The German prepositions ‘zu’ and ‘nach’

Whist learning German, grammatical queries do come up. I want to use this opportunity to illustrate another topic that students ask me during their German courses: What is the different usage of the prepositions ‘zu’ and ‘nach’? The preposition ‘nach’ can mean after when used with time; for example, Nach dem Fußballspiel gehen wir ein Bier trinken. 

But it has another meaning, and in use with location, the preposition ‘nach’ means to or towards. However, the preposition ‘zu’ has the same meaning, but its usage differs.

When going in the direction of a geographical place like a town, country or area, we use nach; for example, Wir fahren nach Berlin. Sie fliegen nach Frankreich. When visiting a site or seeing a person, we use ‘zu’; for instance, Ich gehe zum Arzt. Die Kinder fahren zur Schule.

German also uses the proposition ‘in’ plus Accusative when going in the direction of a town, country or area, but only when used with its article. That applies to masculine, feminine or plurals only. Here are a few examples: Wir fahren in den Schwarzwald, in die Schweiz oder in die USA.

I hope that clears things up. Get in touch if you have more questions or want to take one of our online German courses.

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