll go over a few really common prefix verbs and phrasings with “hin” so that’s gonna be worthwhile :)