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I just realized that I don't know how to use hin and her. Beyond "woher kommst du?" I haven't learn to use them. As I understand, one can just juxtapose them to Ort prepositions:

(he­r­ü­ber, hinüber; rüber)
(heraus, hinaus; raus)
(herunter, hinunter; runter)
(herauf, hinauf; rauf)
usw.

where the first two entries stand for the written version, and the third entry here stands for the spoken version, either of hin- or her-. The latter prefix signals "towards the speaker", and the former points to the opposite direction, whenever it's possible to determine which is the speaker.

The question is: are hin and her optional? For example, is it the same to say

Gehen Sie bitte dort! or Bitte setzen Sie sich hier!

and

Gehen Sie bitte dorthin! or Bitte setzen Sie sich hierher!

?

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I think it's just a typo, but "her" means towards the speaker and "hin" means away –  Guido Kanschat Sep 6 '13 at 18:48
1  
@Guiido Kanschat: Isn’t that, what c.p. wrote? –  Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '13 at 19:20
    
@c.p.: Do you really want to use setzen (to put something, rarely used without an object) in the last example or is it rather sich setzen (to sit down) or sitzen (to sit)? –  Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '13 at 19:21
    
@Wrzlprmft I hope I have corrected the mistakes regarding your last comment. –  c.p. Sep 6 '13 at 23:33
    
This is not a good example because "hier" allways implies the speakers location. But too me they sound just crazy withour "her" or "hin". –  rimrul Sep 7 '13 at 4:32
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5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Though it may seem that in your first list of examples (heraus, herüber, …), hin and her are dropped in the third entry (all being colloquial language, anyway), this is not the case. E.g., rüber is actually a shortened version of herüber, while the corresponding version of hinüber is nüber, which however is found less often in colloquial speech (where there is a tendency to use her instead of hin anyway). If you completely removed hin or her, only über would remain, whose use would usually (if not always) change meaning. E.g., auskommen, unterkommen and aufkommen are all distinct words with a totally different meaning than herauskommen, herunterkommen and heraufkommen.

In your second example hin and her can also not be dropped, since they turn the directional adverb hierhin into the positional adverb hier. Two example sentences:

Lauf hierher.

Here you are somewhere else than the speaker and the speaker instructs you to run to his position.

Laufen Sie bitte hier.

Here the speaker indicates a place on which you should run (e.g., a treadmill). Your may be anywhere at this moment, even at the indicated place.

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"Lauf hierhin": If the speaker is at the position to which you are supposed to run, they would use "hierher" (her to the speaker, hin to a different place). In colloquial speech, hin is dying anyway, being replaced by her irrespective of direction. –  chirlu Sep 6 '13 at 19:23
    
@chirlu: Thanks, I am afraid, I got confused as well. –  Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '13 at 19:29
    
@Wrzlprmft Chirlu is right. Take for example the phrase Wir machen rüber!, which was used in the GDR for people trying to leave the country for the FRG. This contradicts the usual directional distinction of her and hin. –  Toscho Sep 6 '13 at 20:50
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  1. While hin has the meaning of getting away to another place, her means getting nearer with direction to here, and hier means the result of her which is here at this position. hierher can mean the end position, but also just the direction.

    Example ("First go over there, then come back to here!"):

    Gehen Sie erst dort hin, und dann kommen Sie hier her!

    Do not mistake her for hier. Kommen Sie her! comes from herkommen which describes the process of moving regarding the direction. But Bitte setzen Sie sich hier! talks about the goal position hier. So German distinguishes between direction and goal position, describing the moving and describing the result of moving so to speak. The sentence Setzen Sie sich hier hin! contains the two words hinsetzen (sit down) and hier (here).

  2. Another possibility is that hin und her can also mean to oscillate. In that case hin and her has the meaning of moving sidewards to the right and back to the left, or vice versa.

    Example ("The pendular moves side to side"):

    Das Pendel bewegt sich hin und her.


Your examples:

  • "Bitte kommen Sie hier!" - should be "Bitte kommen Sie her!" if you mean the direction of moving
  • "Bitte setzen Sie hier!" - should be "Bitte setzen Sie sich hier hin!" if you tell the place where to sit down
  • "Bitte kommen Sie hierher!" - OK, you mean the direction of moving
  • "Bitte setzen Sie hierher!" - should be "Bitte setzen Sie sich hierher!" if you tell the place where to sit down
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I am not really convinced of the goal position vs direction because as long as one is not there it is actually the same in my opinion. "Ich fahre nach Berlin" is that a goal or a direction? –  Emanuel Sep 7 '13 at 9:33
    
@Emanuel: the topic is hier vs hin vs her, but nach is another story. –  falkb Sep 8 '13 at 19:12
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First of all, it is „sich setzen“, so it has to be

Bitte setzen Sie sich hier!

which is ok. The idea is that the person will come here and when here will sit down. So there is no movement towards the place involved in sitting down. Is is equally correct to say

Bitte setzen Sie sich hierher!

Here, the whole act is thought to include the coming towards the place. On the other hand “sitting down” is „hinsetzen“, and

Bitte setzen Sie sich hier hin!

makes sense (it is a bit unfortunate that this might be confused with „hierhin“ but the stress is different), but

  • Bitte setzen Sie sich hierher hin!

does not, because „hinsetzen“ really does only involve the act of sitting down and not any preceding locomotion.

From this it should now be clear that it must be

Bitte kommen Sie hierher!

because this is exactly about moving to this place. Btw, the English word “hither” used to correspond to „hierher“ and “Come hither!” is still understood, I think. However, in German

  • Bitte kommen Sie hier!

does not make sense, because it would imply that the person should come when already here. So it actually would have a meaning, but I leave it to you to deduce which meaning that would be, it is not the intended one. The same goes for

  • Ich komme zu Hause.

(instead of „nach Hause“), which my Spanish flat mate would say and which would amuse me to no end, surely a sign of my immaturity.

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The short answer:

NO! Hin and her are almost never optional and it really sticks out as a MISTAKE if they are missing

Setzen can be considered an exception but Germans don't even agree on whether it builds its past with haben or sein so this is no surprise.

Here is some background:

Just like in time where we have 3 sectors (past present future) also in place we have 3 possible functions a location can have:

origin

current location

destination

German is very precise in marking which of the 3 it is. To do this it often uses prepositions or prepositions and cases but those are not always used... namely when we are using adverbs. Because adverbs don't take cases. For these situations German has the 2 rather generic marker her and hin. Both mark a destination but her marks the location of the speaker while hin marks places away from the speaker and has a stronger destination sound.

Laufen sie bitte hier.

This is not marked in any way so tells us to walk AT the given location (here) rather than TO.

Laufen sie bitte hierher.

This is marked and presumable close to the speaker.

Laufen sie hierhin.

This also works. The away-aspect of hin and the destination-aspect are conflicting but the destination-aspect has more power. Why? Because her is often used to talk about an origin.

Woher kommst du?

Ich war krank. Daher konnte ich nicht arbeiten gehen. (abstract use)

Technically we're marking "here" as a destination but we're actually asking for an origin. So, it is almost like this:

Wo kommst du hier?

Only that her still indicates a change of location. So... with her having this secondary idea of origin, hin is the number 1 mark for destination.

If 2 people are in the same place anyway then both, hin and her work, because all we need is a destination marker. If the people are not in the same place, it makes a difference. All this is a handled a bit differently in dialects though. While

Geh daher!

makes no sense to me (Berlin area) it is common in the south.

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You would have to use the second form "Bitte kommen Sie hierher" and "Bitte setzen Sie sich hierher". The first versions would not be considered correct.

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