Sie müssen durch den Eingang, dann die Treppe hoch und sofort rechts.

[You must go through the entrance, then up stairs and immediately to the right].

In English, we have the verb to go. Why isn't it in German?

Shouldn't it be like "Sie müssen durch den Eingang gehen ... ?"

  • Even in English, this construction can be used. The first line of Sea Fever by John Masefield originally was "I must down to the seas again", although it was changed in most later anthologies to include "go".
    – Alchymist
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 12:58
  • The Sea Fever poem was published in 1902, more than 100 years ago. This construction is NOT usual or seen as correct in English nowadays. That's why this question is so common among English native speakers. Commented Jun 6 at 17:51

4 Answers 4


"Müssen" in German can also imply direction - the usage you are expecting is as auxiliary verb, like "können", "dürfen", "sollen":

Etwas tun müssen
Gehen müssen

But you may use it without any verb to suggest movement without specifying the form (going, driving, flying, whatever) because it is important to be there, not how you got there.

Ich muss jetzt nach Hause.
Ich muss zum Bahnhof.
Ich muss auf die Toilette.
Du musst in die Schule.
Ich muss morgen nach Hamburg.

Note especially the last two sentences because all the other sentences point to omitting "gehen" just like your example in fact does. You could very well append "gehen" to your sentence - whereas nobody would expect you to walk to Hamburg. If they cared they would ask whether you take the car or the train.

Regarding school the main aspect it on "müssen" - you are required to attend school, not only go there and leave again.

But in fact, "gehen" is just your everyday verb for everything, much like to do. Not everything you designate as "gehen" is really meant to be "walking":

Ich gehe jetzt. ( I'll walk out the door and take my car).
Ich gehe ein Jahr ins Ausland (I'll probably fly there).
Geh' mal da weg (Could you just move 10cm please).
Gehen wir morgen ins Kino? (WOLLEN* wir morgen ins Kino?)

*Please note the comments regarding the usage of "wollen wir..?" below. It is used for clarification in this example but not so common in spoken language in some regions.

  • Good answer (I gave +1), but where I live (Vienna), you never would ask yourself, or a group to who you belong, if you want something (»wollen wir?«). You can ask other people (»willst du?«, »wollt ihr?«), but since you self know what you want, you never ask »will ich?« or »wollen wir?«. Maybe this a regional difference in the usage of German language. But here, in the eastern parts of Austria you ask »Gehen wir morgen ins Kino?« or »Willst du morgen ins Kino?«, »Wollt ihr morgen ins Kino?« but you never ask »Wollen wir morgen ins Kino?« Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 8:12
  • In Fact, I wouldn't put it that way either, but I'm in bavaria and this is not the place for high german.. But just to be sure I'll put a warning to the example :-) Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 8:22
  • 4
    The englisch word »high German« is the name for the dialects spoken in the higher regions (the mountains) of the german speaking area, so it is just another term for »bavarian dialects«. What I think you mean is in english called »standard German«. The German word »Hochdeutsch« has two meanings: It can mean both: bavarian dialects (the "opposite" of Niederdeutsch, which are the dialects from the flat land in the north) and standard German (the "opposite" of Dialects). Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 9:20
  • 1
    +1 Hubert, although, of course, the Alemannic dialects (Swiss, Swabian, low Alemannic) are considered high German, too.
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 9:51
  • 3
    @user3195231... Berlin here - I would totally say that. Especially "Wollen wir los?" is something I use all the time.
    – Emanuel
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 16:13

There is no need to add »gehen« because: In this case »müssen« is a verb of movement.

Let's compare this three sentences:

  1. Sie müssen durch den Eingang, dann die Treppe hinauf und sofort rechts.
  2. Sie müssen durch den Eingang gehen, dann die Treppe hinauf und sofort rechts.
  3. Sie gehen durch den Eingang, dann die Treppe hinauf und sofort rechts.

Number 2 is clear. The predicate is gehen müssen (»must walk« or »must go«), and müssen is a modal verb, while gehen is a full verb (same in english).

Now let's have a look on number 3. This type of sentence is (like all three sentences) called »Aufforderungssatz« (imperative sentence), because it works like an command. Other examples of this type of sentence are:

Mutter zum Sohn: Du räumst (jetzt sofort) dein Zimmer auf.
Bankräuber: Sie geben mir das ganze Geld aus Ihrer Kassa.
Einheimischer zum Touristen: Sie fahren noch ca. 3 km gerade aus, dann biegen sie links ab.

