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I understand that both hinein and herein can be used to translate "into it", that hinein is used when referring to movement away from the speaker's location, and that herein is used when referring to movement toward the speaker's location. Is all of that correct? If all of that is correct, then what is commonly used when the speaker is a third-party that observes something moving into something else and does not want to reference her own location? Can hinein be used in this case?

For example, a person jumps into a river. She wants to say in mid-air, "I jump into it." One possibility is: "Ich springe hinein." Then a dog jumps into a river and the person (who is already in the river) wants to say "It jumps into it." One possibility is: "Er springt herein."

Suppose now that a person is flying high in a helicopter and looks down. She sees a dog jumping into a river and wants to say, "It jumps into it". Can she say "Er springt hinein"? What is the common way to say this?

  • Could you give an example? Or explain what the problem with referencing the narrators position is? – Alexander Oct 18 '15 at 20:50
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    You may be glad to hear that colloquially rein/raus/rauf/runter (from herein/heraus/herauf/herunter) are used generically, i.e. also when standard German would require hinein/hinaus/hinauf/hinunter. – user2183 Oct 18 '15 at 22:03
  • Es ist 'der Hund', nicht 'das Hund', also springt er hinein. 'Er springt hinein', nicht 'springe'. 'Er springe hinein' würde man als Aufforderung sagen können, wobei häufiger 'Er soll hinein springen' gesagt wird, wobei Aufforderungen an eine dritte Person sehr ungewöhnlich, aber nicht unmöglich sind. "Was würdest Du zum überhitzten Frosch am Rande eines Tümpels sagen?" "Er springe hinein!" – user unknown Oct 18 '15 at 22:13
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    The difference is not limited to -ein, but applies to hin and her more generally. Sometimes they form a pair, e.g. woher / wohin, sometimes only one of them makes sense, e.g. , e.g. _herbei / hinfort. – Crissov Oct 19 '15 at 11:43
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While your translation is correct, it is possiby more exact, than the average speaker may be aware of. The solution of not revealing the own position is simple: Use other words. Examples are:

  • Der Arzt betrat das Haus/ ging in das Haus des Patienten.
  • Der Fahrgast verließ das Taxi.

In fact I don't see a problem of revealing ones own position; typically it is known from the context before.

Mehr geht in die Tasse nicht hinein

Obviously here the narrator is not already sitting in the cup.

Die Halbinsel ragt ins Meer hinein

Same here, narrator is unlikely to swim in the sea, watching the peninsula.

Note, that there are many fixed phrases, which require hinein, without a clear border between inside and outside:

  • Ins Blaue hinein
  • In den Tag hinein
  • In die Welt hinein (hinaus would be an alternative here)
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    At least "Der Arzt ging in das Haus" for me reveals the position as well. You can easily add "Hinein" at the end, with out without that for me it sounds like I observe the doctor while standing somewhere on the street. – Alexander Oct 18 '15 at 21:53
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    @Alexander: Sicher kann man in Gedanken "hinein" addieren, und dann schließen, dass man von außen schaut. Nur ist das hinein eine willkürliche Ergänzung. Er springt ins Wasser verrät nichts über den Berichterstatter und statistische Erwägungen sind hier unzulässig. – user unknown Dec 13 '16 at 16:14
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In Austrian German, (because "common" is relative to something e.g. geographical area, group of people)

  • "einhin" and
  • "einher"

are used, but usually pronounced

  • "eini" and (e.g. Er springt eini.)
  • "eina" (e.g. Er springt eina.)

respectively, (unless you're in the Tyrolerean Uplands where the "h" is emphasized as a fricative: "eihi" and "eiha", respectively.)

This might seem very foreign someone unfamiliar with this, but it is not. Consider the ubiquitous “vorhin” and “vorher”. Whether prefixed or suffixed, it is merely a convention. Some dialects use one of the forms to express both directions, therefore not referencing the speakers location. However, in German, even in most dialects, the direction relative to the person is important.

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  • Downvoted as this is only more likely to confuse learners than help them. – Subhamoy S. May 4 at 11:17
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    Expanding awareness of the greater German speaking community is always helpful...Berlin is not the only place German is used. – Jonathan Komar May 4 at 11:28
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    @JonathanKomar -- und zwar war Ihre Antwort mir sehr nützlich! Beim Lesen eines Buch von Ivan Illich habe ich diese Wörter nicht verstanden. Jetzt habe ich mich daran erinnert, dass Illich Österreicher war! – digitalis_ May 10 at 9:12
  • I'd find it helpful to know, which dialects use one of the form to express both directions. And are both versions used in these dialects, or does dialect X use only eini to express both and doesn't use eina at all? As it is, your answer adds something to the question, but does not really answer it precisely. – Arsak May 15 at 7:56
  • @Arsak Both answers are correct. For example, considere two geographically neighboring regions: in Stansertal, speakers tend to differentiate the two using both forms. In Oberes Gericht, they tend to use the “her” forms to indicate both “hin” and “her”. – Jonathan Komar May 17 at 7:46
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Concerning your example with the helicopter hinein is still the right word.

Since the helicopter is outside of the water, from their position the dog jumps hinein ie away from them. (From their environment "air" to the girls enivronment "water"). This is what I meant in my comment, a position is nearly always implicit by the position of the narrator. Imagine in a book the narrator explains how a perosn walks into the house. If he explains how the person met a friend on the street but then leaves to go into the house, it would be hinein. If the story goes how the friends are inthe house and suddenly the first person goes into the house it would be herein.

It is actually the same in English I think. If the person goes inside it's from the outside, if they come inside it's from the inside.

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  • Thank you. Does the following summarize the usage of hinein and herein? 1) herein is used when something moves into something toward the speaker; 2) hinein is used in all other cases of movement into something. – Wayne Oct 19 '15 at 2:11
  • As a general rule of thumb, yes. Particularly in the case of jumping into water I think I would even say "hinein" if I was in the water. But that might just be a dialekt thing. – Alexander Oct 19 '15 at 2:26
  • Der Erzähler hat aber nicht immer eine definierte Position. Wer sagt "Peter geht ins Haus." verrät nichts über seine Position. Gehen und Kommen gibt es auch im Deutschen - daher ist to go/to come auch nicht analog. – user unknown Dec 13 '16 at 2:53

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