Suppose I am in London, and I am going to Paris. If I am just mentioning to someone the fact that I’ll soon go to Paris, can I use fahren as a generic translation of to travel?

I might go by Eurostar, or I may fly, or I may drive, or catch the ferry. I may be undecided at this point or maybe I have decided but just don’t want to cover the mode of transport when I say to the other person ‘I am going to Paris’. Can I get away with using ‘Ich fahre nach Paris’? Or should fahren to be used only if I am traveling by ground transport (car, bus, train, …)?

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    Couldn't resist: " Wie geht denn dein neues Fahrrad?" - "Es geht nicht, es fährt!" - "Ok, also wie fährt dein neues Fahrrad?" - "Ach, es geht..."
    – Stephie
    Nov 15, 2015 at 19:32
  • to travel == reisen. Ich reise nach Paris oder Ich mache eine Reise nach Paris. Nov 22, 2015 at 0:11

8 Answers 8


Yes. A common small-talk topic is “Wohin fahrt ihr dieses Jahr in den Urlaub?” and it is perfectly ok to answer “Wir fahren nach Island” even if you have your flight tickets booked already.

Same holds, of course, for London and Paris.

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    Feel welcome on German Language Stack Exchange. I’ll just point you to tour and help center for consistency ;)
    – Jan
    Nov 15, 2015 at 19:23
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    I never heard anyone say something like that, in my experience people use "fahren" and "fliegen" depending on what they mean. (North Germany)
    – Rudi
    Nov 16, 2015 at 9:59
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    "Ich gehe nach London" - sehr offensichtlich dass ich nicht zu Fuss nach London gehe.
    – gnasher729
    Nov 16, 2015 at 11:36
  • But you would never answer "Ich gehe nach London" if you are asked "Wohin fährst du in den Urlaub". However, "Es geht nach London" would be perfectly fine. ;)
    – waka
    Nov 16, 2015 at 14:11
  • I might say "Ich gehe nach London" when telling someone I will be moving abroad permanently (e.g. for work). Maybe the neighbours: "Warum ziehen Sie aus?" - "Ich gehe nach London und arbeite bei X". Or maybe when talking about a semester of studying abroad. "Ich gehe für ein Semester nach London.".
    – simbabque
    Nov 16, 2015 at 16:24

Yes, but.

Fahren is a generic verb that can work for more or less any mode of transport: ‘Ich fahre mit dem Bus/der Bahn/der Fähre/dem Auto’. However, it is not used as often when you are actually flying. So it could be that people ask you ‘fährst du, oder fliegst du?’

So yes, fahren probably conveys the least possible amount of information, but not everybody will immediately connect flying to it. There are no real other options, though: ich reise implies an extended holiday and is rarely used; ich bin … dort only works if you care most about the date and ich gehe will either be misunderstood as moving altogether or walking.

  • +1 but I wouldn't carve out ich reise too strongly as implying an extended holiday. It's also an upscale style way to express simply going somewhere. Nov 20, 2015 at 13:49

Fahren is a generic word for traveling in much the same way as to go. You can ‘go’ to a place on a different continent, and the same is true with fahren. One important difference is that whereas to go by plane is already well established, mit dem Flugzeug fahren/gehen is currently still rejected by many, perhaps most, native speakers, though many already say it occasionally in careless colloquial speech. (In edited texts this always becomes mit dem Flugzeug fliegen.)

Fahren and gehen have different shades of meaning that can become important in certain contexts, to the point that you do not have free choice between them. Fahren stresses the act of traveling; gehen stresses the result:

  • Wir fahren dieses Jahr nach Salzburg.
  • Ich gehe für ein Semester nach Salzburg.

For going on holiday, fahren is generally preferred as if traveling were really what it’s all about, rather than being in a different location. For a temporary relocation, gehen is generally preferred because the act of traveling tends to vanish in the background compared to staying in a foreign place for a longer period.

