In German, there are many different ways to express the widely used English “to go”. Its continuous use in German is a widespread mistake, and I can often see my students doing it over again. After reading this article, you will know when you should use “gehen” and when not.
The verb “gehen”
In English, the verb “to go” is universal. We can use it to express many different things. For instance, the future tense, or the fact one moves somewhere which could be in the sense of walking, biking, car or airplane as in: “I am going to Berlin”. But this rule does not apply to German. Therefore, many people hit the hay and use “gehen” in German whenever they would do so in English.
The meaning of “gehen”
Unfortunately, in German, the purpose of the verb “gehen” is very literal. So in English, I could say, “I am going to Japan.” while you are in London. If will say “Ich gehe nach Japan.” in German, this means that you walk by foot to Japan. Most likely, you will not do so but rather take a flight. In German, we do use different verbs to express these kinds of movements that I will explain in the following.
Alternatives to “gehen”
fliegen – to fly
fahren – to drive (car), to go (by bus or train), to ride (a bike, ship), to run (the bus), to ski
laufen – to walk (this for sure means that you use your legs to do so)
- I go to New York. – Ich fliege nach New York.
- I go by train. – Ich fahre mit dem Zug.
- I go by bike. – Ich fahre mit dem Fahrrad.
- The bus runs every hour. – Der Bus fährt jede Stunde.
- I go to my granny. – Ich gehe / laufe zu meiner Oma.
As you can see, in German, we use the verb “fahren” much more than “gehen”. In case you are not sure whether to use “gehen” or another verb, you can always ask yourself, if you will literally use your legs to go somewhere. If yes, then you can easily use “gehen,” and if not, you can choose one of the other suitable verbs which were presented in this article.
Now, after reading the explanation of when to use “gehen” in German, you should know when to use which verb.
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