All this examples might be interpreted as normal statement sentences (»Aussagesatz«), but the context makes clear, that these are commands. It is exactly the same as in English. Here are the English translations:

Mother to her son: Now you clean up your room.
Bank robber: You give me all your money from your cashbox.
Local to tourist: You drive about 3 km strait ahead, then turn left.

And now let's analyze number 1:
It is the same sentence as number 3, just with a different verb. The next sentences all fit into the same pattern:

Sie gehen durch den Eingang, dann durch den großen Saal.
Sie fahren über die Brücke, dann durch den Wald.
Sie fliegen am Mars vorbei, dann weiter Richtung Jupiter.
Sie schwimmen an der Boje vorbei, dann ans Ufer.

And in all cases you can replace the verb of movement by »müssen«:

Sie müssen durch den Eingang, dann durch den großen Saal.
Sie müssen über die Brücke, dann durch den Wald.
Sie müssen am Mars vorbei, dann weiter Richtung Jupiter.
Sie müssen an der Boje vorbei, dann ans Ufer.

These last four sentences are complete and correct German sentences, where nothing is missing. Here »müssen« has the function of a full verb (it is not a modal verb). But there are differences to the other examples:

  1. When you use »müssen« as a full verb, then the sentence no longer can be interpreted as an Aussagesatz (statement sentence). The sentence is unambiguously an Aufforderungssatz (imperative sentence).
  2. You no longer specify the kind of movement, but still are talking about a movement. It can be walking, dancing, flying, diving, or what ever movement you can think of. But it is clear, that here »müssen« expresses a movement.

You can see this clearer, when you try to replace the verb in the mother-son-example (or the bank robber) by »müssen«. This will not work, because neither »aufräumen« (clean up) nor »geben« (give) are verbs of movement.

  • 1
    A couple of comments. If it was an intransitive verb of movement, the perfect should be formed with "sein". But it isn't because the verb does have an object "Ich muss [etwas]". As opposed to "*Ich gehe [etwas]" which is wrong. So grammatically, there is something left out... the verb for "über die Brücke". Secondly, the sentence is not an Aufforderungssatz. "Wenn Sie zur Kirche wollen, müssen Sie nach links"... that is a valid answer to a question but the person does not have any interested in me going there...
    – Emanuel
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 16:19
  • I saw this page during my search for an explanation of the absence of gehen in the sentence Wir müssen noch durch den Zoll. ... a sentence that appears in the Goethe Institut A1 Wortlist. Now that I understand what is going on, it is apparent that English actually has (or had) this form as well. It survives in the expression, I must away ... "Away" is directional, not a verb, and the English sentence is probably equivalent to something like "Ich muss dorthin." (... assuming of course that that is grammatically acceptable!). Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 11:26
  • away here means go away and a fitting translation would be Ich muss weg which retains the grammar that went away in the transition from Old to New English. Commented Jun 5 at 18:32

You're right, it is "gehen" in German as well. Sometimes people may leave out the verb in spoken languages since it's implied.

  • 2
    See the other answers on how müssen is a verb of its own quality that does not require the implication of a gehen
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 9:52

This is possible in English as well:

Q: How do I get there?
A: Through the entrance, up the stairs, on your right.

All without gehen / to go. I probably wouldn't write that, but in spoken language it's quite common.

  • 2
    The German sentence »Sie müssen durch ...« is a grammatically and syntactically correct and complete sentence. This is because here »müssen« is not used as an auxiliary verb. Here it is a full verb. (but it becomes an auxiliary verb when you add a verb of movement like gehen, fahren, tanzen, fliegen,... This is not true for your english equivalent. In »Through the entrance...« there is no verb. So this is not a full sentence. Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 8:17
  • 3
    To expand on Hubert's comment: You must through the entrance up the stairs to your right isn't a valid sentence in English either, because must is still too much of an auxilliary.
    – Jan
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 11:13
  • Did anybody claim that it was? I was just commenting on the question's author apparent bafflement that a translation would not necessarily include "all the words".
    – Ingmar
    Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 12:01

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