  • "though many already say it occasionally" - do you have any reference for the claim that any native speaker would say "Ich gehe jetzt gleich mit einem Flugzeug." when they mean "Ich fliege jetzt gleich mit einem Flugzeug."? The only context in which I could imagine this is when a speaker incrementally adds parts to the sentence while speaking, e.g.: "Ich gehe nach Frankreich in den Urlaub ... mit dem Flugzeug." Nov 16, 2015 at 9:37
  • Wie sieht es aus, wenn man in den Urlaub tatsächlich geht, sagen wir von Hamburg nach Altona, also zu Fuß, kann man dann auch 'fahren' sagen? Nov 16, 2015 at 10:59
  • @O.R.Mapper: By adding "jetzt gleich" you are moving the goal post because it sets up a context in which fahren is even more unlikely. We are talking about the grey area of linguistic innovations - things that children sometimes say and that many adults say and then immediately renounce when it is pointed out. Just try Google searches for "mit dem Flugzeug fahren" and variations.
    – user2183
    Nov 16, 2015 at 11:39
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    @userunknown: Ich finde es schwer, über diesen seltsam konstruierten Sonderfall überhaupt eine Aussage zu treffen, aber fahren scheint mir hier abwegig, weil es keine Reise ist. Wenn man den Urlaub zu Hause verbringt, spricht man ja auch nicht von fahren.
    – user2183
    Nov 16, 2015 at 11:41
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    @BruceWayne: In this case you would almost certainly choose kommen in colloquial German. An alternative in written German is gelangen, but that's only about as likely to be used in this kind of context as reach, and for the same reason.
    – user2183
    Nov 16, 2015 at 16:53

Yes, you can use it the way you mentioned. It works perfectly fine.


You can say fahren and everybody will understand you, but people much more commonly say fliegen when they mean it.


"Fahren" refers mostly to ground transportation. One can use "fahren" to refer to air or sea travel, but "fliegen" and "segeln" are more common words it those contexts.

That's because "fahren" has the connotations of being "driven." So you would not use fahren to refer to "walking," even though it's on the ground.

On the other hand, if there's doubt, as between car and air transportation, "fahren" is a good "catch all" verb. So it's more common to use "fahren" to refer to travel between say, Berlin and Paris or Rome, than between Berlin and London (the latter clearly requires some air or sea travel).

  • Well no. ‘Ich fahre mit dem Schiff nach Amerika’ sounds perfectly valid to me.
    – Jan
    Nov 18, 2015 at 15:05
  • @I didn't say that fahren was "invalid" in this context, only that there was an alternative usage.
    – Tom Au
    Nov 18, 2015 at 15:08

To answer with fahren although you know you will fly is not precise and just can lead the one who asked to a wrong assumption. Better answer the general question with fliegen to prevent a misunderstanding. Fahren in the answer is just a unthoughtful try of synonym to travel which just is accepted with a certain tolerance due the question using that word.

  • I don’t understand the last part, beginning with “Fahren in the answer …”. Can you clarify what you wanted to say (possibly in a comment in German)?
    – chirlu
    Nov 20, 2015 at 9:12
  • I mean: (Die Benutzung von) fahren in der Antwort ist nur ein undurchdachter Versuch eines Synonyms für travel, der nur mit einer gewissen Toleranz aktzeptabel ist, weil das Wort in der Frage vorkommt."
    – äüö
    Nov 20, 2015 at 9:34


Ich gehe nach Paris.


Ich reise nach Paris.

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    "Ich gehe nach Paris" is wrong, if used for "reisen". I could imagine using it when e.g. moving to Paris, but not for a trip. Unless you actually walk, of course.
    – Gerhard
    Nov 15, 2015 at 19:27
  • @Gerhard: "Ich gehe nach Paris um eine Gastprofessur anzutreten" würde man sagen, wenn die Form, wie man da hingelangt, nicht von Belang ist. 'Fahren' wäre hier falsch. Auch 'reisen' könnte ich da verwenden. Nov 15, 2015 at 19:31
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    @Gerhard: As a German native speaker, I would disagree. "Ich gehe im Mai für 5 Tage nach Paris" sounds perfectly valid to me even if you don't travel by foot. "Fahren" may be more precise, but I wouldn't raise an eyebrow if someone used "gehen". This applies even more if the question asked was "Wohin gehst du in den Urlaub?".
    – helm
    Nov 15, 2015 at 21:29
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    @helm: as a German native speaker I disagree. I can see your first example to some extent as "I will stay in Paris for 5 days", but not as "travelling" - the distinction might be fine, but it is there imo. And it sounds a bit stilted to me. "Wohin gehst du in den Urlaub?" Is som ething i have never heard before - might be regional, if you are convinced it's common.
    – Gerhard
    Nov 15, 2015 at 22:05
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    "gehen" ist in der Tat idiomatisch als generische Ausdrucksweise ungeachtet des Transportmittels - "Ich gehe zum Supermarkt." oder "Ich gehe in die Innenstadt." sagen nichts darüber aus, ob nicht doch ein Bus, eine Straßenbahn oder ein Auto im Spiel sind. Für größere Entfernungen ist jedoch "fahren" genauso generisch; "Ich fahre nach Griechenland." kann eine Reise per Auto, Schiff oder auch Flugzeug beschreiben, wenn man nicht gerade explizit den Transportmodus hervorheben will. Nov 16, 2015 at 9:43

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