How does the meaning of "Close the door." come from "Tür zu."?

I get that Tür means door. But how does zu mean close? I thought zu means to or too, and I can't fathom what I'm not understanding.

  • First: "Tür zu" would in most circumstances be considered rude. Second the link is "zumachen" (here: schließen, to close) With the prefix "zu" coming from the adverb "zu" meaning "in direction of". I could only speculate about the exact origin of the change from "make it in that direction" (i.e. move) to close. So I leave that to a real answer – Bort Jan 4 '16 at 14:13
  • If I said "Tür zu" in a soft, friendly voice would that still be considered rude? Like say in an informal situation, say at a movies with friends you have your hands full could you say to your friend "Tür zu" or would that still be considered rude, even if you know the person and don't use an aggressive voice? This exchange came this movie I was watching last night, the character said "Tür zu" and the subtitles said "close the door" but I couldn't understand why. The character was angry though, the person he said Tür zu to left open the door and the wind was strongly blowing through the room.. – jame7 Jan 4 '16 at 14:28
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    Tür zu in any case is very impolite. You could soften it by saying Tür zu, bitte. This I would use if e.g. I am showing something over the projector in the office and someone would come in through the door and leave it open so the light comes in. In any other case, I would say Mach die Tür zu or Schließ die Tür (very formal) and always followed by bitte ;) – jera Jan 4 '16 at 15:01
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    @Bort: 'With the prefix "zu" coming from the adverb "zu" meaning "in direction of".' - that part of your comment is incorrect. It is "zu" in the meaning of "close"/"closed" (i.e. literally, zumachen means to make closed), in contrast to "auf", meaning "open"/"opened", as it also appears in aufmachen. – O. R. Mapper Jan 4 '16 at 22:00
  • I don’t see what’s so hard to understand here—English to has the same meaning, just not as commonly. “He pulled the door to” means that he closed (or almost closed) the door in English as well. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Dec 10 '16 at 10:11
  1. The translated phrase would be something like "Schließ die Tür!" or "Mach die Tür zu!". "Tür zu!" is colloquial, and extremely impolite.

  2. Zu does indeed have quite a few meanings, like towards, at, too, or closed.

Some examples of its usage:

"Die Tür ist zu." - "The door is closed."

"Ich bin zu Hause." -"I'm at home."

"Das ist zu viel!" - "That's too much!"

"Lasst uns zu ihr gehen." - "Let's go to her."

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  • Thanks this really helped! I couldn't find anywhere on the internet that explained zu could mean "closed", I get the other meanings of zu ("directional"). – jame7 Jan 4 '16 at 14:33
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    "Schließ die Tür!" and "Mach die Tür zu!" are also rude. It is the missing "bitte" (please) that cause the rudeness, not the shortness of the order! – Iris Jan 4 '16 at 15:14
  • @Iris Depends largely on context. While definetly less polite, these two phrases are not inherently rude, in contrast to "Tür zu!". – TheSexyMenhir Jan 4 '16 at 15:20
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    I disagree that "Tür zu" is impolite. It depends a lot on the tone. Just as-is, it's fine. By the same account you could claim that leaving the door open is rude to the people in the room cause they catch a draft. – Robert Jan 4 '16 at 17:41

The sentence is an ellipsis. As a complete sentence, it would be:

Mach die Tür zu!

The verb is zumachen ("close"). Tür zu! is used as a very short order, and is usually impolite and used to express anger.

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    The magic of "bitte" (please): "Bitte Tür zu!" or "Tür zu, bitte!" is frequently used in my office. – Iris Jan 4 '16 at 15:11

The word »zu« has at least nine different meanings:

  1. Preposition, to describe a movement towards a target:

    Michael ging zu seinem Bruder.
    Michael went to his brother.

    In combination with an article:

    Tom lief zum Auto. (... zu dem ...)
    Tom ran to the car.
    Tom lief zur Schule. (... zu der ...)
    Tom ran to the school.

  2. Preposition, to describe a relation:

    Milch besteht zu einem großen Teil aus Wasser.
    Milk consists to a large extent of water.

    (You can also have articles joined with »to« as shown above)

  3. Preposition, to describe that something happened at a certain time:

    Ich werde dich zu Ostern besuchen.
    I'll visit you at Easter.

    (Joined articles are possible here too)

  4. Adverb (most frequent usage in the phrase »ab und zu« which means »now and then« or »occasionally«)

    Markus isst ab und zu Pizza.
    Markus occasionally eats pizza.

  5. Grade Particle (I'm not sure if this term is correct. In German it is a »Gradparticle«):

    Dieser Mantel ist mir zu groß.
    This suit is too big for me.

  6. Konjunktion, together with um, ohne or anstatt as part of an infinite group.

    Adrian fuhr ins Dorf, um Milch zu kaufen.
    Adrian drove to the village to buy milk.

    Dr. Weber arbeitete 60 Stunden durch, ohne zu schlafen.
    Dr. Weber kept working for 60 hours without sleeping.

    Die Kinder spielten, anstatt zu schlafen.
    The children were playing instead of sleeping.

  7. Adverb, to describe, that an action ends in a drunk or stoned state:

    Kevin hat sich zu gekifft.
    Kevin smoked pot until he was stoned.

  8. Adverb, to describe, that an action ends in a closed state:

    Walter macht die Tür zu.
    Walter closes the door.

  9. Adjektive, to describe, that something is closed.

    Die Tür ist zu.
    The door is closed.

    Überall sieht man nur noch zue Türen. (Bad style, but colloquial speech in some regions)
    You only see closed doors everywhere.

Your example is a variation of meaning 8 (Adverb to describe an action that ends in a closed state). »Tür zu« is a common ellipsis of this command:

Mach die Tür zu!

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  • So eine lange Antwort, wo doch die Frage offenbar off-topic ist. – Carsten S Jan 4 '16 at 23:15

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