Word of the Day – “hin”

Hello everyone,

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

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.

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.
So, are you ready to jump in?
Let’s go…

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.
And German?
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 and OCD

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 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 hierhin

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 – #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.

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.

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?

  1. Ich gehe fünf mal pro Woche ins Fitnessstudio.
  2. Ich gehe fünf mal pro Woche ins Fitnessstudio hin.

The answer is… only number one is considered correct.
Why?
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 sayingon 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

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.
Cool.
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.

 

 

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3 months ago

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…”

Luke Lighthart
Luke Lighthart
3 months ago

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.

Jlock6
Jlock6
4 months ago

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?

Thanks!

Joe
Joe
7 months ago

Guten Tag

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?

Vielen Dank

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 months ago

this is well explain ,danke

Hege Valle
Hege Valle
8 months ago

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

g.orbeliani
g.orbeliani
1 year ago

Hello there,

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

g.orbeliani
g.orbeliani
1 year ago
Reply to  German-is-easy

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

SilentProwler
SilentProwler
2 years ago

Second Part???

namanwahal
namanwahal
2 years ago

Thanks for this brilliant article…where is the link for the next part (grammer as you said) of hin

Jellyfish
Jellyfish
2 years ago

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!

crittermonster
crittermonster
6 months ago
Reply to  Jellyfish

Slightly further up the comments, Emanuel says that both “hierhin” and “hierher” are used — with the example

Leg deine Jacke hier hin. (points to a chair)

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.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Can you do vornehmen?

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Hello, Emanuel!
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.

Carles
Carles
2 years ago

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.

Emma
Emma
2 years ago

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…

Zenon
Zenon
2 years ago

I love the comprehension quiz at the end. Danke für den Artikel!

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Best German blogger on the internet. Your writing is helpful, educational, and a lot of fun to read. Well done.

Amerikanerin
Amerikanerin
2 years ago

Ok, I got a 100% on the quiz, so OF COURSE I LOVED THIS BLOG POST!

But even before I took the quiz, I was actually already in love with this blogpost – FINALLY someone explains it so I “get” it. Can’t wait to hear the “hier” and “her” ones – the “hierher” is giving me some problems, but with “hin” under my belt, the other two will be a breeze. Right Emanuel?

After reading through the comments below, I now understand that “hierher” (or is it herhier”?) is a matter of opinion even for Germans. Hmmm… the plot thickens.

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

Vielen Dank, Emanuel, das hat mir ganz geholfen!

Jo Alex SG
Jo Alex SG
2 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

I forgot to write my name on the box, entschuldige mich.

bencwallace
bencwallace
2 years ago

Danke für den super Artikel! Was ich auch interessant finde ist die der umgangssprachliche Gebrauch von “hin” um “fertig” oder “tot” zu bedeuten. Vielleicht kann man das auch durch deine Erklärung verstehen, wie der ähnliche Gebrauch von “gone” auf Englisch.

Lou
Lou
2 years ago

Thanks for the lesson – that was helpful :-)