Wo, wohin or woher?

In English, we have one word for “where”, but in German there are three words. We use wo to ask where someone is. We use wohin to ask where someone is going (direction away from the speaker). And we use woher to ask where someone is coming from (direction toward the speaker).

-Wo bist du? -In Wien.

-Where are you? -In Vienna.

-Wohin gehst du? -Zum Frisör.

-Where are you going? -To the hairdresser's (direction away from the speaker)

-Woher kommst du? -Aus Deutschland.

-Where do you come from? -From Germany (direction toward the speaker)

  • Hin (to) and her (from) can also be placed at the end of a sentence or onto the start of a verb as a prefix.

Wohin fahren wir? → Wo fahren wir hin

Where are we going? (direction away from the speaker)

Woher kommst du? → Wo kommst du her

Where are you coming from? (direction toward the speaker)

  • Hin can be used as a verb prefix (or on its own) to indicate the direction in which something moves or is placed. Examples: hingehen (to go by foot), hinfahren (to go by transportation), hinlaufen (to run somewhere), hinlegen (to put something down), hinstellen (to put something somewhere) and hinkommen (to get somewhere).

Wo willst du hingehen? → Wo willst du hin?

Where do you want to go?

  • Her can be used as a verb prefix to indicate direction toward the subject. Example: herkommen (to come from).

Kannst du mal herkommen?

Can you come here?

Note: verbs with hin and her are separable. Trennbares Verb

Gehe jetzt (da)hin! hingehen, Imperativ Präsens

Go there now! (on foot)

Anna stellt die Tasse hin. hinstellen, Präsens

Anna puts the cup down.

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